Report: Lack of open standards stunting growth of access control market

Global market for access control expected to top $2.3B by the end of 2013


While there has been a drive by some to push for more open standards when it comes to the access control industry, a new report from IMS Research says that the market will still lag behind video surveillance due largely to the complexity of access control systems.

According to a statement issued by IMS Research, part of IHS Inc., the access control industry is forecast to top $2.3 billion globally by the end of this year, up from $2.1 billion in 2011.

IHS said that access control "continues to play second fiddle" to video surveillance when it comes to open standards and that despite the best efforts of the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to bring open standards to the industry, implementation of those standards remains "stagnant" and there are still many unanswered questions among suppliers.

"IEC 60839-11-1, which could be voted on later this year, could have a big impact on the manufacturing and interoperability of thousands of access control systems," said Blake Kozak, senior analyst for access control, fire and security at IHS. "The proposed standard specifies not only the minimum functionality, performance requirements and test methods for electronic access control systems but also the components used for physical access in and around buildings."

The rest of the IHS statement can be found below:

Today, each access control panel has its own engine and firmware that works with software architected for a particular solution. Additionally, there are databases that utilize specific schemas, making it difficult for end users to use panels from different manufacturers in the same installation. By rolling out open standards, many of these problems can be overcome. However, the vision is by no means a reality and the access control industry faces an uphill battle.

“Some vendors are actively touting open standards between the panels and software, while other vendors believe such standards may limit the market and hurt those players that only manufacture panels,” Kozak continued. “Furthermore, some argue that open standards will only be fully utilized for smaller and midsized applications, while large applications will need a customized solution because in some cases, open standards could reduce the amount of functionality that current, proprietary solutions allow.”

Others have agreed in that open standards for access control have a cleaner fit within hosted and managed solutions, which typically are more oriented toward information-technology purposes.

In most cases, the primary benefit of open standards is not to reduce “vendor lock,” a phenomenon in which customers cannot switch to a new supplier because they are dependent on a specific vendor for its products and services. Rather, the main advantage that standards bring is to allow ease of integration with different systems, such as access control and video surveillance, or access control and HVAC.

A perception in the industry has been that some end users don’t upgrade or change brands because it would be too costly and the integration wouldn’t work well. However, this is not always the case. In most instances, end users simply don’t change their system—i.e., software and panels—to another brand, not because of vendor lock but because the system works the way it was intended. Viewed this way, vendor lock does not play a significant role in the argument for open standards.

Overall, open standards for access control could bring a dramatic change for vendors and alter the face of the access control industry as it is known today. However, a more realistic alternative is that open standards will be offered by vendors as part of a portfolio, but uptake will remain with proprietary or semi-proprietary solutions in the medium term. While it is expected that new, proposed standards will be presented in 2013, the access control industry will still lag far behind the video surveillance industry due to the complexity of access control systems.

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