Traditional security industry under attack

Traditional security industry companies are under attack. The invasion of the access control market by building automation systems (BAS) and IT manufacturers evolved from a void generated by the traditional security industry itself.

Several challenges exist for traditional security manufacturers and service providers when competing against BAS and IT companies. The BAS and IT industries currently operate on communication standards and protocols that are standard, well-known and adaptable, resulting in integration solutions across differing manufacturer's products.

In contrast, the security industry historically established few standards and prefers closed, proprietary solutions without the ability to integrate with other products. The industry has attempted to adapt to consumer demand for networkable solutions. But, for the most part, these attempts produced warmed-over, second-generation RS485-based systems with network connection modules. In reality, these solutions are no more IP-based than an analog camera and produce little business value offered through true systems integration.

What end-users want

Traditional security contractors must realize end-users are becoming more educated and are requiring more intelligent applications within a facility's automated systems. End-users now demand the ability to openly procure best-of-class solutions that produce the most efficient operations and buildings. Access control, for example, no longer will be thought of as a keyless entry system. Security is integral to the facility and most, if not all, of its sub-systems. Integrated, these systems produce measureable cost savings.

For perpetual efficiencies and cost savings to occur, however, ongoing education is crucial to understanding how ever-changing technology is impacting the face of security applications. IP/network appliance based systems, for example, that reside on customer networks may require software integration to human resource databases, lighting control, HVAC, network security, single sign-on appliances, visitor management systems, phone systems, intrusion detection, fire alarm, video surveillance and other systems. This level of integration demands deeper training and expertise. As customers demand smarter applications of their systems to obtain the highest efficiency from their most expensive asset-their building-there will be fewer of the traditional security providers and more of the BAS and IT-type systems providers.

The influence of this trend already is being felt in the traditional security industry. One example is the edge device where the access control reader is the network addressed appliance, energized by PoE and providing power to the electronic strike. The wireless edge device is communicating over Wi-Fi as a single reader and electronic strike solution powered by a battery. Both of these solutions have opened up their communication protocols so they will integrate with dissimilar access control management systems.

As the future of IP-based access controls evolve, manufacturers will launch access control edge device products that will communicate on an open protocol over the IT infrastructure, allowing integration with other providers' access control management systems. Soon, as many as six different manufacturers of IP-based edge device door access control solutions may be connected to the same access management software platform within a building or across buildings. As BAS and IT-based solutions increasingly influence traditional security, the question remains: what must manufacturers and contractors do to stay relevant and viable as new technologies and customer demands evolve?

A solid first step would be for manufacturers to realize consumers no longer accept proprietary solutions and demand open ones. For many years, the security industry has tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to find agreement on common standards and protocols. As the industry re-engages on this topic, it would be wise to involve BAS and IT. These industries already have established common standards and utilize these standards within buildings for most integration.

Joe Feuling heads security and life safety systems at Environmental Systems Inc., with offices in Milwaukee, Chicago and Michigan. Visit to download the latest building performance, security and life safety trends.