Report: Access Control Market Slow to Adopt Open Standards

AUSTIN, Texas — Although new, proposed standards for access control are expected to be presented this year, the market will still lag far behind the video surveillance industry due to the complexity of access control systems, according to IMS Research, now part of IHS.

The research firm notes that unlike the video surveillance market, access control has been much slower to adopt open standards, despite attempts by the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to bring open standards to access control.

However, if the proposed access control standard IEC 60839-11-1 receives approval later this year, it could have a big impact on the manufacturing and interoperability of thousands of access control systems, according to Blake Kozak, senior analyst at IHS.

“The proposed standard specifies not only the minimum functionality, performance requirements and test methods for electronic access control systems but also the components used for physical access in and around buildings,” he says.

Today, each access control panel has its own engine and firmware that works with software designed for a particular solution. Additionally, there are databases that use specific outlines, making it difficult for end users to use panels from different manufacturers in the same installation. Many of those problems can be overcome by rolling out open standard. However, with some access control solutions vendors believing that open standards will limit the market and hurt manufacturers that only produce panels, it appears that the access control industry faces an uphill battle.

“Some [vendors] argue that open standards will only be fully utilized for smaller and midsized applications, while large applications will need a customized solution because in some cases, open standards could reduce the amount of functionality that current, proprietary solutions allow,” Kozak says.

Others have agreed in that open standards for access control have a cleaner fit within hosted and managed solutions, which typically are more oriented toward information-technology purposes.

In most cases, the primary benefit of open standards is not to reduce “vendor lock,” in which customers cannot switch to a new supplier because they are dependent on a specific vendor for its products and services. Rather, the main advantage that standards bring is to allow ease of integration with different systems, such as access control and video surveillance, or access control and HVAC.

The research firm also states that there is a misperception in the industry that some end users don’t upgrade or change brands because it would be too costly and the integration wouldn’t work well. However, in most instances, end users simply don’t change their system — i.e., software and panels — because the system works the way it was intended. When viewed this way, vendor lock does not play a significant role in the argument for open standards.

Overall, open standards for access control could bring a dramatic change for vendors and alter the face of the access control industry as it is known today. However, IHS notes that a more realistic alternative is that open standards will be offered by vendors as part of a portfolio, but uptake will remain with proprietary or semi-proprietary solutions in the medium term.

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