Interoperability, unification and integration are no longer just the buzzwords of the moment. As anyone in the physical security industry knows, these market forces are now driving product development, systems integration, training and even the relationships between manufacturers, integrators and end users themselves.

Historically, changes in access control trends have been slower to occur than in other security sectors, such as video. But change is afoot in the access control market, where integration has become king, wireless access control costs have come down and biometrics is no longer reserved for high assurance facilities.

To find out what’s happening currently and what to expect on the horizon for the access control industry, Jason Ouellette, Tyco Security Products’ Product Line Director for Access Control, answers some questions about whether these general trends toward adaptability, interoperability, unification and integration are infiltrating the access control world and talks about what we can expect to see next in access control.

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the access control market in the last one to two years?  

“One of the bigger changes has been the move from integrations to unifications, to unified platforms. Unification provides access and video information that lowers the overall cost of ownership with a single server solution along with enhanced feature capabilities.  An example of these capabilities would be the ability to have deeper sets of analytics and reporting capabilities for customers off of the combined datasets.

“Another change is the adoption of wireless locks, which is a significant growth area for access control. These types of products have been around for a few years, but with acceptance of their use increasing and with the price points of electronic locks coming down, access control systems are now adopting wireless locks. They provide the same security of a traditional key-based solution with the added capabilities of accountability and auditing. For example, a traditional door lock can range from $2,500 to $6,000 per entryway. With a wireless lock, you can create specialized access for particular employees. For example, in an IT space where server racks are located or in a hospital pharmacy, the cost can be as low as $500 to $1,000.”

Is the cloud being used in access control today? How and by whom?

“Yes, it is being used in access control today. The how and by whom is based on virtualization and the use of a hyper-visor. A hyper-visor is the platform used for creating and running virtual machines. Most Fortune 500 companies are using virtualized servers today. Their clouds may be outsourced to a cloud provider such as Amazon, Google or another provider. There’s a lot of interest in moving in that direction.

“There are still some concerns regarding data privacy, which is the most prominent concern. Another concern is localized high availability and disaster recovery. For example, what if there is a disaster of some kind in which an operator can’t access the cloud, but needs to operate a system locally? Addressing these specific requirements is definitely on the minds of most manufacturers as they develop new products.

“A recent report by IHS (Information Handling Services) shows that until these specific areas are addressed in access control as a whole, adoption of cloud for access control systems will remain slow. Today, hosted and managed solutions are some of the fast-movers.”

Is enterprise access control a growing trend? Are you seeing any significant growth/increased demand for this in certain vertical markets, i.e. beyond corporate or government use. Are you addressing these needs with the development of new products?

“Enterprise access control is definitely a growing trend. Both scale of economy and single point of contact come into play. Customers want a single source for information, and there are very few brands in the field today that can offer that tight integration of access control and video details in a single database. This single database is easier for the end user to navigate and provides the opportunity to use live and recorded video with efficiency.

“Government and corporate sections are the key interest areas. But we are also seeing growing interest in medium to large sized businesses. Anyone with a WAN system could benefit from using enterprise access control in upgrades and in deployments because the enterprise model is designed to reduce turns on the network and because of its distributed architecture. In many ways, an enterprise approach solves WAN problems. Otherwise, customers are at the mercy of WAN communications, which may be slow.  Reporting is a great example in which a product not designed for the WAN enterprise environment can be piping massive amounts of data across a network in an inefficient manner, resulting in slow performance and application failures.” 

How will access control integration with biometrics look within the next few years? What can we expect to see from the industry in terms of biometrics?

“Biometrics has always been an interesting topic. Higher costs and reliability of biometrics have kept it small in scope thus far. Over the years, both technology and adoption have improved. I see biometrics as an area that will gain momentum and focus. But in government and other high assurance areas, it is currently an absolute requirement. The government sector has launched efficacy and use case studies on both fingerprint and iris technology. One interesting result from a study was that a fingerprint scan is quicker in moving people through a point of entry, as having an iris scan does produce some amount of anxiety for users, which causes them to pause.

“Some manufacturers are providing biometric features natively in their products, which is a key strength for the airport market. In addition, there is a need to form strong biometric partnerships in order to provide the multi-factor access control required to meet government specs for high assurance.

“The new focus in biometrics is frictionless access control — i.e. non-contact. I see the market in general moving in that direction, but there are some reliability issues to be addressed first. What is coming next will be finger/palm vein and face recognition. You’ll likely see technology organizations such as Facebook and Google implement these as early adopters.”

How are standardization organizations impacting the product development of access control solutions?

“On the video side of the business, we’ve seen standards developed by ONVIF for IP cameras in video systems, and now we’re starting to see the migration toward access control standards, most recently with ONVIF’s Profile C. OSDP (SIA Open Supervised Device Protocol) and PSIA (Physical Security Interoperability Alliance) are pushing for interoperability between access control systems, as well.

“These standards will provide a protection of the customer’s investment. Integrators and consultants are driving this, too. Most product developers are looking to adopt these standards to make sure their products have the ability to talk to readers from multiple solution providers.”

What role are IT departments playing in installations of access control systems and how does this impact security systems integrators?

“IT departments are often the leading deciders in access control decisions now. IT personnel are managing servers and they possess knowledge of their existing infrastructures. For example, in an installation, IT staff needs to know what bandwidth is needed for a system so that a manufacturer’s products function reliably.   

“Edge devices, such as readers and door control modules, continue to be installed by integrators, but even in those situations, the integrator still has to work with IT on IP addresses. Overall, IT is playing a significant role.”