Open architecture in physical access control is built around Mercury Security’s access control panels, the de facto standard embraced by more than two dozen access control original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Mercury and several of its OEMs teamed up March 3-4 to present MercTech4, a conference in Miami aimed at updating security consultants about the latest developments related to the Mercury platform.

MercTech4 highlighted a new generation of access control products, which are increasing the capabilities for Mercury OEMs in areas such as two-way communication and encryption. Enhancements include use of the OSDP (Open Supervised Device Protocol) v2 communication standard instead of the older (and less flexible, less secure) Wiegand standard. Other advantages are relay count activations, a crypto memory chip and default encryption, a critical feature ensuring greater cybersecurity.

Integration of hardware with physical security

Mercury hardware is sold exclusively through OEM partnerships. The new LP4502 controller and access control platform use the Linux operating system. Mercury also provides hardware integration at the controller level with elevator manufacturers such as Otis, Kone and Thyssenkrupp, including “destination dispatch,” which groups passengers going to the same floors into the same elevators, thus reducing waiting and travel times. Mercury hardware is sold exclusively through OEM partnerships. The new LP4502 controller and access control platform use the Linux operating system

Integration of Mercury controllers with LifeSafety Power’s IP-based intelligent power supplies enables system health and diagnostic data to be shared for preventive maintenance.

Mercury also offers several “bridge” products to enable its OEMs to transition installed proprietary systems from outdated Casi-Rusco (GE), Software House I (Tyco) and Infographics (GE) technologies to an open platform using Mercury hardware. 

Business as usual

Other recent news for Mercury is the company’s acquisition by HID Global last fall. Mercury Security President Matt Barnette says the acquisition will not impact how Mercury goes to market. “It’s business as usual,” he says. “It’s 130 days into the acquisition, so it’s still early on, but we are continuing to do what we do.” 

Steve Carney, HID Global’s vice president of product marketing for physical access control, provided an update from the HID Global perspective to MercTech4 attendees. He reiterated that there would be no change in Mercury’s OEM go-to-market strategy. HID will develop a roadmap for improved combined solutions among the controller, reader, credential and cloud

He emphasised that Mercury’s team and talent remain core to the brand, and HID will develop a roadmap for improved combined solutions among the controller, reader, credential and cloud.

Open architecture companies throughout the access control industry – Mercury’s OEM partners – are incorporating the new boards into their products, each putting their “spin” on those capabilities and expanding the functionality of their systems. At MercTech4, seven of those OEMs hosted small groups of consultants in focused meetings to highlight what’s new with their products.

Lenel honoured as 'Platinum Premier' partner

Lenel, Rochester, N.Y., has been a Mercury's OEM partner since 1995. Lenel is Mercury’s first-ever "Platinum Premier" partner. In recent years, Lenel’s OnGuard system has evolved into a fully browser-based system providing both alarm and cardholder management through web browsers, and access to the platform on a computer, laptop or tablet. OnGuard WATCH (Web Access Trending and Comprehensive Health) provides system monitoring tools and health checks, such as tracking CPU usage and logging error files.

Lenel has introduced its own BlueDiamond mobile credentialing system based on Bluetooth Low Energy and deploying mature technology previously used by sister UTC companies for real estate locks and in the hospitality market.

Feenics, an Ottawa, Ontario, cloud-based access control company, was also among the Mercury OEMs participating in MercTech4. The Keep by Feenics platform is scalable from a single door to a global enterprise environment. A RESTful API provides easy connection of third-party applications. Feenics emphasises cybersecurity in the cloud, using Amazon Web Services, Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption, and Veracode penetration testing. They use MongoDB open source database replica sets instead of Microsoft SQL. 

Open architecture companies throughout the access control industry – Mercury’s OEM partners – are incorporating the new boards into their products
Mercury and several of its OEMs teamed up March 3-4 to present MercTech4, a conference in Miami aimed at updating security consultants about the latest developments

Integration and encryption

RS2 Technologies, Munster, Indiana, is another Mercury OEM highlighted at MercTech4. Their top vertical markets are K-12 schools, utilities, healthcare and government. RS2’s features include a PSIA-compliant interface, compatibility with BACnet and the Pinwheel DME (Data Management Engine) for bi-directional database integration.RS2 offers web-based support, and each edition of the Access It! software implements features suggested by customer

RS2 offers web-based support, and each edition of the Access It! software implements features suggested by customer. Product enhancement is a focus of RS2’s engineering.

Open Options, Addison, Texas, is a Mercury Platinum Elite partner whose customer base spans every vertical, and whose feature set reflects customer feedback. Open Options offers Mercury hardware mounted inside a sleek plastic enclosure, among other form factors. The company emphasises an open business culture and dedication to customer service.

