iLOQ establishes Canadian office and game plan
Frank Hayes mulled the idea of retirement when he stepped away from the security industry in 2019, but in his mind it was always more of a break than a departure.
The veteran of companies like ASSA ABLOY, DSC and RBH Access Technologies left to pursue some personal goals and travel (he clocked 12,000 km on a bicycle in the summer of 2019), but when iLOQ came calling last year, he was more than willing to get back into the game.
“At 61, I decided I wasn’t done with the security industry,” says Hayes, who officially joined iLOQ as Canadian country manager in November 2020.
The Finnish access control company was founded in 2003 and went to market in 2007 with a battery-free digital locking mechanism that generates power through the action of pushing the key into the lock. “There’s no battery in the key, no battery in the lock and yet it’s an electronic solution,” explains Hayes. In 2017, iLOQ introduced a smartphone digital credential that can activate a lock via NFC (near-field communication). The solution is also battery-less, utilizing the smartphone itself as a power source. The smartphone product now accounts for about 50 per cent of iLOQ’s domestic business, says Hayes.
The company operates offices in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Spain. Canada represents its first market opportunity outside of its established presence in Europe, says Hayes.
Hayes says his plan is to develop a channel to go to market with product over the coming year. He aims to build a network of 40-50 dealers across Canada, utilizing a mix of direct-to-locksmith and distributors in order to reach end users. The technology is particularly suited to critical infrastructure and utilities, such as water treatment plants, cell towers and hydro facilities, says Hayes, where a padlock or door lock might not be touched for years at a stretch; the battery-less solution removes any concerns that it will still be operational. “You might not visit this padlock for three years, but you have no worries, because there’s no battery in it,” he says.
The other major market for iLOQ is multi-dwelling units and multi-family housing, he says.
Hayes has commenced iLOQ’s entry into Canada, selling the NFC S50 padlock platform into critical infrastructure assets. The company still has some technology hurdles to overcome in North America, however, chiefly the development of an ANSI platform that will interoperate with hardware here. Hayes estimates that it will be ready in time for 2022; his efforts this year should ensure that the distribution channel is ready to go when the time comes “and [we can] feed our way into the market.”
Since emigrating to Canada from his native Ireland in the 1980s — on a one-way ticket and a do or die attitude — Hayes has built a career and reputation in the access control market here.
In December 2019, he was named to SP&T News’ annual security industry Hall of Fame. At the time, he was in the process of stepping away from the industry. “People have advised me to slow it down, take a deep breath and make the most of the time off at the moment and get fully recharged, but I don’t doubt that within the coming months I’ll be picking or looking at doing something,” he told SP&T News at the time.
Now Hayes finds himself with a new opportunity and a new company without having met any of its managers or personnel face-to-face. Hiring and recruitment practices have adjusted during the pandemic, when in-person meetings are the rare exception and generally discouraged due to ongoing social distancing policies. All of his meetings are conducted via web conferencing tools, as has become the custom, but this has not dampened his enthusiasm for his return to the security industry.
“iLOQ’s growth continues as planned, even during these challenging times,” said iLOQ president and CEO, Heikki Hiltunen, in a company announcement when Hayes was first hired. “We look forward to introducing the benefits of our innovative technology to the Canadian market and wish Frank great success on fulfilling iLOQ’s goal of making life accessible also on an entirely new continent.”