A continuing strong economy, end user desires to do more with their access control systems and increasing interest in new technologies, integrations and models all led to a positive outlook in 2019 and a general feeling of optimism for 2020, with a few notes of caution.

2020 SOM Access Control icon

“2019 was great,” says Rick Focke, director of product management for the enterprise access control group, Johnson Controls, Milwaukee. “We had strong growth in all of the Tyco brands … We are also seeing a lot of projects that were on hold financially for the last few years getting fired up.”

In SDM’s 2019 Industry Forecast Study, nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of respondents described the home control/home entertainment market as good to excellent. While this was down 6 percentage points overall from the previous year, the number of respondents characterizing the market as “very good/excellent” was up 8 percentage points, to nearly 40 percent. What’s more, 45 percent expect the revenue from this market to increase this year, in 2019.

Mitchell Klein, executive director, Z-Wave Alliance, says the smart home market just “keeps performing,” but it is not necessarily growing rapidly. “It is a linear growth,” Klein says. “It is growing but not by hockey sticking, as people have been hoping.”

Philip Young, director of sales, G4S Secure Integration, Omaha, Neb. (featured on this month’s cover), adds, “From a macro standpoint the economy is really good, which makes for a lot of new construction. Money is cheap right now, so as our customers expand rapidly — especially in industries like the data center markets and high tech — as they continue to build, access control is at the core of most of our enterprise customers’ security portfolios.”

Global conditions are at the heart of some of the growth, but also a source of hesitance. “As long as the economy continues to be healthy the biggest opportunity is all the new construction,” Young continues. “That is also our biggest threat. At some point or another, there is at least one slow year in 10. It has been 13 or so [good years] now. It is only a matter of time before something happens and we are all kind of waiting with bated breath. Meanwhile, customers can still borrow and build; but I am keeping my eye on the horizon.”

Research company Omdia (formerly IHS Markit), based in London, does see signs of a potential slow down. “We originally forecast the access control equipment market would grow well, about 6 percent in 2019,” says research analyst Bryan Montany. “That was not quite achieved.” While he stresses that the dip is slight — 1 percent or less — he points to the trade war between the U.S. and China as a chief reason. “New construction in the U.S. dipped from July through December due to the trade war, which has had a secondary effect on the construction market due to the availability of certain materials.”

As this article went to press the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) was also beginning to be a concern.

“The major question moving forward has to do with the coronavirus, the possibility of global recession and what 2020 will look like,” Montany says. “Dynamics that have very little to do with actual access control trends could have monumental impact on access control this year, such as a significant decline in construction projects and the overall market due to the coronavirus fears. This virus has a real chance to send us into a global recession and could send the access control market into a stall. The market could decline in 2020, which is unheard of since the 2008 crash.”

While he says dealers and integrators should be wary, the opposite outcome is also a possibility. “So much could change depending on how bad the situation is. Or if it clears up in a month we could see remarkable growth rates relative to what was predicted. In terms of financial growth, 2020 is hard to predict.”

These issues don’t seem to be impacting the access control industry’s overall outlook on the future yet. “Right up to the coronavirus [outbreak] I was expecting 2020 to be a fair year,” says Richard Goldsobel, vice president, Continental Access, a division of Napco Security Technologies, Amityville, N.Y. “If true supply chains become affected it is hard to know what impact it will have. It will probably recover and be really short term. There could be a drop but right now I am not expecting it … I am still looking for 2020 to be fairly positive, knowing I have new products coming out, and I have a lot of customers rolling over to new platforms. There are no weaknesses that are glaring, so we are expecting it to be pretty good for us.”

Steve Spatig, general manager, electronic access solutions, Southco Inc., Concordville, Penn., has similar opinions. “I think 2020 will be stronger than 2019. There are some world market conditions that are having a significant impact on the global economy. That aside, the buildout of infrastructure and technologies will make this an even better year than 2019.”

Mark Duato, executive vice president, aftermarket, ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions Americas, New Haven, Conn., agrees. “Access control requirements continue to evolve and expand rapidly. Legacy access technologies need to be maintained, upgraded and replaced. End users have become very well educated on the products and services that they require, which is driving technology into new directions up and down the solutions scale. Security, mobility and a seamless user experience are three key factors influencing development. We haven’t yet begun to see the peak of the mountain in terms of where we are going.

“We fully expect 2020 to be another record year. We are bullish on partner confidence and overarching market trends. Constantly evolving and expanding security requirements translate to a bottomless portfolio of ‘addressable market,’ even in conservative economic times.”


