Exec Interview: The Future of Mercury Security
Mercury leaders discuss the brand’s status under HID Global, unveil its roadmap, survey the competitive landscape and address a leap-year glitch.
You mentioned the firmware aspects. By the time people are reading this the March 1 promise date for a firmware upgrade to fix a leap-year time/date bug recently discovered in Mercury’s LP control boards will have passed. How are you getting the word out and do anticipate issues with those not getting the update or notification?
Barnette: That’s my concern and why we’re being super transparent and more concerned about getting the word out than worrying about the collateral damage to HID and the Mercury brand reputation. We’ve sold these products around the world and I’m hopeful that between the OEMs and integrators getting that knowledge out there aren’t too many end users unaware who don’t, for whatever reason, have a relationship with an integrator that’s on top of this.
We’ll continue the messaging up until that date and try to be as helpful and responsive as we can for anybody that has an issue. I’m guessing there’s going to be a certain percentage of customers that don’t get the update in time or don’t know about it. Hopefully, the situation isn’t going to cause any significant problems for them.
Did this incident result in internal process changes to avoid future issues?
Barnette: Absolutely. These are lessons learned and we need to learn from the mistakes and make improvements to the process. I met with the engineering and QA teams several times already since this was discovered. We are implementing a new process, procedures and tools to automate testing of these things, so there’s much more going on. In hindsight, it’s always 20-20 in these situations, but changes were made to the product over time.
No pun intended, but the time and date weren’t something that was usually checked, because of the way it was implemented in the product and had been stable for a generation. This was a lesson learned and has now been built into not only engineering but also the quality assurance process.
How do you view access control’s competitive landscape? How does Mercury fit in?
Barnette: We have the advantage as Mercury of sifting through the numbers of many of our OEMs. Thankfully, we have the type of partnership and relationship with our OEMs where they share a lot of data with us. So we see how they’re growing their business and we compare that to what we know about the business in general. We can see that there’s obviously a lot of growth in open platforms, and certainly the HID products in the controller space are growing significantly.
If you look at the top five OEMs in North America, three or four of them are using Mercury-branded products. We feel good about that but nothing ever stays the same in technology. There is the other side of the business with the move to Cloud and Cloud-enabled products. We have to always maintain having the right OEMs as emerging technologies and new entrants come into the business. We can’t be set in our ways and only have partnerships with traditional players in the marketplace. There’s also new entrants coming in and we need to work with them on where HID products fit into their portfolio.
Lucas: The competitive landscape in North America is categorized in two buckets. You’ve got the partners that are more on the open side for access control. That could be with the Mercury and HID platforms or others. Then you got the other side, where it’s end-to-end owned by that manufacturer, their software on down through the door. So you’ve got the proprietary side of the business. I like our position. If you look at the numbers and our growth, I feel very confident that we are growing much quicker than the industry average when it comes to access control.
I would also say that the value proposition around our open approach access control resonates very well with end customers. I haven’t encountered end customers disliking the idea of having the peace of mind around their access control investment and that freedom to choose the best software platform that fits their needs, whether that’s today or at some point in the future. Our value proposition puts us in a good spot. We’ve got great partners driving our brand and making big investments in access control to further their growth and, of course, that pulls us along with them.
What are today’s top access market opportunities for dealers and integrators?
Lucas: If you look at the evolving landscape around cybersecurity and increased scrutiny in our world and what that means, that presents a huge opportunity for the integration community. A lot of these systems are on the wall for a very long time, meaning the technology was designed in the late 1990s or early 2000s. While it may be rock-solid and work great from an access control point of view, the IT world has moved on quite a bit since the mid-2000s. There’s an excellent opportunity for integrators to have open discussions with customers to talk about what’s available with the latest generation of products. That includes general improvements within the IT infrastructure and how those products work, or getting past some of the exposed vulnerabilities around, say, prox and Wiegand technology on the reader and credential side. There’s a significant install base there to revisit.
Barnette: While we care about our OEM partners who are the ones we’re directly selling to, and we certainly care about the end users using these products, we also realize that if we don’t have a way of deploying them we’re all in a bit of a quagmire. So we’re certainly looking to do what we can do to help ensure the success of the integration channel, and supporting them with education, knowledge of the products, and helping with the messaging so they can be as efficient as possible with the HID product.
To that end, we’ve got a web portal that we encourage integrators and our consultant partners to participate in, so they can receive information we need to get out to the field. They just get a simple email and they can subscribe or unsubscribe to different areas. We want to make sure they’re successful and if there’s anything else we can do we’d love to hear from them.
Mercury Wins Over Its OEMs
Even as a brand newly incorporated into HID Global, Mercury Security’s OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners remain critical to its access control board products distribution and success. Many of them are among the most prominent supplier names among security dealers and integrators. Below, Steve Wagner, president of Open Options, and Paul DiPeso, executive vice president of Feenics, elaborate on the relationship.
Why has your company aligned itself with Mercury?
Steve Wagner: From the beginning, Mercury was the first and only access hardware manufacturer available to build our access platform. Now 22 years later, they are undisputed market leader. Mercury created the open platform market and we love using their gear. It is unquestionably the largest installed base of access hardware in the world. That fact gives our clients great comfort in knowing the access hardware they have purchased from us is the most vigorously exercised platform in the history of access control.
Paul DiPeso: The most important reason is their open platform. End users have a higher level of technical and business savviness than in the past. Many of those users have been burned in the past by being boxed in with hardware that only operates with one software solution, and to move to a platform that is advancing with innovations required a complete replacement. That infrastructure overhaul is typically at least 85% of the total cost of a system. Also, Mercury does its best to stay innovative by consistently introducing new functionality within their API. Lastly, by not having a front-end solution, Mercury is a true partner, not a competitor.
What are one or two great access control opportunities for security integrators today, and how can your company help them seize it?
Wagner: For a number of years the K-12 and higher education markets have been solid opportunities for integrators. Catastrophic societal events that have occurred in these verticals have heightened the need for and driven the desire to harden these institutions. Access and video manufacturers have made adaptations and design enhancements to suit the needs in each these markets.
DiPeso: While the basics of access control have the same basic deliverables as it has for years, the landscape has changed for the user. Cloud enterprise customers of Feenics have challenged us with these discussion topics: 1) Provide a better business continuity plan in lessening the risks of disruption while potentially increasing operational efficiencies. 2) Reduce the carbon footprint by elimination of servers, which also creates increased energy costs in power and cooling. 3) Having a RESTful API allows a capable end user to write directly to it without ridiculous licensing fees that have always been associated with traditional access plat-forms on the market.
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