Access control sees continued push towards mobile capabilities

Sept. 26, 2013
Subject matter experts offer varying opinions on NFC, hosted solutions and interoperability

Much of the buzz around access control in recent years has centered on the potential held by near field communications-enabled devices, which many people have pegged as the credential of the future. The reason for the excitement around NFC is well-founded as the majority of smartphones already have NFC functionality built into them. And while the viability of the technology has been proven in numerous case studies, widespread adoption has yet to take place. However, manufacturers are continuing to focus much of their efforts on developing products with mobility in mind.

Innovation is also continuing to take place at the enterprise-level with advancements in access control management software. Just as video side of the industry has been focused on the migration to IP, access control companies are also looking into how they can make their products more interoperable with the network and with other security devices. There has also been steady demand for managed and hosted access solutions as organizations look to reduce their security infrastructure costs. SIW spoke with several industry experts at this week’s ASIS show in Chicago, to get their take on these and other trends that are currently taking place in the market.

SIW: What do you feel are the biggest trends taking place in access control?

Peter Boriskin, director of product management, electronic access control, Assa Abloy: The biggest game changer is mobile. We see mobile everywhere, from mobile devices for mobile guard stations to mobile credentials. Security officers are using the corporate mobile networks to connect their devices together. From the perspective of a mobile monitoring station, there is nothing security officers do behind the desk that they can’t do via mobile devices. From a mobile management perspective, a director of security has the ability to modify rights without the need to come back to headquarters.

The mobile credential is a useful tool that is becoming increasingly popular. More and more handsets are being produced with NFC capabilities. The technology and the ecosystem exist out there to support mobile credentials. Mobile operations around the world are starting to jump on the bandwagon.

Steve Van Till, president and CEO, Brivo: The shift to cloud and mobile are still the two biggest trends for the future of access control. This is true particularly if you include what’s happening in the consumer space, which is currently leading the bulk of the commercial market that is still using traditional card access. In the residential space, the phone is now being used as a connector back to cloud management of permissions on the door. This is a very efficient and flexible solution for many situations where traditional methods are currently deployed.

Rick Caruthers, executive vice president, Galaxy Control Systems: We continue to see access control management systems evolve as more of a total facility/site security management platform as users look to migrate their systems to the enterprise. This trend will require access control manufacturers to integrate with many third party applications such as VMS, IDS and various other facility specific needs. We are addressing this trend with new Systems Galaxy Software and a new dual serial interface that deliver innovative features and integration for new and legacy access control systems while protecting users’ investments in existing hardware and infrastructure. This will accelerate the deployment of more truly integrated security solutions.

Fernando Pires, vice president of sales and marketing, Morse Watchmans: The trend towards systems integration continues to gain traction for numerous reasons, mainly the ability to have centralized monitoring and control of previously disparate systems. This provides both operational and cost-savings advantages while increasing overall security. We are working with various technology partners to further facilitate integration of key control systems with access control to best meet users’ present and future needs. We expect to see further advancements in integrated systems as manufacturers continue to enhance their software offerings.

SIW: It seems as though near field communications have been the biggest focus of access control solutions manufacturers in recent years, but what is the industry doing to enhance current technology offerings?

Jason Ouellette, director of product management, Tyco Security Products: NFC is an enormous buzzword within the industry, but one of the challenges is taking (the credential) from a piece of plastic and moving it to a smart device. There will be some early adopters – I think education will be one of those, but with corporations, it’s going to be a little slower. We’re going to see a lot of (vendors) say we’re NFC-ready, but productization is going to take more time. We see the trend coming, but it’s a slower adoption trend.

Boriskin: Mobile devices present unique security challenges, especially in the BYOD (bring your own device) model, therefore folks are especially looking at the security of an NFC virtual credential. Companies like HID have done a lot of work around adding security above and beyond NFC. NFC might be the transport mechanism, but data being sent across that medium, when secured with technologies like SEOS, is a lot more secure.

NFC can send a picture, playlist or other things phone-to-phone that don’t require security. The minute there is real value behind the transaction it changes the game. NFC is fine going up to a billboard in a mall because you don’t need much security. If this is the key to a manufacturing or critical infrastructure site, to a commercial location, or to a hospital, the data within that NFC credential needs to be much more secure.

Van Till: It’s not at all clear that NFC will catch on, either in access control or in other fields like payments. If you look at what’s being done outside the U.S. with QR codes, and where companies like Apple are going with BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), the clumsiness of NFC becomes quite apparent. I think the exciting changes are all going to be mobile, but not with NFC as everyone is expecting.