Customer support is a direct phone line to speak with a live person every time to get any issue resolved. Open Options’ DNA Fusion Version 7 platform includes new features such as an updated user experience. DNA Fusion interfaces seamlessly with security technologies — including video, biometrics, wireless locks, and more. Last year, Open Options marked 20 years of partnership with Mercury Security.

Engineering for the masses

Avigilon, Vancouver, B.C., is embracing new Mercury products in its completely browser-based Linux platform that can scale from entry-level to enterprise systems. The ACM (Access Control Manager) software is engineered for IT professionals and is updated every 60 days.

For Avigilon, access control is a component of a broader approach that uses analytics and self-learning to manage massive amounts of data and provide the information an operator needs. The Linux-based system uses features such as the Avigilon “Appearance Search” capability to shift operation of security systems from a reactive to a proactive stance The system uses features such as the Avigilon “Appearance Search” capability to shift operation of security systems from a reactive to a proactive stance.

Genetec, Montreal, Canada, emphasises the value of its “unified” approach that combines video, access control and automatic license plate recognitions into a single platform – designed from the ground up – that incorporates communications, intrusion detection and analytics.

Cybersecurity failures prominent in the news often occur because of negligence – the customer had not implemented a software patch, for example. Genetec helps to manage such concerns. When cameras are deployed in the Genetec platform, the system provides an alert if a new camera firmware version is needed. The Genetec Update Service (GUS) notifies customers of any needed software updates.

Prominence of cybersecurity

Honeywell’s Win-Pak access control software is integrated with the Pro-Watch security management suite. Cybersecurity is a corporate priority for Honeywell, whose products follow the SDLC (systems development life cycle) process with security requirements based on the ANSI/ISA 62443-3-3 standard.

Microsoft's Threat Modelling tool identifies entry and exit points of systems that an attacker could exploit, providing the development team an attacker's viewpoint. The secure product development process includes static code analysis, secure code review, code signing, binary scanning and component inventory.

Products are thoroughly tested by the Product Security Assurance Team and at times by an Advance Independent Testing Team. If vulnerabilities are identified after release, they are handled by the Product Security Incident Response Team.

Cybersecurity issues dominated a consultant roundtable event on the second day of MercTech4. There was plenty of spirited discussion and some valuable insights among the 40 or so participating consultants. More to come on that in another article in the next couple of weeks.

Download PDF version

Author profile

Larry Anderson Editor, SecurityInformed.com & SourceSecurity.com

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is SourceSecurity.com's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SourceSecurity.com's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

In case you missed it

Enhance traditional security systems within your smart home
Enhance traditional security systems within your smart home

