A central station such as this one operated by ADS Security in Nashville, can be the hub for managing multiple clients’ access control systems remotely.

What a difference a year makes. In 2008 end users were all about integration and open systems. While these are still important, the downturn in the economy has shifted the focus of many end users from a goal-oriented approach to a value-oriented approach.

“End users are asking ‘How can I get the most value?’” says Lester LaPierre, director of business development for electronic access control, SARGENT Manufacturing Company, New Haven, Conn.

“With the economy and unemployment reaching record levels, our customers are really reviewing what their access control needs are and amending that,” says Tom Szell, regional vice president for ADS Security, a Nashville, Tenn.-based dealer.

But that doesn’t mean end users aren’t buying. Most manufacturers and dealers say their business hasn’t lessened, just changed focus.

“Future-proofing systems is priority number one for end users,” says Dave Adams, senior product marketing manager, HID Global, Irvine, Calif. “They are making an investment here in these economic times. They want to make sure what they spend now they are not going to have to repeat in two or three years.”

But at the same time, they want and need to migrate to new technology. “The biggest thing they want is the ability to migrate from the solution they bought 10 or 15 years ago to a new technology that can take them five to 10 years into the future and keep them secure,” he adds.

And there are certainly new technologies out there that customers want right now. Managed services, wireless access, IP and Web-based access and converged physical/logical access have all become hot trends in the past year. In all these cases, the features and capabilities also have significant value and cost savings, too.

The current economy has made end users more open to new ideas on how to manage and run their access control systems.


“One of the positive things the [bad] economy has done is made people more open to new ideas,” says Jim Hawthorne, regional sales manager, DMP, Springfield, Mo. One of those new ideas is managed access control, which takes much of the burden and cost of owning and running a security system off of the end user and puts it into the dealers’ hands – offering them a nice recurring monthly revenue (RMR) potential in the bargain.

“End users don’t have to make the investment in the software, or the time and resources required to train personnel on how to use the software,” Hawthorne explains.

 “What we found in doing the research is that we are solving end user’s problems by offering managed access control,” Szell says. “They were occasionally failing to back up databases, forgetting how to add and delete cards or worrying about software upgrades. We can do these things more affordably for our customer. They want to save money and solve problems and this does both. This allows them to be experts at what they do best.”

Now only does this benefit both end users and dealers, but it makes economic sense on both sides as well.

“Managed services is really about reducing overall installation costs for the end user and increasing recurring revenue for the dealer,” says John Smith, senior marketing manager, access control, Honeywell, Louisville, Ky. “By providing these value-added services, a dealer can remove the cost burden associated with that for the end user. And if the end user is paying a lower up-front cost, they might have more dollars available to add more security somewhere else in their facility.”


Another burgeoning trend in access control systems is to do it wirelessly. This is particularly effective where the system can piggyback on the end user’s existing wireless network, or where they have a location that would be too time-consuming or too expensive to hard wire.

 “A wireless approach provides close to the same features they have had all along, but because of the way it utilizes the existing infrastructure and the fact that all the components are integrated into the lock, it reduces a lot of labor and components, and therefore cost,” LaPierre says.

“What normally would have taken eight hours of installation work from three different trades now is cut down to one hour for one technician,” he adds. “From the dealer point of view it allows them to do more with less. For the end user, that translates into more value. It is less disruptive to their business and it also addresses solutions where traditional access solutions can’t go.”


Using existing infrastructure is a big plus for many end users, particularly if the system is IP-based and/or Web-enabled.

“One of the new hot buttons is IP,” says Richard Green, general manager, Firstline Security Systems Inc., Anaheim, Calif. “Being able to put in IP-based controllers or readers cuts down on cabling and installation.”

“End users and dealers are definitely asking us for more IT capable functionality. Most are looking for products that can be run and supported on networks that use standard information.

“One of the biggest things we are seeing requests for is Web-based. Most customers want to do everything over the Web. They want to move away from file servers and tailor their systems for their business today,” Smith says.

Adams adds: “This also helps ‘future proof’ an end user’s system. The IT world has done a very good job of standardizing their products so that technology can pass from one generation to the next. With IP-based systems, our devices are now becoming a part of that whole standards body rather than our own little niche.”


Probably the biggest trend overall, and also one of the best ways to translate value into dollars is by using some form of integration. This can mean many things to many people, but if an end user can somehow translate what they already have into a system that can do more for them, they are money ahead.

“Convergence itself (tying in physical and logical access) is still in its infancy,” Adams says. “But more and more of our partners are specifically focused on the IT world and on providing the ability to unlock both your doors and your computer.

“In a smart card world, applications that allow end users to do things like single sign-on and financial transactions are also a plus,” he adds.

Green sees more customers asking about smart card technology for this reason. “That has been a big technology change in the past year. “They also want integration to CCTV and human resources, to allow for a single point of credential activation and deactivation. Because of open protocols, there aren’t as many road blocks to integrating as there used to be.”

Smith notices this change as well. “I think it used to be same-manufacturer integration capabilities. Now we are going into facilities with different systems running and the end user wants them all tied together. We are being asked either to provide native support for competitive products, or some sort of development for a common platform.

“End users are definitely more aware of the value of integration for legacy products. They are not looking to replace systems they already have. They want to either upgrade or have the manufacturer add to it. It’s not always ideal, but if they can maintain a part of their system, there is value to them, because they don’t have to rip everything out and replace it.”

SIDEBAR: The Difference is in the Details

It’s not always the big stuff that sways an end user toward one system or another. Sometimes it’s the smaller features, the differentiators between systems that make the case.

Green – Environmentally friendly products continue to sell. But how can an access control system translate to that? “We look at it from a slightly different perspective,” says Lester La Pierre, SARGENT. “If you look at manufacturing all the different components of a traditional wired access system, then you have to package that up, ship it, warehouse it. With wireless, transportation costs are much lower, you eliminate wiring, reduce waste by not having to run conduit and punch holes in walls. All those things add up and, for some people, may be the tie breaker.”

Training – One of the more challenging and time-consuming elements of an access control system is training people how to use it. “A lot of companies don’t focus enough on training,” says Richard Green, Firstline Security Systems. “Training has always been a big loss in our industry, especially with changes in personnel and downsizing. We are doing a lot of retraining these days.”

Philip DiMarco, account executive/business development, Security By Design/Wireworks Business System, Westbury, NY, agrees. “I get clients that call me almost daily about training. The key window is two to four hours. If someone can go through a training session and get it in that amount of time so that they don’t have to worry about it again, that is a big plus.”

Real-time – The push for Web-based systems can leave a hole in performance. “Most Web browsers have to refresh,” Smith says. “The next release of our software can get real time events over the Web browser.”

Reliability – “There has been a lot of negative press lately about cloning cards,” Adams says. “A secure card read is very important. And we have dealers asking us to give them ammunition to answer these questions the end users are asking about it.”