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Access control market working to overcome tradition of proprietary systems

Systems need open databases, open standards and open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
Access control systems that leverage proprietary technologies severely limit system flexibility
Access control’s ongoing transition from closed systems to more open integration provides benefits for integrators, and especially for end users looking to maximise their system return on investment. End users want greater flexibility, specifically in terms of hardware choice. As a result, more non-proprietary solutions are coming to market. For the integrator, offering more open access control solutions provides an edge over competitors, freeing up the integrator to suggest and install various types of IP access control devices from multiple vendors that work with a single unified or universal access control softwaresolution.

The market is working to overcome a tradition of proprietary systems. Many manufacturers have been predominantly proprietary, especially related to core control. Openness will create a need for different costing models, says John Smith, senior channel marketing manager, Honeywell Security. “We as manufacturers have to adapt to meet the demand for openness in the industry by making ourselves open and finding additional ways to capture revenue from our products and services.”

Access control systems that leverage proprietary technologies severely limit system flexibility and choice of hardware available to end users and integrators, especially when systems near end-of-life, says Jimmy Palatsoukas, senior product marketing manager, Genetec. “It can be extremely costly to maintain or replace closed-architecture systems as technology continues to evolve, leaving end users in a position where they must consider a potentially costly system replacement,” he adds.

“A shift toward greater openness with IP access control systems is helping end users extend the life of their systems,” adds Palatsoukas. Intelligent controllers such as Genetec’s Synergis Master Controller allow end users to keep existing equipment and phase in new wireless and PoE door hardware over time, thus minimizing upgrade costs, he says.

Systems need open databases, open standards and open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Products should be compatible with each other regardless of the manufacturer, achievable using industry standards and protocols. Offerings and solutions should be consolidated and minimised to provide only the necessary solutions and features, says Greg Hetrick, PCSC’s director of marketing. “Essentially, less always becomes more,” he comments.

Several suppliers mentioned other aspects related to the need for open systems:

Products should be compatible with each other regardless of the manufacturer, achievable using industry standards and protocols
Both venders must be committed to finding a resolution for any challenges that arise

Finger-pointing: Who’s responsible?

“Most people in the security industry have at least one horror story about trying to integrate two solutions or trying to manage an integration over time,” says Jeremy Krinitt, general manager of Frontier Security. “Often integration challenges lead to two manufacturers who are unsure where the problem really lies, which results in a lot of finger-pointing that doesn’t help the integrator or the end user find a reasonable solution.” Both venders must be committed – in resources and in partnership – to finding a resolution for any challenges that arise, he says.

Compatibility issues among product versions

When combining systems using integration, compatibility is typically limited to specific product versions. For example, once a video surveillance system is upgraded, the integration with access control could become faulty or fail completely. Krinitt says technology can help by providing consistent interfaces between solutions to ensure flexibility to upgrade either of the solutions without loss of the interface. Also, a unified platform from a single vendor is intrinsically backward-forward compatible, thus eliminating any future compatibility issues, says Palatsoukas of Genetec.

Standards that lack full functionality

“As much as we like to talk about standards within the industry and how everything should be plug-and-play, we still seem to struggle with that,” says Greg Love, vice president of sales, AMAG. “There are base features that are supported, but most end users only hear that ‘it integrates.’ When the system is installed, and it doesn’t perform one of the tasks the customer expected, we end up providing that for free (as an add-on).” Some systems are integrated only on a basic level (based on ONVIF standards, for example), but end users expect the full value of every feature on the device. “We need to do a better job of communicating the level of integration,” says Love. “The end user community isn’t getting the whole story.”

A broader spectrum of systems needing integration

Today’s access control systems must integrate with a growing number of devices, including wireless locking systems, VMS software, elevator control software, environmental controls and lighting systems. Access control also has to integrate with high-end software like physical security information management (PSIM) software. Some manufacturers provide APIs, which allow integration components to be fairly stable and consistent. Others write specific interfaces, which can be advantageous in terms of performance and features, but development resources are required to keep up with any changes. Either way, the development requests and pace continues to escalate, says Richard Goldsobel, vice president, Continental Access.

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