Market dynamics are changing the U.S. residential security market, creating new business models that better appeal to the approximately 70% of households without a security system. Smart home adjacencies have helped revitalise the traditional security industry, and alternative approaches to systems and monitoring for the security industry are emerging, including a new batch of DIY systems. Growth in the residential security market and its position as the channel for smart home solutions have attracted numerous new entrants. Telecoms, cable operators, and CE (consumer electronics) manufacturers are joining traditional security players as they compete to fulfill consumer demand for safety and security. Connected products also provide a layer of competition as consumers must decide whether having category devices such as doorbell video cameras, networked cameras, and other products suffice for their security. Increasingly competitive landscape Smart home services can provide additional revenue streams for the security industry For instance, IP cameras are a highly popular smart home device rooted in security, and Parks Associates estimates 7.7 million standalone and all-in-one networked/IP cameras will be sold in the U.S. in 2018, with $889M in revenues. Product owners may feel their security needs are fulfilled with this single purchase, as such dealers and service providers are under increasing pressure to communicate their value proposition to consumers. Categorically, each type of player is facing competition uniquely—national, regional, and local dealers all have a different strategy for overcoming the increasingly competitive landscape. Smart home services can provide additional revenue streams for the security industry. In Parks Associates’ 2017 survey of U.S. security dealers, 58% report that smart home service capabilities enable extra monthly revenue. Almost half of dealers also note they have to offer smart home devices and services in order to keep up with their competition. While white-label devices are acceptable in some instances, dealers need to integrate with hero products whenever possible when those exist for a category. For dealers who have added smart home devices and services are all potential benefits and good for business Improved customer engagement That 2017 survey also revealed 36% of security dealers that offer interactive services report security system sales with a networked camera and 16% report sales with a smart thermostat. For dealers who have added smart home devices and services, enhanced system utility, increased daily value, and improved customer engagement with the system are all potential benefits and good for business. Security has served as the most productive channel for smart home solutions, mainly because the products create natural extensions of a security system’s functions and benefits, but as smart home devices, subsystems, and controllers expand their functionality, availability, and DIY capabilities, many standalone devices constitute competition to classical security. Particularly viable substitute devices include IP cameras, smart door locks, smart garage doors, or a combination of these devices. Products that are self-installed offer both convenience and cost savings, and these drivers are significant among DIY consumers—among the 6% of broadband households that installed a security system themselves, 39% did it to save money. Enhance traditional security Self-installable smart home devices may resonate with a segment of the market who want security While many security dealers believe substitute offerings are a threat, some dealers do not find such devices an existential threat but instead view them as another path to consumer awareness. They argue that the difference between smart product substitutes and traditional security is that of a solution that provides knowledge versus a system that gives one the ability to act on that knowledge. A common theme among professional monitoring providers is that a homeowner who is aware of events happening in the home does not necessarily have a secure and protected household. For example, a Nest camera, a DIY product, notifies a consumer via smartphone about events in the home when it detects motion, but only when the notification is opened and identified will a consumer be able to act on the related event. Self-installable smart home devices may resonate with a segment of the market who want security but are unwilling to adopt professional monitoring; however, providers can leverage these devices to enhance traditional security features and communicate the value of professional monitoring. Smart home devices and features, while posing a threat to some security companies, are a potential way forward to increased market growth Increased market growth A key counterstrategy for security dealers and companies is to leverage their current, powerful role as the prime channel for smart home devices. Many security dealers now include smart home devices with their security systems to complement their offerings and increase system engagement. For example, as of Q4 2017, nearly 70% of U.S. broadband households that were very likely to purchase a security system in the next 12 months reported that they want a camera to be included as part of their security system purchase. In response, many security system providers now offer IP cameras as optional enhancements for their systems. Smart home devices and features, while posing a threat to some security companies, are a potential way forward to increased market growth. Security dealers have an opportunity to become more than a security provider but a smart home solutions provider rooted in safety. Provide status updates Comcast has entered both the professionally monitored security market and the market for smart home services The alternative is to position as a provider of basic security with low price as the key differentiator. Comcast has entered both the professionally monitored security market and the market for smart home services independent of security. It has discovered that monetising smart home value propositions through recurring revenue becomes increasingly challenging as the value extends further away from life safety. Since the security industry remains the main channel for smart home services, security dealers are in a unique position to leverage that strength. Value propositions must shift from the traditional arming and disarming of a system to peace-of-mind experiences that builds off the benefits of smart devices in the home to provide status updates (e.g., if the kids arrived home safely) and monitoring at will (e.g., checking home status at any time to see a pet or monitor a package delivery). These types of clear value propositions and compelling use cases, which resonate with consumer and motivate them to expand beyond standalone products, will help expand the home security market.

What is the value of "free" video management systems?
What is the value of "free" video management systems?

They say that every choice has a cost. It's a basic principle that, economically speaking, nothing is free. If it doesn't cost actual money, it may be expensive in terms of time, attention and/or effort. These are interesting observations to keep in mind as one peruses the various "free" video management system (VMS) offerings available on the market. Some are provided by camera companies to unify their products into a "system", even if it's a small one. Other free VMS offerings are entry-level versions offered by software companies with the intent of the customer upgrading later to a paid version. For more insights, we asked this week's Expert Panel Roundtable: What is the value of “free” video management systems (VMSs) and how can a customer decide whether “free” is the right price for them?

The ongoing challenge of IT and data risk management
The ongoing challenge of IT and data risk management

