While there remain closed, proprietary systems out there, more and more integrators are choosing to install newer systems that utilize open standards to communicate.
With installed systems utilizing hardware and software that employ open standards, end users are able to receive “best-of-breed” products to suit their particular needs and not be locked in to one manufacturer. These new open systems are much more flexible and interoperable.
Integrators can also earn points with end users because typically these systems that allow one to pick and choose from different manufacturers also comes at a lower cost. And even though the systems are “open,” integrators can reassure customers that it doesn’t necessarily mean they are less secure and more vulnerable to hackers.
Putting Together the Best System
It’s not that proprietary systems are without benefits. “In a proprietary system, there are several significant benefits in operation, maintenance, diagnostics and accountability,” explains Robert Lydic, vice president of sales at ISONAS. “In many proprietary access control systems, the hardware and software components are specifically designed for one another. They work in concert to leverage specific feature sets and benefits to the end user that can enable long-term and optimal operation. In maintenance of these systems, the integrator typically has ‘one throat to choke’ and can address one manufacturing team that is holistically responsible for the operations of the system.”
But inflexibility can be a problem. For instance, while one manufacturer might make the best access control system to suit your customer, it might make a video management system that just doesn’t work for them.
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“In essence, proprietary systems have proven to be inflexible in that they can ‘lock’ end users into a single-vendor solution that can be costly to upgrade and can require a complete ‘rip and replace’ if the system is discontinued,” admits Matt Barnette, president of Mercury Security.
The open platform systems allow for expanded system flexibility. Roscoe Coffman, vice president of operations at Open Options, notes that when piecing together a system, integrators and customers can choose products from several companies and technologies within a category.
“This ensures the final solution will contain the feature sets necessary for the respective facility or business,” he says. “These open standards ensure that end users can get full utilization of their hardware investment for the maximum amount of time possible, thereby reducing overall cost of ownership. With proprietary systems, you don’t get that level of choice or interoperability. With a closed system, the manufacturer does not have to be particularly competitive with peripherals because you cannot obtain them from anyone else.”
These open systems aren’t just more flexible when they are initially installed, but throughout their lifetime as well. If an end user wants to upgrade functions or change software providers, they can do it at any time, without having to completely redo the system.
“Open hardware provides an interoperable platform that enables organizations to add new technologies and features as their requirements change — typically at a lower cost,” says Barnette.
Having the ability to select from a wider variety really does help produce an optimal option for end users, Lydic suggests.
“Open standards, or those with open application programming interfaces [APIs] or software development kits [SDKs], are very important for integrators in providing better solutions in the selection of best-of-breed products for their customers, procuring and installing products, and providing service in the event a product dies or is broken,” says Lydic.
He notes that advantages to an open system also often include advanced functionality with third-party systems and product lifecycle extensions.
Plus, multiple manufacturers means each brings a specialty, so chances are greater for an integrator to more precisely address an end user’s specific vertical market or needs.
“For an end user, the open system also provides additional advantages on the business operations and cost of the access control system,” he adds. “The manufacturers of open systems tend not to have ‘protected territories’ and allow for free market competition to take place. This also tends to make costs of owning and maintaining the systems less expensive.”
Read on to find out which is safer, open systems, or proprietary ones...
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