First Cyber, Now Privacy

Cyber security has been a concern for a number of years now, and most providers and integrators had to come up to speed quickly. The issue of cyber security will likely never go away; but now there is another issue that is starting to cause concern: privacy. 

Cyber security is table stakes now, says Johnson Controls’ Rick Focke. “It is so important now. We get constant inquiries from end users … There is a lot of vetting everywhere for both software and hardware … What is interesting is that it doesn’t matter if it is a big controller or a small network device. There is no free pass. You can’t just say this little door control module is fine. It has to have the same cyber security as the largest thing on the network. Every device is a possible point of entry.”

Rob Kay of Northland Controls says cyber security is part of the background now. “Hardening all components and systems of our deployments is a requirement. Being cyber savvy is not considered special, but simply doing our jobs.”

While the industry seems to be getting a handle on cyber issues now, there is another thing changing the landscape. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) not only affects European companies, but any global company doing business in Europe or that has employees in Europe. Here in the U.S., at least a few states are enacting their own privacy laws, which is having a direct impact on security integrators.

In an effort to get out front of the GDPR effect, some manufacturers are starting to treat privacy with the same level of concern and attention they gave to cyber security a few years ago when it first started to get industry-wide attention. For example, Genetec has made privacy a big push, from its “Please Remember to Forget Me” giveaway bags to its internal messaging. “It’s at the heart of everything we do … As much as we want to protect people and provide information, the privacy of the people we are trying to protect comes first,” says Despina Stamatelos.

“We anticipate that privacy legislation as enacted in Europe will continue to spread to other countries and will impact how enterprise-class systems use and maintain the data those systems generate,” adds Marcus Logan, senior offering manager, Honeywell Commercial Security, Atlanta.

The bigger point about privacy laws may end up being an opportunity rather than a hindrance, Montany says. “Privacy concerns will have an impact; I don’t want to downplay that. The regulatory impact of that will require some changes in terms of the way data is stored … In the past access control software could store user data indefinitely. That regulatory requirement is a major byproduct of GDPR. Systems are required to regularly delete data in terms of employees, visitors, contractors … It requires some differences in access control software that will raise the price of software but not change the demand.

“GDPR will spur some retrofit projects,” Montany adds. “We have already seen that in Europe where the retrofit market is growing nicely.”


Optimism seems to be the order of the day. SDM’s 2020 Industry Forecast (conducted in the fall of 2019) showed an overall positive perception of the access control market with 87 percent of respondents saying the current state of the market was good to excellent (compared with 84 percent the prior year). And 65 percent expected revenue in the access control space to increase in 2020 (versus 59 percent the prior year). No one expected revenues to decline.

Indeed, many security integrators SDM spoke with for this article reported access control was a larger part of their business in 2019 than in previous years.

“In 2019 access control was close to 50 percent of our revenue,” says Angie Wong, president, Ojo Technology Inc., Freemont, Calif. “That is the balance we want to strike. We really see access control as key to pulling in the rest of the system.” Ojo just started gaining traction in access control about three years ago, having started in the IT industry and moving first to video surveillance, she says. “Our goal is to be really good at access control and compete at the enterprise level.

“We really expect to see the video surveillance market becoming more of a commodity. It’s almost like the fries that go with the hamburger. The hamburger would be the access control. That is a very big shift for our company.”

Hunter Thornton, vice president of sales, A3 Communications Inc., Irmo, S.C., reports that his company saw close to 40 percent growth in 2019. “In the past two years we have seen more significant growth in access control. Security makes up 70-75 percent of our revenue. The other part is telephony. Access control is close to half of that security revenue — trending more than half.”

Rob Kay, director of professional services, Northland Controls Systems, Milpitas, Calif., also says his company’s access control integration and installation market was very active in 2019, particularly in the latter part of the year. “Our company started off the year flat, but ended 40 percent up,” he says. “The primary high-level trend supporting this growth is the growing economy and high employment rate.” Kay says there was also increased activity in the professional services portion of the business due to trends in aggregating data (big data) and acting on the data (AI).

“2019 was a big growth year for California Commercial Security overall and specifically within the access control space,” says Ken Robison, owner of the San Diego-based integration company. “We increased booked revenues by 30 percent over 2018 and added 700-plus hosted card access controlled doors … We are projecting 2020 revenues to increase by nearly the same percentage. The economy remains strong in SoCal and we have a large pipeline of business already booked that will yield another strong year.”

