It’s amazing how much can change in a year. Last year’s state of the market report on access control was released at the beginning of April, just as the coronavirus started to spread throughout the U.S., and much of the research that went into the report was done before COVID-19 was a real concern.

And though 2020 certainly brought a lot of uncertainty, it did not have the negative impact on the access control market that many may have expected. Rather, it presented all sorts of new opportunities for those working in the space.

Still, the year came as a bit of a shock to a market that was already thriving.

“2019 was sort of a record year in the industry on so many levels — the economy was chugging along, a lot of innovation had been invested in, and the market trends were significant for everybody,” says Mark Duato, executive vice president of aftermarket solutions at ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions, New Haven, Conn. “Then of course COVID-19 hit, and it really changed a lot of things to the point where we as an industry haven’t experienced as significant of a market change in such a short time since 2008. So it was quite impactful in terms of business opportunities; however, I think there were still a lot of good things that transpired as a result of that.”

Many companies were able to ride their success from 2019 well into 2020, giving them time to adjust to the ‘new normal.’

“When it comes to access control sales, I feel like in 2020 we were realizing the fruit of our labor from 2019 and before,” says Jeff Bransfield, vice president of sales at RS2 Technologies, Munster, Ind. “A lot of what happens is very consultative in its approach, and it’s a long sales cycle, so I think at the end of 2020 we saw a bit more of a dip. We did have a pandemic breakout at our office in December that didn’t help things with seven or eight employees [catching COVID-19], so we had to shut down for two weeks. Overall we performed OK in light of everything, and we definitely have high hopes for 2021.”

SDM’s 2021 Industry Forecast Study, conducted in the fall of 2020, mirrors this outlook, with 84 percent of respondents describing the access control market as good to excellent. This is down just a few percentage points from 2019, when 87 percent of respondents described the market as good to excellent. And the cherry on top? Fifty-five percent of Industry Forecast respondents expect an increase in revenue from access control systems in the next year.


ONVIF Provides Guidance

ONVIF, a global standardization initiative for IP-based physical security products, has been busy since it was founded in 2008 by Axis, Bosch and Sony. It’s formed a total of six profiles that conformant products must support — two of which relate to access control.

Profile C was the first access control profile from ONVIF and addresses basic site configuration, door access control and event and alarm management. Profile A covers the functions required to grant and revoke credentials, create schedules and assign specific access rules.

The two profiles enable not only the integration between access control and video surveillance, but also between access control devices and management software from one manufacturer with those from other vendors, says Leo Levit, director of system integration for Axis Communications and the new chairman of ONVIF’s steering committee.

“I strongly believe that standards are becoming increasingly more important,” Levit says. “The events over the past year have increased demand for specific technology features to solve pandemic issues. For example, not all access control systems have touchless capabilities or the capability to integrate with touchless peripherals, and manufacturers are looking to include these technologies as options for end users. In these cases, they will depend on standards to make those integrations possible.

Interoperability of systems has been vital to the progression of security systems and the security market as the technology moves beyond security and into use cases in environments such as IoT, cloud and other environments.”

According to Levit, ONVIF specifications and those of SIA’s Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP) (learn more here ) are very complementary and can easily co-exist within an access control system.

“ONVIF access control profiles provide the open interface between the access control panels and the management software client, giving end users the possibility to upgrade or replace control panels of the management software platform regardless of the respective vendors,” he explains. “In contrast, OSDP addresses the connection between card readers and access control panels, and is designed to replace the decades old Wiegand protocol that is widely considered vulnerable to hacking.”

Looking to the future, Levit expects the advancements in access control to continue to grow and expand. “Access control systems are now used for multiple purposes — more than just opening and closing doors to the right people at the right time. They are now integrated with lighting systems, people counting functionalities for facility usage and can be used for remote management where they can be managed from anywhere. All of those trends are putting interoperability in focus. The ONVIF standardization work is supporting this interoperability and helping to open new areas of usage for access control systems.”


