What’s Hot and What’s Not in Access Control

Access control has always been a business that’s a challenge to define. In all the research that I do on the security market and the products that make it what it is, I try to be as inclusive as possible. So I include product categories such as biometrics, parking control equipment and intercom systems along with the core of card readers and cards.

Readers, Cards Stayed Hot in 2003

In my newest research on the access sector of the industry I surveyed 59 manufacturers of such products. To get a sense of where the market is going in the future, I asked them how sales were in each category. This picture of access performance by product category is shown in the chart (on page 20 of the print August 2004 edition of SSI). Reading across the columns from left to right, the numbers do not total 100 percent because not every access manufacturer sells all the products listed.

For instance, the photo ID category’s numbers add up to 62 percent, which means that 38 percent of the 59 companies surveyed do not sell those systems. (Do not misconstrue these percentages to mean the percent of manufacturers that make these products. Many manufacturers in the industry resell access products that they buy from others.)

Clearly, the hottest access category for 2003 was the reader and cards group of products. Fifty-five percent of manufacturers selling those products report sales were up for the year. That being the case, it was natural that the associated sales of access cards and software were also up to a relatively strong degree.

Federal Interest Spurs Biometrics

Biometrics also looked fairly strong for the year as the government in particular continues to look for biometric solutions to answer the question of a person’s true identity. After years of disappointment in the wilderness, biometrics looks like a breakout category now – especially when integrated with other systems.

On the other side of the coin, products like telephone entry and intercoms did not fare that well because many of the products in those groups have not been updated for a while and technology advances in other forms of access and video have begun to overtake them. This may not last long, however, because there are signs indicating even those old standbys can be technologically advanced to provide more information in a convenient manner.

Capital Investment Still Slow

The most surprising aspect of this picture is that the current economic resurgence was spawned in 2003, yet the capital investment required to update and replace access systems has still been slow to develop. Corporations have pressed the productivity button hard to take advantage of low interest rates to produce strong earnings reports and higher stock prices.

This sometimes works to the disadvantage of something as important as security protection. And it’s not just security: Much is made of security convergence with the IT industry, and that industry is even flatter than security right now in terms of capital investment. So overall, progress in the access field looks pretty good.

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