There are several reasons behind these trends. “The access control industry as a whole is very legacy-based and there is a huge footprint of users still on legacy platforms or sunsetting,” says Kami Dukes, director of business development North America, AMAG Technology, Torrance, Calif. “We saw an expected growth … up year-over-year 10 percent … One of our strategies was targeting our end-user base and helping them optimize their security program. We saw growth not only in access control upgrades and expansions but also leading into video, visitor management and wherever we were able to offer efficiencies.

“Those customers had been on sunsetting platforms; one of them was end-of-life and looking for a complete overhaul; but a lot of security trends drove them to have compelling reasons to make that switch.”

One of those reasons is continued concern about cyber security, particularly with legacy platforms. “A lot of companies tend to hold on to systems for anywhere between 15 and 20 years,” says Despina Stamatelos, product marketing manager, access control, Genetec, Montreal. “Now those are end-of-life and we are seeing retrofits and migrations of proprietary systems. We will continue to see that as they outgrow those systems that can’t keep up. There is also an increased concern about cyber security as IT departments are more and more involved in decision making … and are looking to adopt more secure credentials or protocols like OSDP.”

Paul Ahern, president and CEO of Lapeer, Mich.-based Cypress Integration Solutions, one of the leaders of the OSDP push, says this initiative has reached a level of adoption that led to growth in his company in 2019 and he is even more positive about this year. “2020 should be an incredible top-line growth year with our business expanding internationally and with OSDP going mainstream.”

Wireless locks are another technology that saw an uptick and led to a positive outlook from those companies that offer them. “The access control space is doing very well,” says Kevin Anderson, vice president, sales, electronic access and data, dormakaba Americas, Indianapolis. “It is experiencing … growth and expansion as technologies and access control, especially wireless, are more reliable … We are continuing to see a very strong market. Our expectations in 2020 are to keep pace or outpace the market.”

Another major trend in access control that is contributing to healthy growth for those that participate in it is the cloud.

“The last two years for us [have] really been stellar, as DMP introduced … our cloud-based access control product,” says Mark Hillenburg, vice president of marketing, DMP, Springfield, Mo. “We have seen marked growth and adoption. Last year was especially good.”

Adam Reed, director of sales, Western regions for Aiphone, Redmond, Wash., sums up what many in the industry seem to be feeling, which reflects an ongoing optimism and confidence that the industry will weather any potential hiccups. “From a broader perspective, the industry (and the economy as a whole) appear strong and many economists have expressed optimism about its ongoing health. Overall we are excited about 2020.”


Changing Architectures

From the smallest company to the global enterprise, things are shifting when it comes to customer expectations of how an access control system should be set up and managed. The traditional model of on-premise card-reader-panel-server is still predominant, but other architectures are finding more and more appeal.

For several years open architecture has been the buzzword and that hasn’t changed. But what it means to be open is a shifting dialog, with manufacturers joining consortiums such as LEAF and PLAI, and standards like OSDP and ONVIF all vying to define what open should look like. (See sidebar on page 40.)

Open has been a “pseudo standard” for a number of years, says Steve Wagner, president of Open Options, Addison, Texas. “We believe that the next evolution will be manufacturers coming together as technology consortiums to provide the end user community with not just choice in open technology but significant control of the technology they purchase.”

Young at G4S adds, “When moving from one access control system to another, the three most important things customers are requiring are a focus on cyber security, interoperability and a really open platform. More people are adjusting their existing systems [than doing a forklift change]. A lot of the traditional manufacturers who make their own panels are building … open architecture, cyber-safe, SDK-friendly panels that point to the future.”

Another fast-growing shift in the architecture is the move to the cloud. From a fully managed platform owned and run by the integrator, to a pull-through offering that sits on the manufacturer’s cloud, to an end-user on-premise cloud infrastructure, there are many ways to deploy it.

“The cloud becomes a very complex discussion on where the end user adaptation fits, what the cloud means to them and what their expectations are,” Dukes says. “At the end of the day it is not too much different from back in the 1980s and 90s. The client wanted full control of their systems. Back in the day it was hardware, software and cards and readers. Integrations didn’t exist. Today we live in a space where we expect everything to work fluidly … Complete control means they want ownership over systems which should be interoperable with any system in their organization that makes sense to them.”

Whether cloud-based or not, access control is a software-driven space now, Dukes says. “The access control market is [traditionally] very heavy when it comes to hardware. The end user and the IT departments today are expecting much more software where people are trying to eliminate inventory … At AMAG we have made a big point in our hardware development to lighten that load. You can pop the box on the wall once and the intention is to never go back there. It goes from the controller to an appliance where everything is handled and managed remotely and it sits on the network.”