“Despite the headwinds the pandemic brought, it also drove a greater need than ever for access control,” says Brad McMullen, general manager of 3xLOGIC and PACOM, Fishers, Ind. “The importance of controlling who has access to specific areas of a facility and the knowledge of who actually accessed specific areas became much more important.”

With this increased spotlight and emphasis on access control, the market is projected to continue growing at a good speed. According to a report from research firm Markets and Markets the global access control systems market size is projected to grow from $8.6 billion in 2020 to $12.8 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 8.2 percent.


2020: The Year That Changed Everything

Though the past year was difficult for a variety of reasons, it also put the spotlight on access control.

“COVID-19 made access control feel more important than in the past, and shed some light on it,” Bransfield says. “Access control has sort of always been second fiddle to video, but I think COVID-19 really allowed access control to shine in the systems as far as what we can provide with data.”

According to Nexkey’s 2020 Access Control Index, 44 percent of respondents said that COVID-19 has made access control more important to them. Similarly, 58 percent of the integrators that participated in Axis Communication’s 2020 study said they believe end users will be more likely to explore IP-based solutions in the future as a result of the pandemic.

Lee Odess, CEO of Group 337, Bethesda, Md., says those in the industry should be kind to themselves and recognize that 2020 was a year like no other, and that while revenues may have dipped, the industry did ‘just fine’ considering the circumstances.

“This was a year of surviving and responding, but like Winston Churchill said, don’t waste a good crisis, and some did not, while others unsurprisingly did,” Odess says. “2020 highlighted years of neglect by our industry on innovation and marketing, and accelerated some phase changes that were already in place and decelerated others. The biggest revelation coming out of 2020 for access control companies is the need to evolve from our roots in 1973 and start looking out the front window more.”

Not only did the pandemic expose the industry’s need to evolve, but it made end users realize that their old legacy systems just aren’t cutting it anymore.

“I think the pandemic exposed many gaps in the customer’s security,” says Despina Stamatelos, product marketing manager at Genetec, Montreal. “Operators had to stay home, but for a lot of organizations with very old access systems that didn’t allow them to do that, it made them realize they needed to upgrade their systems.”

Henry Olivares, president of APL Access & Security, Gilbert, Ariz., featured on this month’s cover, says that while business started to slow down in the first month of 2021, it’s picking back up now, and customers are signing more purchase orders.

To prepare for the surge in business he expects once the pandemic ceases, Olivares has already started hiring more employees.

“It’s still too early to predict what will happen, but we expect that when people start opening their offices we will see more access control activity,” Olivares says. “Many of our customers are securing their facilities more because people are working from home. Our customers used the past year to make sure all of their security solutions are up to date and to add more card access control systems.”

Several manufacturers released software updates in the past year as well, which helped integrators in convincing end users to replace legacy products.

“Several of our customers were still using legacy access control products that we installed 20 to 25 years ago,” says Roy Stephenson, director of business development at Utah Yamas Controls, Salt Lake City. “Recently, some of the manufacturers we work with released software updates that allowed us to help our customers migrate to a new software platform, and this helped spur some of that growth. A number of our customers are also changing out their old prox credentials and readers and implementing more secure card technology.”

But as many end users were affected by the economic crisis the pandemic caused, security budgets often shrunk, putting projects deemed as less crucial on the backburner.

“In the access control space in particular, the biggest challenge with small business suffering as much as it had is a lot of these discretionary projects that are not specification driven get put on hold, halted, and dollars are shifted into more pressing needs for addressing the healthcare crisis,” Duato says. “That had the biggest impact on the industry in 2020, and we’re still as an industry digging out of that, but the clock has been reset a bit and the expectations are a bit more conservative as we head into 2021.”

On the other hand, end users with larger budgets sought to expand their access control systems to help enforce COVID-19 protocols.

“Customers want to use their access control system to meet new regulations,” Stamatelos says. “Even some of the things our customers asked us for last year weren’t necessarily features we had, but we were able to make updates to our own software to ensure we are meeting the demands of our customers.”

