As Access Control Ascends, Integrators Confront New Challenges

Technological advances and open standards will fuel growth as installing security contractors contend with evolving market dynamics.

The global market for electronic access control will top $3.5 billion in 2014 – an increase of 7.6% over the previous year – driven by returning growth in the Americas and other emerging regions, according to IHS Technology.

Despite its historically slow-paced evolution compared to other security industry disciplines, e.g. video surveillance, the electronic access control market could begin to see rapid changes in the short to medium term, the research firm suggests. IHS notes that many new entrants, such as Axis Communications, are maneuvering to stake a claim in the space. Furthermore, new end-user demand from the residential market and continued adoption of newer technologies such as wireless electronic locks are also expected to advance the market.

For hardware, much of the growth will be driven by electronic locks which can either be offline-standalone, data on card or wireless-online. Wireless devices continue to see strong growth as end users begin to trust and understand the technology.

IHS also projects that open standards will begin to take shape for the access control industry in 2014, although widespread adoption may take a few more years. Prior to investing in the R&D, many suppliers are waiting to see how the rest of the industry will adopt and implement standards.

The industry’s standards efforts include the Physical Security Interoperability Association’s (PSIA) work on the Physical-Logical Access Interoperability (PLAI) specification, which would generate a link with active directory and other applications to create more automated processes. The Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) in March announced the final release of Profile C, which brings the functionality of the organization’s global interface specification into the physical access control arena. Also significant is the Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP), a specification championed by the Security Industry Association (SIA) that allows for secure bidirectional communication between card readers and controllers.

The advancing marketplace will usher in newfound opportunities for integrators, along with new types of challenges. For instance, integrators may need to have a broader understanding of an office space, from the video surveillance and access control to human capital management applications, Blake Kozak, an IHS senior analyst, tells SSI.

The increasing presence of IT departments and the transition to networked systems is also likely to prove challenging for some installing security contractors that have long enjoyed a firm foothold in providing legacy systems. In some cases, IT departments may begin to manage and dictate access control installations.

“More and more customers are moving away from the traditional access control market, which includes dedicated wiring such as RS-485. Integrators will need to work more closely with IT managers, which will result in a closer partnership,” Kozak says. “Another challenge may be to not over promise and under deliver. We have seen this with other technologies in the past, such as video analytics and high levels of integration or combination of products with perimeter security applications.” 

Other trends such as Near Field Communications (NFC) continue to garner interest; however, adoption hasn’t been as extensive as originally expected. According to IHS, NFC has not yet been installed for access control purposes and some manufacturers are beginning to look toward other options, including Bluetooth low energy (BLE). Lastly, IP devices are seeing more uptake and are being pushed closer to the edge, allowing for more remote management and reducing installation costs.

Overall, this is an exciting time for the access control industry, Kozak says. With continued interest in Big Data, many are wondering how access control can be leveraged to harness some of this information which is leading to more seamless integrations.

About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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