LenelS2, Pittsford, N.Y., is also reflecting changing architecture needs in their plans. “At LenelS2 we are re-architecting our systems to scale better, run with less supervision and optimize manpower,” says John Moss, chief product officer. “Cloud deployment is a requirement for that. The cloud has become a strong driver for innovation throughout the industry.”

Focke says that while larger clients are “kicking the tires” around cloud, they are very particular in how they go about it. “Cloud is one of our four pillars and part of our overall strategy, and we do see a lot of uptake in smaller customer markets, the ones that want everything taken care of for them. On the enterprise side, a lot of customers are looking to put cloud in, but they still want local controllers at each building. Putting services in the cloud is good savings for them. As IT departments progress and have influence over security departments, that is where we see the cloud uptake. It isn’t the security directors, but their IT brethren telling them to get the server out of your building; you have 12 months.”


Standards: Anything but Standard

The security industry has often been accused of being behind the curve when it comes to standards. However, there are some efforts that have started to gain good traction in the past year or two. 

“The physical security industry has not been a beacon in the world of standards, so this continues to be an uphill battle,” says Feenics’ Denis Hebert. “Some slivers of hope have largely been driven by IT standards, the evolution of open APIs and some open standards such as OSDP, though our industry has a long way to go in adopting this approach.”

Attitudes are shifting, however, particularly on the part of some of the most influential access control players. “Standards are becoming increasingly important for ensuring the lasting value of purchases and for risk management,” says LenelS2’s John Moss. “LenelS2 is an advocate of using proven open standards and creating secure open protocols for third parties to integrate to our systems. The OSDP protocol is an example of a standard we helped develop.”

DMP’s Mark Hillenburg is excited about the increasing prevalence of OSDP. “We are finally seeing the demand for OSDP and are excited to release that this spring. The Wiegand protocol has served us well; however, it’s time to upgrade and modernize.”

Essex Electronics, Carpinteria, Calif., is another manufacturer jumping on board the OSDP movement, says company president, Garrett Kaufman. “OSDP is emerging as a replacement for traditional Wiegand. Not all products from other manufacturers have been implemented as of yet, but certainly this is the direction the market is moving. Essex is already in development to transition their core reader portfolio to meet OSDP communications.”

The impact of OSDP goes beyond just higher security, says Cypress Integration’s Paul Ahern. “Open standards are allowing leading edge technologies from smaller, innovative companies to be integrated into larger, more mainstream systems,” he says. Cypress was on the forefront of the OSDP adoption. 

Another way manufacturers in the access control industry are accomplishing this is through efforts such as LEAF and PLAI.

The LEAF Consortium is an association of partner entities intent on bringing interoperability to the access control and identity credentials market and includes partners such as Allegion and Brivo. 

“With the formation of consortiums like LEAF, today’s end user has never been more in control of their security future,” says Open Options’ Steve Wagner.

PLAI (Physical Logical Access Interoperability) provides the means to normalize data so it can be shared between identity management systems,” explains David Bunzel, executive director of PSIA, the creator of PLAI. “For example, if a customer facility has both LenelS2 and AMAG systems they typically are siloed and do not communicate with each other. With PLAI the identity data is able to be shared, allowing one trusted source and requiring only one access badge.”

These initiatives are critical for enterprise customers looking for a single platform that can be interoperable with other business operations, says AMAG’s Kami Dukes. “They couldn’t do that without OSDP, without the PLAI board and PSIA driving interoperability to these customers. Without that they would face massive capital expenditures.”

ONVIF, while still primarily a video standard body, is also working on creating some standards in the access control space, and Per Björkdahl, ONVIF chairman, says all these initiatives will have a role to play.

“While the access control sector has been slower to change than most areas of security, there are steady waves of progress moving through this area,” he says. “Standardization initiatives such as OSDP and PLAI are also working to standardize specific areas of the access control market, and it’s important to note that they are all complementary to one another and share many of the same member companies.

“It’s only been recently that these [standards] have begun to gain real momentum. So while the uptake has been slow, it’s now becoming clear to the market that standards offering interoperability … represent solid opportunities for end users and manufacturers.”