The U.S. government added to the Federal Identity, Credential, and Access Management (FICAM) architecture in 2020, which led to more work doing installs or upgrades at government buildings.

“Definitely working with regulated markets has contributed in the types of products and developments we’ve been working on,” Stamatelos adds. “FICAM was implemented by the U.S. government, and a lot of government agencies need to change their systems and make sure they are meeting the FICAM standards. So we’re working with a lot of government entities on upgrading their systems.”

APL has also gained a great deal of business securing government facilities.

“One of our biggest growth opportunities is going to be with the federal government,” Olivares says. “We are seeing a lot of activity from federal agencies, as well as within the technology space from large tech companies. We are being asked to do a lot of their SCIF, which is also known as sensitive compartmented information facilities. … We are seeing spending by the federal government increase because their infrastructure is old, and most of the time it does not work properly.”

Many relied on their community and partner ecosystem throughout the challenging year — even if most interactions had to be virtual.

“One of the key factors that started before 2020 was listening to the dealers in the channel,” says Mark Prowten, director of product management at Nortek Security & Control, Carlsbad, Calif. “We listened to their needs, their issues; we continue to innovate and address product issues, and I try to do those in a timely manner. Our business revolves around the dealers and integrators, and if we aren’t giving them what they need, they can go elsewhere.”


The Power of Convergence

True convergence of security solutions is not a new topic of discussion. But as time charges on, end users are becoming impatient with the promise of interoperability.

“The management of security systems is not the primary focus of most people’s lives, nor should it be,” says Adam Stroud, CEO of Paxton Access, Greenville, S.C. “Systems should be managed as painlessly as possible, and that means converging the different threads of security into a single system for a single point of administration.”

When installations involve several separate systems, managing the security of the building becomes a full-time job.

“Users want to manage and control their security solutions from as few interfaces as possible,” McMullen says. “Combining access control with video solutions, alarm monitoring, visitor management and other systems allows the user to monitor, control and navigate their entire security infrastructure in one place.”

When the whole security system is integrated, it’s easier to customize solutions and automate operations, says Lynn Wood, product portfolio manager at Vanderbilt Industries, Dublin,” It’s not just that box, it’s an integration package, and being able to be flexible to offer these customized solutions to end users that want a system that’s automated and can integrate with other systems — not just product integrations, but for disparate systems to be able to talk to each other. This makes everything seamless, freeing up system administrators to do other work.”

In addition to other security products, end users are also requesting integration with systems that were once considered outside of the realm of security.

“We believe increased awareness of building health, supported by the convergence of access control and building management systems, will drive how access control and security in general is implemented throughout buildings,” says Ewa Pigna, chief technology officer at LenelS2, Pittsford, N.Y. “We are already seeing owners and facility managers of major office buildings make it a priority to have their access control systems woven deeply into the fabric of their building systems like elevator control, HVAC, fire and safety systems and more.”

Matt Barnette, CEO of PSA Security Network, Westminster, Colo., says that while the intersection of security, HVAC, AV and other industries might be confusing to integrators at first, it could also create opportunities.

“We are seeing a diversification of disciplines this year as security and AV integrators are being faced with many of the same challenges and seeing an overlap in product demands,” Barnette says. “Security systems integrators are now quoting projects that also include AV components and vice versa. This is a great opportunity for integrators to grow if they are willing to be adaptable.”

The industry will have to act fast in order to seize the opportunity before it passes, though.

“The management of energy use throughout a building is set to become more and more important,” Stroud says. “The security industry is in a good position to take up the mantle here, but it will need focus and long-term strategic thinking to capitalize on the opportunity.”

