At its 16th annual Security Engineering Symposium (SES), held Feb. 17-20 at La Canterra Resort and Spa in San Antonio, Texas, AMAG Technology brought together more than 80 integrators, consultants/engineers and end users, along with several key manufacturing partners, to discuss where the company is headed.

At his first such event since being named president, Kurt Takahashi stressed the importance of partnerships and collaboration. “How do we define success? It is a collaboration of technology, integration, operations and end users,” he said. “We have to be focused as a company to make sure the outcomes we are producing are cost effective and provide real value. Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

The weekend event mixed large group presentations on AMAG’s flagship Symmetry solutions with smaller breakout informational sessions from nine key partners: Vingtor Stentofon by Zenitel, ASSA ABLOY, NEC, HID, Risk360, Winsted, FST/Gunnebo, Hikvision, and Barco.

“We are driven by what our customers want us to do, not what our competitors are doing,” said company COO Howard Johnson. “But we also want to provide the future technology that will give answers to the questions you haven’t asked. We have extended our partner solutions. We believe in open standards and all new developments will have open interfaces.”

AMAG has been in the access control business for 45 years and has 30,000 Symmetry systems installed worldwide, Johnson told the audience. But he and other presenters stressed that the company has its eye on future technologies and how to fit them into its core solutions. For example, one of the breakout sessions featured a seamless integration of FST’s in-motion facial recognition system with Gunnebo turnstiles. And while AMAG will continue to support its partnership with HID’s mobile credential solution, it also recently released one of its own.

“We want to do something that is complementary and take a different approach to the market,” Johnson said. “Our mobile credential is free and has no licensing fee.” The mobile credential started shipping in December.

With its release of a hosted visitor management system last year, AMAG also started down the path to introduce more cloud solutions, Johnson said. “We are looking at it, but not rushing into it. We are assembling a set of technologies to allow hosted solutions to try to create more RMR out of our systems.”

Keynote speaker Ronnell A. Higgins, director of public safety and chief of police at Yale University, the nation’s oldest campus public safety organization (established in 1894), spoke about Yale’s security story and how they partnered with AMAG to overcome challenges and provide a safer environment for students by embedding IT with public safety.

Of course it wasn’t all work and no play. On Saturday evening attendees were treated to a real Texas experience at Don Strange Ranch, complete with armadillo races, longhorn cattle, line dancing lessons and authentic Texas-style barbecue. The next afternoon attendees were given a choice of three outings: golf, a shooting range or an underground cave/zip line experience. That evening the attendees came together one last time for a fun-filled banquet that included prizes for best golf score and most active social media poster on the AMAG SES17 app created just for the event.

Amidst all the fun and information, SDM was also able to sit down for a one-on-one conversation with Kurt Takahashi to discuss his vision for the company now that he is president:

SDM: One of your taglines at this event is “Beyond Access Control.” What does that mean?

Takahashi: One of reasons I came to AMAG is we have so many things that do more than just access control and protect entire ecosystems that nobody knows about. I’m trying to get people to understand that AMAG is not just an access control company and we do things that nobody else does. Our value proposition comes from a really rich access control background, but the total value is access, identity management, visitor management, intrusion, alarm management, and incident management.

SDM: What is your approach to solving customer problems?

Takahashi: I was an integrator. Customers always told me “You can put in all the technology you want, but as soon as you walk away nobody helps me understand what to do with it now. How do I use it?” I have always used that as my barometer. We have to build something with that mindset. If I am a security director, how do I figure out how to meet these requirements and ensure I am not wasting my money? How do I make sure those operators are successful? If you take that complete operational mindset, I may not be the best [total] solution. But we have these great partnerships. I’m not going to go build intercoms or locks but I can take those other technologies and make them useful. I always say there are the three compelling business reasons for security: to mitigate risk, to save the customer money, and to maintain compliance.

SDM: What are your plans for the cloud?

Takahashi: Our hosted visitor management is done. We are getting ready to release a brand new PIAM (physical identity and access management) Symmetry Connect solution. That will look a bit like the visitor management. Those are our first two endeavors into hosted/cloud. Eventually in our roadmap we will start moving more in that direction. We are taking nice, strategic steps…. But it is a long, slow evolution. It’s dangerous to jump off cliff. The DNA of our company is access control ad we have all these other business needs clients are asking for help with. Is my number one priority to go cloud? No. My number one priority is elaborating on incident management.

SDM: What else does the near future hold for AMAG?

Takahashi: That goes back to why “beyond access control” is so important. Access is still our foundation but really there is all this other stuff that plays into how people manage their business and the goal is to make security more convenient without compromising risks and policies and procedures. We are constantly looking for more innovation and transformation and we see some nice disruptive technologies come to bear. [For example] our new partnership with Bioconnect will be released at ISC West. Bioconnect is a biometric app overlay that launches a biometric app before using the mobile credential. For us, we want to always reach for that next thing that helps customers adopt new technology. We are very excited about where we are at right now. With our investment in people and technology I think we have a really compelling story to tell. — By Karyn Hodgson, SDM Senior Editor