He also notes that these changes will affect the role of the security integrator going forward. Those used to on-premise large projects with ongoing service agreements (the bulk of the traditional integration work at the enterprise level), may have to rethink it. “They don’t want integrators touching their cloud. They want more advanced training and they will do it. It doesn’t bode well for integrators in some cases. But as an integrator they have to recognize that and see how they can add value,” Focke believes.

One way to do that may be more cloud-based access control-as-a-service, even at enterprise level, says Stamatelos. “One of the highest growths we have seen is a quite high uptake in ACaaS. It has traditionally been more small to medium businesses, but now larger enterprises are seeing the benefits of taking the system to the cloud … Within the next five years the landscape will change drastically in terms of solutions that will be on-premise versus the cloud. That is why we are offering cloud services.”

Wong says solutions like this are making a difference. “The ship is being moved. The proprietary systems are no longer. The legacy systems are the reason it was so sticky because all the devices in the field are not compatible.” With more standards-based equipment, along with the cloud, those issues are easier to address now, she says. “With HID readers and Mercury boards being used by multiple manufacturers, now when you change out the head end all those can stay. For example, Genetec has Cloud Link. If the system is different but they are using Mercury boards, you only need to change out the brain. You can keep the legs and arms and everything is compatible. That is the kind of standardization it takes. Otherwise it is too hard to change.”

The push away from servers is happening at the SMB level as well, says Bill Hobbs, global vice president of sales, 3xLOGIC, Fishers, Ind. He cites a customer that told him that he not only wanted to go fully mobile for the credential, but, “In the next breath he said, ‘and I don’t want any servers. I want this to be all cloud-based.’ There is definitely a large push to get out of that server environment.”

At this end of the market the ACaaS market is growing even faster, Montany says. “The access-as-a-service market is still very small compared to the traditional market, but it is growing twice as fast. Looking at the American market, if we are thinking a 6 percent growth in 2019 it is close to 12 percent for access control-as-a-service, but from a much lower size. It is still under 20 percent of the traditional market.”

SDM’s Industry Forecast points to similar growth in the ACaaS market, with 66 percent of respondents indicating they currently offer the service, up 10 percentage points from the previous year. Another one-third plan to offer it in the coming 24 months.

However it is deployed, the cloud is here to stay and will have a greater impact on the market each year.

“You will always need hardware but the cloud can help drive that,” Goldsobel says. “But there is less [work] for the integrators and they can get jobs done quicker. The whole cloud piece seems to be a win-win-win for the end user, integrator and manufacturer right up the line … In today’s ever more complex software environment, if you can make it easier by putting it in the cloud there are fewer variables.”

Some go so far as to say cloud could have the biggest impact on the access control market in 2020 and beyond. “I am obviously biased in my response, but I continue to believe that cloud, and its derivative benefits, will most likely have the greatest impact on the physical access control domain in 2020,” says Denis Hebert, president, Feenics Inc., Ottawa, Ontario. “More architectural than ‘technology,’ the concept of providing a service rather than managing boxes will become the new driver of the industry.”

Hillenburg says his company is already seeing the impact from its SaaS solution. “In 2019 we were able to surpass one of our goals of selling more than 5,000 doors of access control a month … Our SaaS sales have easily surpassed our conventional access control sales.”


Doing More With New Technology

When it comes to the technologies that are driving the access control market, mobile readers and credentials, wireless locks, integration and convergence top the list.

“Systems have to do more than just unlock the door,” Focke says. “For years, that was it. Now customers want more. They want to have us provide business reports. They want to know, ‘What is my real estate usage pattern?’ to decide if they can scale back and save money doing hot desking. They are asking us to do visitor management, which is a derived access control function.”

Nolan Mondrow, CEO, RemoteLock, Denver, Colo., says, “We see a lot of people talking about the same trends. Wireless locks are big. Mobile credentials. Cloud has been talked about for a long time but has been slow to adopt. Now we see all of these really coming to tipping points … It is not just that these technologies are on the horizon, but I do think it is accelerating, from our own experience.”

Beyond just getting the latest and greatest, end users want the technology that can bring them the most convenience, security and help with compliance issues. But cost is still an issue that comes between their desires and their actual purchases. And privacy issues are starting to enter the equation, as well.

“Two or three years ago it was data, data, data, compliance, compliance, compliance and having control over workflow and alarms,” Dukes says. “Now they are really starting to understand that they are collecting a massive amount of data that can be very valuable and demanding and we find a way to help them make sense of it.”

But this is not always easy.

