Two Market Veterans Look to Steer VSI Into a New Era

Oct. 1, 2014
VSI management team wants users and channel to rethink its approach to physical access control

When you combine the security resumes of Dennis Raefield, the new CEO and President at Viscount Systems, Inc. (VSI) and Vice President of Sales and Marketing Michael Pilato, they seem the perfect duo to take on the challenge of migrating VSI into the future. The two have done their share of company building over the last two decades with some of the most respected names in the access control industry. Now as VSI looks to enter new markets and rebrand itself, the challenge is to get both end users and channel partners to completely rethink the current concept of physical access control.

So as the new management team was put into place, the goal in 2014 was clear. First, Raefield sought to bring in a team that could scale the business. He wanted experienced managers that had grown companies before.

“This was a priority for Dennis. Now that’s all been down and the team is all in place,” Pilato said.

Next on the agenda was to come up with a roadmap for taking the new variation of their Freedom access control platform to market. Having previously been targeted at the Federal government market and conforming to its FIPS 201 requirements, VSI was now looking to migrate to the enterprise commercial market. And of course the team then had to chart its course into the channel.

“We wanted to make it ready for commercial prime time.  We needed to take a product designed essentially for one client and now scale it to fit myriad vertical markets in the commercial sector,” continued Pilato. “The final piece of the puzzle was to put a channel in place so we could take this product to market, which we’ve just started to do.”

“When we all got here the company took the product through distribution at the lower end of the marketplace -- that’s where the company played,” said Pilato, who is impressed with the fact VSI has been around since 1969 with its telephone entry technology and access control products. “When we started getting traction with the federal government it was obvious we had a solution that could play in the conventional market with all the usual suspects. But what we are doing here is a transformational change. We are taking a company that had success in telephone entry and low end commercial access control and moving into the enterprise solutions space. We’ve spent a lot of time and invested a lot of resources building the team and infrastructure to scale our efforts and build a product to meet the needs of the commercial space.”

Both Raefield and Pilato admit that ASIS 2014 is essentially the company’s coming out party. “We are announcing a new approach to market for Viscount that mirrors our new emphasis on the enterprise commercial market,” added Pilato.

The Freedom access control solution is a feature-rich, server-based software application that communicates over IP on an existing or dedicated IT network infrastructure. The system’s encryption bridge connects the door hardware to the IT network and provides encrypted communication to the servers. All system configuration, administration and monitoring is performed using a common Web browser, which reduces system complexity and can lower its overall cost of ownership.

“We are looking to leverage the success we’ve had in the federal access control space. The significant aspect of this move and rebranding is that we’ve just been awarded our FICAM certification. We are the first to get categorized under the 1302 designation, which reflects the virtual nature of the software technology,” said Pilato, explaining that the VSI virtualization software completely eliminates panels. “This certification demonstrates that we have passed the most rigorous testing applied by the federal government for the most stringent access control requirements. This is extraordinary validation for this platform.”

 Because the high-end commercial space is an arena in which VSI has not yet earned its stripes, Pilato concedes that there will be a learning curve as they approach the market.

“There is a lot of education that needs to be done on our end in both the channel and on the end user side. The strategy has been to put a lot of effort into educating the end user because you’re asking them to take a different approach to thinking about physical access control where it would mirror more closely their logical cybersecurity systems – more about identification and authentication than physical barriers. It is more about being native in their existing IT infrastructure and leveraging the existing network controls to create a robust solution,” said Pilato.

Then we have to address the channel side, where we have to convince them what they have been doing for 20 years is no longer necessary.” Pilato continued. “There is a better pure software approach. We need to educate the channel about what it means to be in a virtualized environment. We need to relate the architecture back to the integrators so they understand the physical advantage as much as the logical advantages.”

But both Raefield and Pilato concede that nothing builds credibility like customers, so the strategy is to go after the early adopters. The goal is to cut across all vertical markets with companies that are IT centric and have a high technology IQs.

“We are not trying to sell to everybody or recruit every integrator, but build on the successes we have along the way and create a new paradigm in the industry,” concluded Pilato.

About the Author

Steve Lasky | Editorial Director, Editor-in-Chief/Security Technology Executive

Steve Lasky is a 34-year veteran of the security industry and an award-winning journalist. He is the editorial director of the Endeavor Business Media Security Group, which includes the magazine's Security Technology Executive, Security Business, and Locksmith Ledger International, and the top-rated website He is also the host of the SecurityDNA podcast series.Steve can be reached at [email protected]