Access control technology at ASIS 2010

I've had the chance the last two days to visit with a few access control companies here on the ASIS show floor, and while the following report is by no means a full overview on what is happening in the access control world, I think this sampling represents what's happening in the market.


First off was the launch of the Aptiq smart card from IngersollRand/Schlage, which is a Mifare DESFire EV1 card. According to Ingersoll Rand's security technologies portfolio marketing manager Jennifer Toscano, the reason for the company's launch of a smart card is driven by two primary factors - cost and card security. On the cost front, Toscano said that smart card prices have come down to a point where a basic-level smart card now costs roughly the same as a proximity card. But unlike the proximity card, she says, a smart card offering allows the user to do more than open doors. Cashless vending, cafeteria, records management, logical access and more can all be linked from the same smart card that's used to grant entry to the door access system. The concept, she says, is to do more, but without adding more things for a user to carry. The second issue, Toscano says, is security. Proximity cards have been successfully cloned, and she notes that "you can buy equipment online to duplicate a prox card for about $60 to $100." While proximity card technology clearly still has a lot of value and will continue to see usage in the industry (her own division offers a number of prox solutions), for customers who have more acute risk issues, the security of a smart card can't be beat. Smart cards like Aptiq, she says, can do handshakes to authenticate readers and cards and the Aptiq card uses AES 128-bit encryption.

HID Global

HID is tackling some heady issues when it comes to access control these days, and the company continues to position itself as a firm that can help organizations bridge the gap between physical access and logical access. The planned acquisition of ActivIdentity clearly underscores that, but at a luncheon seminar on Monday, HID Global President Denis Hebert and CTO Selva Selvaratnam presented a look at what they called the "mega trends" in access control. One of the things that Hebert and Selvaratnam said was that the security industry has to separate the credential from the technology. Traditionally, the security industry has looked at the card as the credential, but Hebert said the credential used for access and authentication isn't the card. The credential, he said, can be placed onto any appropriate technology. That technology might be a card, or it might be a phone, or a chip, or any form factor. The credential also doesn't have to specific to a single access environment. That same credential used to get you into the building could also be used to log you into your computer, or even log you into your website.

Hirsch Electronics

Over at Hirsch Electronics, converged access control is the buzz. The company announced at the show that Hirsch's Velocity security management system can be used to provision smart cards to control both building access and computer/logical access. While you'll certainly hear about ActivIdentity at the HID Global booth, due to HID's plan to acquire that company, you'll also hear about ActivIdentity at Hirsch. This converged access control solution from Hirsch is based upon a joint project between Hirsch and ActivIdenity.

Matrix Systems

Access control solutions firm Matrix Systems has been a bit quiet, admits the company's president James Young. This Ohio company has had a loyal following for its access control management solution among some top airports and large industrials firms, and has traditionally sold direct to end users. Now, says Young, the company plans to grow its business by going through the systems integrator channel, and they're actively recruiting the right channel partners. Per Young, the fact that they worked direct for so many years puts them in a unique position to understand the support needs that their integrator channel will have. Expect a lot more visibility from this company; they have a lot of great case studies to tell.

Brivo Systems

Brivo Systems has been in the business of providing access control in the software-as-a-service model, and the company said that it has been experiencing 45 percent year-over-year growth in this area. One of the hot growth areas for the company in the SaaS arena has been with retail customers. At ASIS, the company also noted that its ACS OnSite Aparato access system has earned FIPS 201 approval. Aparato 3.0.2 (the newest version) adds an alarm control panel and has the "swipe and show" interface, which keeps the last 8 persons who have badged into the building displayed on the user interface for quick review by the security operator. They've also announced a deep integration with Exacq's video management system such that video surveillance is imported directly to Aparato upon a user-definable event (an alarm, a door accessed, etc.).


PlaSec is also heralding its integration with Exacq, according to PlaSec's Kevin Wine. The company's product line supports much of the feature sets on Mercury hardware, but the hot aspect of this company is how it handles its databases. The data structure is LDAP, and that relational directory means the company can directly share the same data that's in company's HR databases, as opposed to having to occasionally sync a physical access database with the HR database and the IT users database.