The integration of audio has also become more important in the past year as end users have started using intercoms to communicate from a distance.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new perimeter for buildings and facilities, and it’s one that requires access and entry control without physical intervention,” says Kelly Lake, director of global strategic alliances, safety and security, Zenitel Americas, Kansas City, Mo. “Audio via intercom solutions is a key way to secure the new perimeter, as it allows for security teams and visitors to hear each other, to determine actions and intents and to answer questions. Audio can also detect noises, breaking glass or other sounds that are not within direct view of a video camera, which can also help a security team decide whether to allow a person access into the facility without physically being present at the door. Overall, audio and intercom solutions, integrated with video surveillance and contactless access control, can help security teams to allow or deny access while also complying with pandemic guidelines.”

Brad Kamcheff, marketing manager at Aiphone, Redmond, Wash., has also seen increased interest in intercoms due to their usefulness in occupancy management.

“One of the big buzzwords coming out of 2020 is occupancy management and, while it is most often used in regard to public spaces, it is also an area of concern in multi-tenant buildings,” Kamcheff says. “This has offered many in the access control industry the opportunity to shift existing security infrastructure for uses to manage occupancy.”

For example, he says a video intercom can be used to grant access, but also provide a safeguard to visually confirm the person requesting access is who they say they are — as well as not trying to admit anyone else who might not have proper credentials. This focus has lent itself to the overall trend of security infrastructure being used for purposes outside of traditional safety and security to usher in a new focus on hygienic forms of access control.

One reason true convergence has taken so long is because of the cost that can be associated with it. But according to Eugene Yuseok Kim, corporate vice president of Suprema Inc. and head of Suprema America, Lake Mary, Fla., there might be a surprising fix to this.

“No doubt that the convergence of logical and physical access control will take place as these two systems are on a common IP network backbone,” Yuseok Kim says. “The direction is quite clear. However, investment for combining these systems is quite significant, which deterred many from moving forward. We now live in a world where we are pretty much driven by a common personal device: a smartphone. We strongly believe mobile will play a significant role in how convergence will occur.”


Opportunities With Cloud & Managed Services

Industry organizations have been encouraging integrators to adopt the RMR model for years. This past year proved why, as those with existing RMR accounts had an easier time maintaining a profit throughout the pandemic.

“There’s a shift towards more cloud-based sales and general interest in cloud-based products,” Wood says. “Integrators are becoming more comfortable with embracing the RMR model. You’re going to see that continue to increase as far as interest goes.”

In SDM’s 2021 Industry Forecast, 64 percent of respondents said they currently offer managed access control, making it the most offered managed service in the industry. In the next year, 43 percent of respondents plan on offering managed access.

Additionally, 48 percent said that they currently offer Access Control as a Service (ACaaS), and 47 percent plan to start offering ACaaS in the next year.

“We believe that the cloud-based and Software as a Service (SaaS) model will be critical in security moving forward,” Pigna says. “There are a litany of benefits for resellers and end users alike, from recurring revenue and simplified budgeting, to reduced upfront and capital expenditure, automatic over-the-air updates and a generally simplified and consistent user experience.”

A key benefit to the cloud in these times is the reduction in need for in-person management. Brivo, Bethesda, Md., increased its number of partners due to the demand for cloud access control.

“We were able to grow our partner community in 2020 because the suddenly remote workforce illuminated the major setbacks associated with on-premise access control technology,” says Brivo President and CEO Steve Van Till. “End users and security resellers alike were looking for cloud solutions to their new pandemic-related challenges.”

At the very beginning of the pandemic, when the initial lockdowns went into effect, many integrators were unable to get into buildings to install hardware. But as the lockdown started to lift and companies were faced with the prospect of bringing employees back into the office, the need for remote building and access management, and the data associated with more robust cloud access control technologies, were realized, Van Till says.

APL is one example of an integrator working hard to increase its RMR. Not only can managed services help increase profits, but the offering also saves money on truck rolls and service calls, Olivares points out.


Data Dominates

Access control has strayed far from simply letting people in, or keeping them out, of a building. Now, next to trends like artificial intelligence and the cloud, data and the value it provides is one of the biggest opportunities in the market.

“Data in our access control system becomes more and more important every day,” says Jonathan Moore of AMAG. “That data that we’re getting from our systems — customers have realized just how valuable it is.”