“What we have been seeing is converged platforms around analytics, putting more services within one platform that makes it easier to manage and more cost effective,” says Don Fruhwirth, director of product management, Interface Security Systems, Earth City, Mo. “The big challenge is regulations and governance are still trying to catch up with what the technology can do. We are seeing a lot of neat stuff out there.”

He stresses the privacy issues are a potential hiccup to what organizations want to do with all that data. “Illinois is most stringent and we are working with some locations there to determine how we can use some of these technologies but still adhere to these requirements. We are trying to work with them on that and embrace new, enhanced, better services for our customers. It is a tricky one.” (For more about privacy issues see the sidebar on page 38.)

As macro trends such as AI, big data, IoT and convergence become more important to businesses, these issues will have to get ironed out. “That is something we will continue to keep a close eye on as solutions become more readily available and we can use that data in smart ways that can help end users,” says Ed Horst, product manager, electronics for dormakaba AS Americas. “That is a trend no one can overlook.”

Young is seeing this in his interactions with customers. “As it pertains to access control we are all trying to capture the idea of big data,” he says. “I think you are seeing access control and identity management companies starting to embed this big data/business analytics into their programing and the end user wonders, ‘What’s next? I spent millions on an access control system. How can I make it go to work for me?’

“What they are asking the system to do is passively analyze data. If your system in the background can make business decisions for you, you are creating a much higher level of value rather than just opening and closing doors. It’s all about how you continue to innovate on the access control side. You have to keep up with trends.”

Aiphone’s Reed calls the drive for data a transcending force. “Perhaps more than we realize I think the ongoing industry-transcending race for data producing technology has been a driving force for a long time now. In many ways it could be argued that the growing customer needs/desires we see, new government legislation and other product producing conversations swimming around our industry, all stem from this larger race looming in the background.”

These trends are all something U.K.-based Paxton Access Inc., with U.S. headquarters in Greenville, S.C., took into account in developing its soon-to-be-released product that incorporates access and video on one platform, says Gareth Ohara, chief sales officer. “With the talk of smart buildings, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, deep learning, the system that we are releasing … is a product that positions us well to take advantage of these new and emerging trends.”

In order to get the benefits of all the data an access control system can provide, many users have to consider upgrading their legacy equipment, and beyond the system-level upgrades, the reader and credential are getting increased attention. As more organizations realize the vulnerabilities of proximity technology, they are looking at other credential options, from smart cards to mobile credentials to biometrics.

“Recent developments such as the increased use of mobile devices and the expanded integration of biometrics, now much more affordable, are providing tremendous flexibility in the choice and deployment of access control systems,” says Mohammed Murad, vice president, global sales and business development, Iris ID, Cranbury, N.J.

“The whole credential world is under different pressures to move,” Goldsobel says. “The proximity side is under attack from easy duplication, so everyone wants smart. But smart has no universal compatibility, so things like apps and remote clients are playing a bigger picture because they bridge some of that. When it comes to the credential it is getting tougher and tougher to make good choices.”

There is increased interest in both mobile credentials and biometrics.

“2019 was the tipping point for mobile-ready solutions, as facilities want to ensure they have the infrastructure in place to support mobile credentials when the time is right,” ASSA ABLOY’s Duato says.

Scott McNulty, senior product manager – software and integrations, electronic access and data for dormakaba AS Americas, adds, “We are definitely still at the beginning of mobile adoption but we are seeing a fast increase in the use of mobile … We are seeing the market grow exponentially, but not hockey sticking yet.”

Omdia’s Montany agrees. “Mobile credentials have been a story for several years now and they continue to be the fastest growing access control product type. The issue vendors are facing is how to monetize mobile credentials because the predominant offerings bundle mobile with physical and offer mobile for free.” This becomes a problem when end users don’t want to pay for a solution that only includes mobile credentials, he explains.

“From the end-user perspective they can’t fully transition from physical to mobile credentials. There is still a demand for cards, so if a vendor only offers mobile they won’t be chosen. If it costs additional money, same situation.” Montany adds that where the adoption is occurring is on the reader side. “That market is growing significantly faster than the market for mobile credentials across all regions because a lot of end users, even if they are not implementing them yet, want to ensure their readers are future-proof if they want them five years from now,” he explains.

Young agrees. “There is some lag with some of this technology. We know that mobile credentials and frictionless access is a thing of the very near future; it is just a matter of what is the real sustainability and likelihood they will be deployed. I think we are still two or three years off. That being said, there are some very good companies doing it.”

In fact, Young reports that both biometrics and mobile credentials are of increased interest to his customers. “This last year more than the previous 15 we are seeing a lot of customers who are starting to investigate frictionless access like biometrics and mobile credentials.”

