Why Access Control Is Ready to Ascend
In the security industry, there is often an ebb and flow where one technology may dominate while another seems to generate less excitement. In recent years video has been king, in part due to technology advancements, pricing and effectiveness, especially in public/private collaborations. When the Boston Marathon was bombed in April, it took law enforcement only a few days — using video — to locate the suspects. It is hard to argue with that kind of success.
But while we may praise video, another sometimes overlooked but valuable technology — access control — is just as important. Because at the end of the day security exists to get as much information as quickly as possible to the right people so the right actions can be taken. Getting that result requires more than just cameras, and I believe the industry is poised for an access control evolution.
It is not just my opinion. As an industry veteran whose job it is to keep my finger on the pulse of the market, I know that the real experts are the people who specify, install and use these systems on a daily basis. For me, it is not about what I know but who I can ask. Recently, I talked to a number of industry veterans, each with more than 30 years of security experience, about the current state of access control and where it is headed.
These consultants, integrators and end users see some exciting developments coming up, including:
- Migrating from integration to information management and on to full-scale operational information systems
- Going from “open” to “standard” systems and components
- New technologies like Near Field Communications (NFC) and power over Ethernet (PoE)
- Individualized customization
These changes and more are poised to transform the market and make things more useable and valuable for all.
From Integration to Information Management
Access control and video manufacturers recognize the value of tying those technologies together. But which sector will succeed first is still in question.
Integrator Alan Kruglak, senior vice president, Genesis Security Systems LLC, believes access control manufacturers have the slight edge. “The major players are on the right track with integrating video. They see the writing on the wall. VMS manufacturers will try to encroach on their market share, but my initial feeling is that access manufacturers have the better handle on video because they have been doing it a lot longer.”
Regardless of who gets there first, this ‘race’ is representative of a larger trend to make security a true information and problem-solving force.
Louis Barani, president, Strategic Security Resources LLC, is a consultant in risk management and security technology, and also former director of security for the World Trade Center. Looking at the industry from both perspectives, he sees access control headed for much bigger things in the near future. For example, manufacturers on the IT side of security are developing “Smart City” systems: full-scale operational information systems that provide situational awareness on unprecedented levels and allow security, fire or local police to respond to an event with as much information as possible. On the security side, PSIM (physical security information management) systems are setting up to do something similar.
“These applications will change the way access control and CCTV manufacturers do business in the future,” Barani says. “Where today you have a security command center, you will see operations command centers that may even include law enforcement and first responders.”
From ‘Open’ to ‘Standard’
For these industry veterans the term “open” is widely defined and sometimes misleading. However, even the most dubious among them predict that in a few short years the security industry will be much more standard for everything from parts to service, leading to a commoditized approach that will benefit integrators and end users alike.
“I am leery of the term, but the idea is correct,” says David G. Aggleton, CPP, CSC, president/principal consultant, Aggleton & Associates. “When you buy a PC, all software will work on it. Unfortunately the volume of equipment in the security industry is much lower than in the PC world and there aren’t the development dollars right now to make everything quite so plug and play.”
Still, panels like Mercury are trending that way. “If panels were all made to the same standards and all interchangeable, that would be a commodity,” Aggleton says. “We may never achieve quite that level, but that is the direction we should be heading from the end user’s point of view. I do believe that within the next five to 10 years we will have open systems that actually are open, meaning everybody will use the same communications protocols to connect with each other.”
For Barani, open systems are vital to putting in a Smart City or PSIM-based system. “An open platform that anybody can read is hugely important and how it will have to be going forward,” he says.
Kruglak stresses that openness must extend to the whole system, not just a panel: “Manufacturers think open panels are a panacea, but 10 years down the road when the customer wants to change the system, will it make a difference? Not really because the lifecycle of that panel is about 10 years. What end users really care about is that the system works and that they have someone to go to when it needs fixing.”
Elliott Boxerbaum, CPP, CSC, president & CEO of Security Risk Management Consultants Inc., agrees. “We believe an open platform will be very important to the end user. An open approach allows the end user to integrate best-in-class technologies based on their individual needs and requirements.”
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