Data gathered by access control systems can help with occupancy planning, location services and other return to work strategies that have been in demand since the start of the pandemic.

“[The pandemic] has created a lot of customization as far as going back to work, and security leaders that we’re working with now; instead of looking at access denied or granted, they’re looking for software and dashboards to talk about trends and anomalies, instead of just the number of people coming in and out,” says Sage Integration’s John Nemerofsky. “They’re starting to use some of the tools that are available in access control to be part of the workflow, part of the business operations, and it’s creating another revenue stream for us.”

Among all the shiny new technologies in the market now, Steve Van Till of Brivo believes that data will have the greatest impact.

“There is no shortage of new tech in our market,” he explains. “You only have to look at the latest venture funding that is happening in the proptech space to see there are a lot of cool, promising capabilities on the horizon. However, I don’t think any one of those — biometrics, cloud, wireless, etc. — will have the biggest impact. The technology that will drive the greatest change and opportunity in access control is data and advanced data analytics powered by AI. Why? Data, and more importantly insightful data, gives users the ability to be proactive, and even predictive.”

Van Till goes on to say that data will revolutionize how buildings are managed going forward; and it’s easy to see why. One issue he points to could be a great opportunity for those willing to innovate.

“The challenge that I see is that there aren’t a lot of organizations focused on the latter part — making the data smart, making sense of it and turning it into intelligence that not only makes security easier and more efficient … [but] needs to feed into broader security operations centers to more holistically manage the cyber and physical world.”


“We’re pushing more of the web-based access control systems, including cloud-based access control,” Olivares says. “We are actively marketing this solution more to our customers. By taking this approach, we can automate the process to upgrade access control systems each year, and it will reduce the number of times our technicians physically have to go to customer sites since much of this work can be handled remotely and in the cloud.”

Utah Yamas Controls is also focusing more on cloud-based solutions. Stephenson sees the multi-tenant space as a particularly good place to find RMR.

“Over the course of the next few years we plan to increase our RMR and focus more on cloud-based access control solutions,” Stephenson says. “We recognize there is a big growth potential in the multi-tenant buildings market where we can charge by the door. We have a few customers that we currently do this for and we are just beginning to stick our toes into the water in this market.”

John Nemerofsky, chief operating officer at Sage Integration, Kent, Ohio, says that cloud is becoming a bigger and bigger part of what his team does with access control.

“In 2019 and 2020, cloud was really for that small- to mid-sized business, and senior living facilities with no IT manager, no one to manage your software updates,” Nemerofsky says. “Now cloud is becoming something enterprise users are looking at deploying. That’s a big challenge for the manufacturers in our business — some jumped on early, but some of the larger on-prem solutions have a lot of work to do to catch up.”

Odess says that the accelerated adoption of the cloud during the pandemic has also increased the popularity of other trends. Because of this, he believes it is time to stop talking about the cloud, and start talking about what the cloud enables and does.

“The accelerated adoption of cloud infrastructure due to COVID-19 and the need for business continuity will accelerate the adoption of trends like AI, machine learning, deep learning and IoT,” Odess says. “I do not believe that without COVID-19 showcasing and accelerating the adoption of cloud architecture would we see the rapid rise of other trends. That had to go first, and now that it has, bring on the value creation that AI, machine learning, deep learning and IoT can bring.”

Since Brivo has been preaching about the wonders of the cloud for decades, Van Till says he is happy to see the rest of the industry catching on.

“Brivo introduced cloud access control to the security industry in 2001; now, 20 years later, cloud is the normal for almost all business and personal technology,” Van Till says. “The general evolution of technology coupled with the unprecedented changes to how we live our lives brought on by the pandemic has brought cloud technology to the forefront, even (and finally) for security.

“As businesses continue to open back up, we expect to see the demand on cloud access control technology to increase. For security resellers, this means including cloud solutions in your portfolio will be essential to meet your customers’ new needs.”