Erron Spalsbury, global sales support manager for 3xLOGIC, is pleased to see some of these newer technologies coming to the forefront.  “For me, the growth and acceptance of newer technology like mobile credentials and the capabilities to move beyond the traditional credentialing environment has been a pleasant surprise because we have pushed those technologies for quite some time. So it is nice to see that.”


Facial Recognition: the Breakout Biometric Technology of the Future?

For many years biometrics were the up-and-coming credential technology everyone thought was just around the corner. However, higher prices and issues with accuracy kept it to a niche technology. What may soon push it to the forefront is the increasing use of analytics and software solutions — particularly in facial recognition. What will that mean for the access control credential and reader market? 

“We are looking at a couple different biometrics, including … camera solutions that work independently of the access control system,” says Interface Security’s Don Fruhwirth. “Those solutions are finding their way into access control systems. … There are some very innovative camera-based analytics that will tie things together.”

AMAG Technology’s Kami Dukes says there is some risk that biometrics may impact the card credential market as customers move off the legacy technologies, particularly proximity. “There is no doubt in my mind there will be a big play on biometrics. … With the risk of [proximity] cards, if they are going to make that move they want something foolproof. Even if they are moving to mobile credentials they are expecting two-factor authentication [with biometrics].”

The issue with facial recognition in particular, however, may be privacy. There have been legislative initiatives in the past year aimed at curtailing the use of facial recognition and claiming racial profiling and bias concerns. While the industry is fighting back, it is having an effect, Dukes says. “It is politically controversial. We saw one major end user that fought tooth and nail to get this to work but there were too many challenges and they couldn’t. They reverted back to mobile credentials and they are using biometrics on the smartphone [as a second factor].”

Without these hindrances, however, Dukes says facial recognition could be a threat to the traditional reader and credential. “It would be ideal to take advantage of video built into the substation at a door and communicate through audio and use facial recognition. That would do away with the reader and credential and they would just manage identity based on facial recognition. That is the direction we are going.”

Honeywell’s Marcus Logan agrees. “Despite privacy concerns, we see biometrics continuing to evolve and grow in market share versus non-biometric readers. There is high demand for strong security delivered in an unobtrusive manner. Biometrics, particularly via video, seems to be well-positioned to do this today.”

Johnson Controls’ Rick Focke says lines are becoming blurred between video and access control. Johnson Controls will be launching a facial recognition product with a camera sensor and control unit with Wiegand and OSDP output to an access control panel, he says. “It is purpose-built for access control but has a ring of LED lights to give the same experience as a reader. We tried to marry the reader functionality to facial recognition,” he says. But the unit is a camera that can be fed into the video system, as well.

He acknowledges that facial recognition will need more time to grow in market acceptance. “We have this launch, but I don’t think you will have every customer put in every door using facial recognition. They are very cautious and it has to go through the legal department.”

Smartphones have been a big boon to biometrics in general and facial recognition in particular, says Omdia’s Bryan Montany. “A trend we have been tracking is frictionless biometric readers. Biometrics have historically not performed well in North America due to regulatory and privacy issues. But that is beginning to change. The impetus is actually our iPhones, as we become more accustomed to unlocking them with our biometric data. Regular people trust the technology more than five or 10 years ago. That is changing the dynamics in terms of a biometrics market in access control.”

The matter for the access control industry is who has dominance over the facial recognition technology, he adds. “The question becomes whether the hardware is still associated or sold by an access control vendor as opposed to a video vendor. What we are seeing in many cases is they are installing access control facial recognition readers, which is similar to video cameras but from an access control vendor. But often that hardware feeds into video analytics software and is ultimately the intelligence comparing the data and making the decision.

“It is a potential threat to access control in that there is this synergy between access and video that is increasing,” Montany says. “As facial recognition becomes more and more popular there is a real chance that at least access control readers may be supplanted by video surveillance cameras.”

Another driver will be cost, Montany says. “Looking at the cost of the average facial recognition readers we see a sharp decline between 2020 and 2025. The average price will go down by over $100. The trend that it is becoming more software-oriented with video analytics, which is a separate product, and that will cause decline in revenue opportunities from the sale of hardware.”

Because of these factors, facial recognition is the fastest-growing biometric, he says. “By the time we get to 2025 facial recognition will be more than half the size in terms of global revenues of fingerprint readers, which is a pretty gigantic shift. Right now that number is more than four times smaller.”