Managing IT and data risk is a challenging job. When we outsource our IT, applications and data processing to third-parties more and more every day, managing that risk becomes almost impossible. No longer are our data and systems contained within an infrastructure that we have full control over. We now give vendors our data, and allow them to conduct operations on our behalf.  The problem is, we don’t control their infrastructure, and we can never fully look under the hood to understand and vet their ability to protect our data and operations. We have to fully understand how important this issue is, and ensure we have the right governance, processes and teams to identify and mitigate any risks found in our vendors. No longer are our data and systems contained within an infrastructure that we have full control over Today, everything is connected. Our own networks have Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  We have VPN connections coming in, and we aren’t always sure who is on the other end of that connection. It is a full-time job just to get a handle on our own risk. How much harder, and how much larger should our teams and budgets be, to truly know and trust that our vendors can secure those devices and external connections?  For every device and application we have internally, it is very difficult to even keep an accurate inventory. Do all of our vendors have some special sauce that allows them to overcome the traditional challenges of securing internal and vendor-connected networks? They are doing the same thing we are – doing our best with the limited human and financial resources allocated by our organisation. Risk stratification and control objectives  The benefits of outsourcing operations or using a vendor web application are clear. So how can we properly vet those vendors from an IT risk perspective?  The very first thing we need to put in place is Risk Stratification. Risk Stratification presents a few targeted questions in the purchasing process. These questions include – what type of data will be shared? How much of this data? Will the data be hosted by a vendor? Will this hosting be in the US or offshored? Has the vendor ever had a data breach? These questions allow you to quickly discern if a risk assessment is needed and if so, what depth and breadth.  Risk stratification allows you to make decisions that not only improve your team’s efficiency, but also ensure that you are not being a roadblock to the business Risk stratification allows you to make decisions that not only improve your team’s efficiency, but also ensure that you are not being a roadblock to the business. With risk stratification, you can justify the extra time needed to properly assess a vendor’s security.  And in the assessment of a vendor’s security, we have to consider what control objectives we will use. Control objectives are access controls, policies, encryption, etc. In healthcare, we often use the HITRUST set of control objectives. In assessing against those control objectives, we usually use a spreadsheet.  Today, there are many vendors who will sell us more automated ways to get that risk assessment completed, without passing spreadsheets back and forth. These solutions are great if you can get the additional budget approved.  Multi-factor authentication  Even if we are using old-fashioned spreadsheets, we can ensure that the questions asked of the vendor include a data flow and network/security architecture document.  We want to see the SOC2 report if they are hosting their solution in Amazon, etc. If they are hosting it within their own datacentre, we absolutely want to see a SOC2 Type II report. If they haven’t done that due diligence, should that be a risk for you?  Today, we really need to be requiring our vendors to have multi-factor authentication on both their Internet-facing access, as well as their privileged internal access to our sensitive data. I rate those vendors who do not have this control in place as a high risk. We’ve recently seen breaches that were able to happen because the company did not require administrators or DBAs to use a 2-factor authentication into sensitive customer data sources.  In the assessment of a vendor’s security, one has to consider what control objectives to use This situation brings up the issue of risk acceptance. Who in your organisation can accept a high risk? Are you simply doing qualitative risk assessment – high, medium and low risks? Or are you doing true quantitative risk analysis? The latter involves actually quantifying those risks in terms of likelihood and impact of a risk manifesting, and the dollar amount that could impact your organisation.   So is it a million dollars of risk? Who can accept that level of risk? Just the CEO? These are questions we need to entertain in our risk management programs, and socialised within your organisation.  This issue is so important – once we institute risk acceptance, our organisation suddenly starts caring about the vendors and applications we’re looking to engage.  If they are asked to accept a risk without some sort of mitigation, they suddenly care and think about that when they are vetting future outsourced solutions. Quantitative risk analysis involves quantifying risks in terms of likelihood and impact of a risk manifesting Risk management process  In this discussion, it is important to understand how we think of, and present, the gaps we identify in our risk management processes. A gap is not a risk. If I leave my front door unlocked, is that a control gap or a risk? It is a gap – an unlocked door. What is the risk?  The risk is the loss of property due to a burglary or the loss of life due to a violent criminal who got in because the door was unlocked. When we present risks, we can’t say the vendor doesn’t encrypt data. The risk of the lack of encryption is fines, loss of reputation, etc. due to the breach of data. A gap is not a risk.  Once we’ve conducted our risk analysis, we must then ensure that our contracts protect our organisation? If we’re in healthcare, we must determine if the vendor is, in fact, a true HIPAA Business Associate, and if so we get a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) in place. I also require my organisation to attach an IT Security Amendment to these contracts. The IT Security Amendment spells out those control objectives, and requires each vendor to sign off on those critical controls. We are responsible for protecting our organisation’s IT and data infrastructure – today that often means assessing a 3rd-party’s security controls One final note on risk assessments – we need to tier our vendors. We tier them in different ways – in healthcare a Tier 1 vendor is a vendor who will have our patient information on the Internet. Tiering allows us to subject our vendors to re-assessment. A tier 1 vendor should be re-assessed annually, and may require an actual onsite assessment vs. a desk audit. A tier 2 vendor is re-assessed every 2 years, etc. We are responsible for protecting our organisation’s IT and data infrastructure – today that often means assessing a 3rd-party’s security controls. We must be able to fully assess our vendors while not getting in the way of the business, which needs to ensure proper operations, financial productivity and customer satisfaction. If we truly understand our challenge of vendor risk management, we can tailor our operations to assess at the level needed, identify and report on risks, and follow-up on any risks that needed mitigated.