The Increasing Demand for Frictionless Access

The most obvious impact of COVID-19 on the access control market has been the proliferation of frictionless technologies.

“COVID-19 has popularized terms like hands-free, touchless and frictionless,” says Bruce Stewart, business development manager, door solutions, Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass. “Related access control solutions that can help reduce surface contact — eliminating the use of PIN pads and the spread of the virus — have increased in demand.”

Door entry solutions that can authenticate users and automatically open doors through video intercoms, mobile apps, QR codes and facial recognition are just a few examples of technologies that gained momentum in 2020.

“We saw a very significant spike in the demand for frictionless products and technologies,” Duato says. “The really good news is that that the demand for safer to open openings will continue to increase over time as new buildings are being retrofitted and built out for office spaces and more. So there’s a real opportunity for the integrator market and the service providers to participate in those opportunities.”

Changes to the International Building Code (IBC) are another reason for the increased adoption of frictionless access control solutions, says Garrett Kaufman, president of Essex Electronics, Carpinteria, Calif.

“We see that the changes in the 2021 IBC that will now require public entrances for select buildings to have at least one automatic door — either a power-operated door or a door with a low-energy automatic operator — as a large change to demand for touchless activation,” Kaufman says. “Also, because of changes made in the 2017 edition of the International Code Council (ICC), we are likely to see additional automatic operators in public entrances.”

Kaufman predicts that touchless access will have the most significant impact on the access control market for at least the next couple of years.

For those in search of frictionless access control solutions, there are quite a few options out there. One that’s been steadily gaining steam is the use of biometrics to confirm the identity of a visitor.

“Ensuring the person activating and entering a doorway is the actual person assigned to the credential is crucial,” McMullen says. “Badges and pin codes can be shared or stolen, but utilizing biometrics such as fingerprints, facial recognition and retina scans to verify identity can ensure a much greater level of security and minimize vulnerabilities.”

Fingerprint scanners have taken a bit of a hit during the pandemic, as the idea of multiple people touching the same scanner doesn’t quite fit the world of the new normal.

Iris ID, a Cranbury, N.J. developer of iris recognition technology, had a particularly good year as the demand for its solutions increased dramatically.

“COVID-19 significantly increased the demand for contactless biometric access control solutions that work with employees wearing personal protective equipment such as masks and goggles,” says Iris ID Vice President of Global Sales and Business Development Mohammed Murad. “Iris-based access control technology works as long as a person’s eyes are visible, even when wearing contact lenses, glasses and goggles.

“Within the next 10 years, expect to see card-based systems rarely, if at all,” Murad suggests. “We’ll see more use of biometrics, many offering wireless solutions with databases stored in the cloud.”

Murad also believes we will see more smartphone-based credentials used across all markets in the future. Unsurprisingly, pretty much everyone else interviewed for this story agrees.

“I expect we’re going to see more growth with Bluetooth-enabled readers as customers upgrade and invest in this technology so that people can use their smartphone as their access control credential,” Olivares says. “We are already getting a lot of requests for these types of projects. To prepare for this, we have installed Bluetooth readers at our facilities so we can practice using them, but to also evaluate how well they perform.”

Since a major perk of mobile credentials is that they can be remotely managed through the cloud, it’s likely that as the use of mobile credentials continues to grow, so will cloud adoption, and vice versa.

“Businesses require credentials that can be managed from anywhere,” says Eric Trabold, CEO of Nexkey, San Mateo, Calif. “Therefore, a mobile credential that is managed through the cloud is ideal. We enter a new normal which has a workforce that is fluid. Technology needs to adapt to that workforce, and management of users needs to be simple. The cloud is perfect for that.”

Mobile credentials are also useful in collecting data, and screening visitors to determine whether they are healthy enough to enter a building.

“We developed a return-to-work mobile form that goes with our mobile credential, so you can use our Symmetry mobile app to go through a door, and on top of that, I can be required every day before work to complete a form that says I’m healthy,” says Jonathan Moore, vice president of product development, AMAG Technology, Hawthorne, Calif. “If I don’t do that, the system is not going to let me in anymore, and my manager is getting an email.”