The Shifting Integrator Role

From emerging cloud architectures, to mobile credential deployment, to convergence and IoT, these trends all point to a new role and opportunity for the security integrator — and one that can bring in the much desired recurring monthly revenue based on services.

“Integrators will need to realize the need for changes in their business model in order to properly address the requirements of end users,” Feenics’ Hebert says. “This evolution took some time in the IT domain, as VARs moved from being box providers to service providers.” Now the security industry is facing a similar shift, he says.

“We are absolutely focusing on the service aspect,” Ojo Technologies’ Wong says. “How can we expand our services beyond maintaining the security system and doing inspection and maintenance? We want to make our client’s job easier. Maintaining a system is one thing. Everyone knows how to do that. But what else can we do? How can we get deeper into the operation and be part of it? We can work with HR on onboarding and off boarding and be part of their new-hire process. Those are the kinds of things that make us more valuable to the customer.”

Grand Valley Automation, Grandville, Mich., is another security integrator looking to grow its RMR, says Cory Tate, security team leader. “Last year about 10 percent of our sales were RMR. This year our goal is to be around 30 percent in RMR-based products.”

Fruhwirth says Interface changed to the managed service model about 12 years ago and is seeing good returns. “Our RMR is actually up greater than 30 percent year-over-year,” he says. “By taking that approach and offering customers not just parts but partnering with them and giving them solutions that are not just out of the box … we deliver more value to our customers. That frees them up to focus on their core business and lets us manage what they need to keep the doors open. We become an extension of their team.”

Building RMR is an industry-wide initiative, Young says. “There is not a single integrator in the entire industry that isn’t trying to build RMR. It really is the backbone for healthy profitability.” But he cautions that RMR models are different depending on what the customer wants. “Not every customer has an appetite for traditional RMR like maintenance plans.

“There are a lot of different ways for us to capture RMR, but it starts by understanding what their appetite is for it. Not everyone wants to spend operational cash on something they think they can do themselves. It is about having flexibility and a lot of different options.”

The role shift goes beyond just the managed services aspect. Even on the more traditional enterprise side where integrators are used to a solid business model of large projects with maintenance contracts the tide is turning, says AMAG’s Dukes.

“The role of the integrator has changed. The end user, especially at the enterprise level, is taking that control [of software ownership] back because of all the cyber and data privacy requirements. They are spending more time with the integrator on design and engineering in the field … But instead of maintaining the software they don’t want them to touch it again … They are asking, ‘How can you do remote monitoring and support for me?’ That is where we see the RMR model really shifting up for integrators. If they are adopting that they will be hugely successful.”

Dukes suggests becoming educated on the remote monitoring of the fielded hardware. “That is really going to be a big opportunity for them. I think if they can really get themselves educated on credential management, reader technology and really understand the different protocols such as OSDP and IT infrastructures … that can bring them up to a level that puts them in a whole different environment.”

At all levels security integrators are dealing with more educated consumers as well, says A3’s Thornton. “The end user is becoming savvy because manufacturers are starting to work more closely with them. That is great because we don’t have to educate them from scratch, but now we can really talk about how to use these systems and maximize their capability. Now we can come in and add some additional services, whether analytics or biometrics. It’s about how we apply these systems and maximize their capability. We are having to go in on the front end to understand a bigger scope than we did initially.”

It is a different type of relationship to the customer, Stamatelos says. “The industry is evolving as a whole. With cyber and cloud-based solutions, end users more and more know what they want. In the past the integrator told them what they want. Now they have people in place that know what technologies they want to be using and what their needs are. We need to make sure we are able to serve those needs and that we are ready for that.”

Young adds, “Our sales force has matured into more of a solutions-based risk-based model. If we are selling access control for its hardware capabilities, we are failing. We are integrators. We like to think of ourselves as really smart, and it is not smart to lead with hardware and simplicity … If we bring in a solution and say, ‘This is your end-to-end solution and at the center of that is access control,’ now we are having a conversation that can be consumed by the C-Suite. You need to be able to articulate using correct nomenclature and language to whomever you are talking to in the food chain and be able to sell up and downstream. But the core and center of that is to be more solution-based.”


More Online

For more on these topics visit SDM’s website where you will find the following articles:

“The Cloud is a Win-Win for Security Integrators & End Users”


“3 Reasons You Should Be Offering Cloud-Based Access Control”


“The Bigger Picture of Enterprise Access Control”


“Getting to Know the World of Business Intelligence”


“The State of the Access Control Market in 2019”