By Brian Albright Business Solutions magazine.
IP-based access control solutions allow VARs to develop integrated offerings.
Much like video surveillance, access control solutions are increasingly moving to an IP-based infrastructure. Networked access control solutions provide easier integration with other types of solutions (such as video, human resources, and facilities management) while eliminating the expense of dedicated wiring. This has opened up new markets for access control solutions among companies that previously may have passed on these implementations and also presents an opportunity for VARs with networking experience.
“IP is the new way of implementing access control,” says Rajeev Dubey, director of marketing at Brivo. “It takes away one of the largest hassles and expenses of installing access control systems: dedicated wiring throughout the facility. Such a system makes sense across the board, whether it’s a stand-alone commercial building or an interconnected one with different offices across the globe, a retail facility or an educational hub, a manufacturing facility or an exclusive R&D hub — IP-based access control makes sense everywhere.”
This approach also has other benefits that appeal to end users. Security and IT departments are typically more comfortable with networked security solutions, and IP-based systems have improved from an innovation standpoint. “Today, it is much easier to integrate access control systems with other subsystems, such as video surveillance, to enable the correlation of data between edge devices and software platforms,” says Bill Jacobs, VP of access control for Next Level Security Systems. “Also, the development of IP standards for access control systems allows multiple devices to integrate together without complex integration and custom software development.”
Inexperienced VARs and integrators should take care, however, because there are plenty of unique elements within access control solutions that, without the proper training and preparation, can stymie their expansion into this potentially lucrative market. “New cameras and video surveillance equipment can utilize technologies such as Power over Ethernet,” Dubey says. “Access control components such as control panels are IP devices, but the controlled components are still mechanical and electrical by design. IT integrators should have a basic understanding of electricity as well as low-voltage and high-voltage access control configurations.”
Entering the Access Control Market
Traditional IT integrators are a good fit for access control, provided they take the time to educate themselves on the technology. “Networking, VoIP, and building management integrators would all be good fits for access control with the appropriate training,” says Vincent Lupe, marketing lead of the enterprise segment for Honeywell Security. “Installing the IP products is not the main issue; designing the security system is what’s most difficult for IT companies, because it’s not their core competency, as opposed to a security professional who’s been designing these systems for a living for many years.”
Those VARs that have already deployed an IP video surveillance system are well-positioned for the access control market and can provide additional value by acting as a single point of contact for an integrated security solution. VARs should familiarize themselves with state and industry regulatory compliance issues. For example, the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) has issued guidelines for the interaction between access control and fire systems. The American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS) is a good resource for education and certifications.
“Now is the time to add these solutions to a line card because these systems offer far more functionality than the proprietary systems of the past,” Jacobs says. “Because software can now talk directly to the edge device through the network, access control systems can easily scale to allow a user to expand the system from several to large quantities of doors.”
But should VARs with no previous access control experience hire new, experienced staffers or invest in training? “You can certainly hit the ground running by hiring people who have that physical security skill set, but manufacturers and trade organizations can help an organization become knowledgeable and enter the security business without adding head count,” Lupe says. “It really depends on the business plan and goforward strategy.”
Generally speaking, though, there should be a core group of people who are subject matter experts in the areas of physical access control within the organization. Upper management should also have a strong level of knowledge so that they can guide the sales team.
Integrators should have a good understanding of physical access control, strong IP networking background, and a background in electrical systems. “It’s also important for IT integrators to understand that security installations are often governed by various local authorities,” Dubey says. “Many states have licensing requirements for security installers.”
“Networking, VoIP, and building management integrators would all be good fits for access control with the appropriate training.”
— Vincent Lupe, Honeywell Security
VARs also have to grasp the value of integrating access control with solutions like human resources systems, video surveillance, and building controls and be able to communicate that value to potential clients. For example, integrating access with smart building controls can help save energy costs by tying card readers to HVAC systems so that an air conditioning or heating system is only activated when the building is occupied. This type of integration precisely illustrates the benefits of moving to an IP-based infrastructure in the first place.
Virtual Control of Physical Access
Access control installations can be as simple as a networked card reader talking to a network access controller and a lock via a single CAT 6 cable or involve multiple sites responding to a centralized security control solution. Unified platforms can also incorporate access control and video surveillance and share the same events database. This allows users to correlate events logged by multiple systems.
In addition to IP-based solutions, users are also interested in remotely managed and cloud-based or hosted security systems that can provide anytime/anywhere access via the Internet. Moving forward, access control integrators and VARs will need to be able to offer these types of solutions.
“A remote management system reaches further as it provides the user with a timely and comprehensive view of their security operations, across their global portfolio of systems, thus eliminating localized security monitoring staff, dedicated client workstations, and client license fees associated with traditional systems,” Jacobs says. “For this to occur in a seamless manner, the security system must be fully integrated so that various subsystems such as video management, access control, video analytics, intrusion devices, and all IP-based edge devices are managed through a single user interface.”
To get there, VARs must invest in training, education, and (in some cases) staffing in order to serve the needs of a growing market. “Knowledge is king,” Lupe says. “Understanding security layers and the basic philosophies of security application design will greatly enhance anyone’s ability to be successful in the selling, deployment, and servicing of access control and integrated solutions.”