Alex Housten, chief operating officer of dormakaba Americas, Indianapolis, Ind., says that as we transition out of the pandemic and into a more public life, touch-free access control will continue to play a big role in rebuilding confidence in people’s lives, and fully automated systems will become more popular.

“Fully automated systems, where people don’t touch anything, are also critical,” he says. “In public spaces, manual revolving doors may eventually transition to fully automatic revolving doors. In other situations, where you have thousands of people entering work or entertainment venues through turnstiles, touchless turnstiles will be a major consideration in protecting the health and safety of large groups in transit.”

With all of the options on the market, Moore advises against sticking with just one.

“I would like to take an all of the above approach,” he says. “The world is moving so fast, we don’t get the benefit of having just one disruptor — you have to have multiple going at the same time. There’s a lot of new tech out there in the access control industry.”

Learn more about choosing the right access control system here.


2021 & Beyond

While the future of the world might be uncertain, the first step for those in the access control space feels clear to most.

“First we need to get people back to work in a healthy and productive way,” Duato says. “I think [end users] are all looking at their business operations and what the new work environment looks like, and they’re taking all those things into consideration and looking for solutions to help them serve their employees or customers in a cost-effective way.”

Scott Schramme, vice president of sales at Continental Access Control, a Napco Security Group Company, Amityville, N.Y., says that a lot of the work becoming available in the market is in office buildings.


Going Wireless Helps Save Money & Time

Wireless access control solutions were once considered unreliable and confusing. But after years of improvement, wireless is finally ready to go mainstream.

“Wireless will impact the industry because it will allow for more solutions to be adopted in the retrofit and aftermarket,” says Lee Odess of Group 337. “We have been taking new construction products and business approaches (consider that the square peg) to the retrofit and aftermarket (round hole) for a long time. The market will make or break companies and their conventional wisdom of how this segment works. For instance, the cost per door of $2,000 to outfit it with access control is not going to last for this market. Someone will innovate a new product using wireless technology and cloud architecture and new business approaches using RMR and software as the business plan versus the need for hardware revenue, and they will win.”

In HID Global’s 2021 State of Physical Access Control Report, respondents cited cost as the biggest obstacle to upgrading physical access control systems.

With wireless, you can install access control in more locations, deeper into buildings. And, since there is less equipment involved, the installation is simplified, and less expensive. John Nemerofsky says that Sage Integration’s deployment of wireless access solutions has already made installations faster, cheaper and just better overall.

“When we look at our clients and around the industry, we’re securing with access control about 12 percent of a client’s doors,” he explains. “That means 80 percent aren’t secure. Wi-Fi locks and wireless security are starting to play a bigger piece in our deployments. We’re starting to secure more than 12 percent of doors at a facility in a more cost-effective way. It’s more efficient, it’s cost effective and when you use a Wi-Fi lock it enables you to secure more of your facility.”

With all of these advantages, and technology that just keeps improving, it may be only a matter of time before wireless takes over.

“With wireless locks, I’m not worried as much about running my infrastructure wiring and can do an install so much quicker,” says Continental Access’ Scott Schramme. “With our wireless locks, once I put my firmware into those locks, it’s a full panel just like a hardwired panel.”


“Houston is a big market for us, and integrators there are saying they’re going back into office spaces and doing renovations, and doubling cubicle sizes and expanding so they’ll have room for social distancing when people do start coming back,” Schramme says. “They’re revamping office spaces.”

Olivares says that many of APL’s corporate customers are advising their employees to come back to work July 1, so his staff is preparing for an influx in business this summer.

The local municipalities they work with have already started bringing people back to work. “We are actively working with them to provide proposals for face readers and temperature scanners so they are ready. We are seeing a high volume of proposals going out to customers.”

In all verticals, the user experience for access control will likely be the most important element of what the access control industry does going forward, Duato suggests.