Caruthers: As a primary manufacturer of the access control hardware and software, our solutions are reader agnostic to support many forms of readers and credentials. Because of this, we are closely following the growth and development of NFC and stand ready to react as needed as this technology continues to mature.

Pires: More and more manufacturers are working towards developing open solutions that enable their software properties to more easily integrate with systems from other suppliers. One way this is occurring is through the increased availability of Application Program Interfaces (API) that provide the keys to specific software solutions that allow better integration. This new area of emphasis is in addition to developing better means of enabling enterprise level globalization and centralized database management.

SIW: What does the future look like for the proximity cards? If NFC does eventually take off and is deployed on a much wider scale, will it mean the end for proximity cards as we know them or is the existing install base much too large for them to go away completely?

Boriskin: With respect to proximity cards, it will be a long time before they go away completely. That being said, moving the credential to a mobile phone makes it so much easier to manage. Certainly the adoption of the smart credential will accelerate the end of life for prox cards. However, it may come to pass that companies that need visual identification will use a plastic card with no technology, just an ID with a hologram so you know the data printed on it is legitimate. But the technology or the secure ID lives only on the mobile device. It may be that companies that have prox will jump over smart cards and go directly to mobile phones with NFC capability.

Van Till: Prox cards will go away with or without NFC, and be replaced by mobile devices. Everyone has heard of BYOD. I call the trend for access control, BYOC—bring your own credential and that is the future.

Caruthers: We do not see the introduction of NFC having much impact on the sales of proximity devices, or for that matter, any card-based credentials in the near future. However, we feel that NFC will take its place in line with the other technologies in this space and find its own niche market. If NFC proves to be a viable tool for access control, we will surely embrace the technology in response to the market’s needs and demands.

Pires: I feel the existing installed base of prox devices is extremely large and too prevalent to go away in the near future, although the migration to more efficient and cost-effective technologies is inevitable at some point in time. I also feel that near field communications that are currently available in common devices like smartphones will eventually take hold given the prevalence of these devices with the general public, but is still some time off into the future for professional applications.

SIW: Where does the market currently stand as it relates to demand for hosted and managed access solutions? Does there still need to be education among end users about the benefits of this technology?

Boriskin: Many organizations today leverage hosted and managed solutions for any number of their various day-to-day operations. They may outsource IT, phones or payroll or a range of other things. Hosted access control is the next logical extension. There is a great swell of interest, it’s growing but not everyone realizes that the capability is there.

Van Till: The security industry usually lags the general IT market by three or more years, so it’s easy to see where the technology will go. Just look around you—people hardly ask whether something is hosted any more. They just assume it is. Security will eventually be the same.

Caruthers: We continue to hear from our channel partners that the demand for hosted or managed systems are on the increase. Much of this is being driven by the channel itself as a means to create another means of recurring monthly revenue (RMR) to further grow their businesses. We are watching this development closely with our channel partners so that we can act accordingly relative to new product development.

Pires: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and the shift from server based systems to the cloud are trending technologies that have many advantages for both software providers and end users. But data security is still an underlying issue with many users as both SaaS and the cloud require what could be sensitive data and information to be offsite.

SIW: What impact will events like Sandy Hook and the recent incident involving a gunman at a Ga. elementary school have on the market as it relates to development of new technologies?

Bryan Sanderford, national sales manager, Dortronics: Unfortunate events like these will most certainly push access control manufacturers to develop new technologies that help educational institutions better protect their students and faculty from people who should not be on their premises – but it may also prompt these institutions to explore the use of existing technologies that they may not currently be employing, such as mantraps.

Boriskin: Schools need improved security. It has historically been a challenge to put in security due to budget constraints. However, the wireless technology that is now available has dramatically reduced the cost of enterprise grade security and schools can cover more of their doors then they could have before. The industry is now deploying the technology they need to allow them to secure their facilities more completely with the budget they have.

Caruthers: Like most related tragedies, there will be a short term spike in sales as school administrators need to take action to help prevent future occurrences, and to demonstrate to parents and personnel alike that they are being proactive . This will drive the demand for newer innovative products and solutions that deliver greater situational awareness with a focus on prevention versus access management. As a result, companies like Galaxy and their reseller networks will continue to strive to position themselves with market-specific solutions as opposed to application agnostic system providers.

Pires: Events of this magnitude have a significant impact on the development of future technologies as these are real issues that school administrations, and security and law enforcement officials are unfortunately forced to deal with on a recurring basis. Schools are looking at every conceivable means to improve security, yet budgets remain an issue. They are enhancing existing security procedures, hiring more security personnel, and implementing products like our KeyWatcher key control systems to better control access to their facilities. And existing products are being enhanced and tailored more towards schools’ needs to offer more features and the functionality they need to meet more stringent security objectives.