“That will continue to drive business opportunity for integrators and companies like ASSA ABLOY,” he says. “I don’t think there’s any one single thing that can be the most impactful, but there are a lot of things that will be built into the solutions that ultimately the end user needs so their user experience is a safe, comfortable and secure one regardless of whether that user is an employee or customer.”

Trabold says the security industry is on the cusp of a major industry shift in which access control will shift from the sole purpose of keeping the bad people out, to also help people safely return to work and other buildings by providing intelligent insights into occupancy, the flow of people and more.

“Every company that solely focuses on hardware and building another bigger panel or more solid lock will miss out on that opportunity, and will face the risk of being irrelevant in the next decade,” he says.

Going into 2021, Aiphone’s Kamcheff hopes to benefit from some of the lessons learned in the past year, and encourages decision makers in various industries to be more proactive.

“Many of the technologies that took over the spotlight in 2020 were existing security solutions whose practical uses for mitigating pandemic risks were realized,” Kamcheff says. “Now is the time for security directors to really evaluate their existing infrastructure and invest in technology that allows them to be proactive in the new world we find ourselves living in.”

Odess predicts that the access control market is going to continue to be hot, with users paying far more attention to what access control can do and the value it brings beyond keeping bad people out.

“We are already seeing it with the level of awareness companies like Brivo are getting with Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal using their data to tell a ‘getting back to work’ story,” Odess says. “Think about that change — we have been an industry that never made mainstream media stories relevant. We only made headlines when bad things happened.”

He also points to new entrants in the market that have been able to raise large sums of money to move the access control industry into new and innovative areas we have not seen before.

“Some will say no big deal, while others will see this as an opportunity,” Odess continues. “I believe that we have entered the next generation of access control that will garner new opportunities for companies around software, revenue, new experiences, new partnerships and new markets.”

Most in the industry agree that the future of the market is bright.

“I’m looking for a good rebound,” Schramme says. “I think the U.S. economy realizes now we need to open up — even back east we’re starting to see a lot fewer projects being put on hold, and construction sites are going full blown now. And schools are opening back up, which is huge. Those schools that didn’t want anyone in their buildings are realizing they need to put security in. So I’m looking for a good 2021, and it’s starting to gather.”

Stewart expects to see an increase in activity in 2021 as vaccine distribution expands and the market continues its return to normal. “Network security solutions have gained greater acceptances both in their ability to enhance security and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

He says this belief was bolstered by Axis’ 2020 Integrator Study, in which the majority of respondents (58 percent) said they believe end users will be more likely to explore IP-based solutions in the future as a result of the pandemic.

Still, though the outlook for the market is positive, Moore warns against putting the cart in front of the horse.

“One thing we have to be careful about is unrealistic expectations — things aren’t going back to normal, and I think most of us have forgotten what normal actually is,” he says. “We have to adjust and we have to be realistic about how long it’s going to take for business to go back to some sort of normalcy. Some of the 2020 business a lot of the industry saw was momentum from business that originated in late 2019 or early 2020. Now it’s been a whole year of this pandemic, so we have to be realistic that the pipeline for sales opportunities will have to be rebuilt.”

On the positive side, Moore says the pandemic has created some fundamental changes to the world that are good, and new solutions to the industry that will prove beneficial.

“In general the market is one of those types of markets that, regardless of what’s going on in the world, it continues to be a necessity — facilities need to be secured and access needs to be provided based on your given credential or requirements,” Nortek’s Prowten says. “I think the industry in general is still strong, it’s just having to look at things a bit differently because of what’s happened with the pandemic. Some might look at it as an opportunity to expand and grow technically, and others might say this is really hurting us because they aren’t open to looking at the potential or the possibilities.”

No one can be sure as to what will happen next but it is clear that innovation and flexibility is the key to surviving and thriving in the access control market.

“Our challenge going forward is to remain nimble enough to respond to whatever happens next, yet forward thinking enough to imagine new access solutions that will make life better,” Housten says.