Mark Handels: A Pinch of Salto
Salto Systems has launched Salto Clay, an access control system that can be managed in the cloud. John Adams spoke with Salto’s co-founder and Chief Marketing & Sales Officer Marc Handels to find out more.
Q: Salto is developing a bit of a cult following here in Australia – how did it all begin?
A: Salto as a company began 12 years ago in 2001 with 14 people – now we have 300 staff. According to HIS Research we are now the 8th largest access control company in the world with a turnover of nearly $E95 million.
We are a Spanish company based in Oiartzun but more than 95 per cent of our sales are outside of Spain. We have 24 offices around the world, including Australia. Our success factor is due to the data on card technology that we invented and we have done very well.
But we realised that while Salto had grown into a company that was very good in large projects with hundreds if not thousands of doors, we were leaving behind small and medium enterprise users. The SQL-based software platform we have was complicated for smaller applications.
Realising this we started looking at other ways to innovate – not only developments from inside the company but also partnering with people outside the industry and innovating in other ways.
Q: Could you tell us a little bit about the development of the Salto Clay cloud-based access control solution?
A: Clay is a Dutch start-up based in Amsterdam that is cloud-based and an expert in telecommunications but knows very little about mechanical and electronic locks. We started to partner on integrations and then in July last year we bought 49 per cent of the shares which made us the largest individual shareholder of the company, although the founders still retain an important share, something we encouraged. Salto Clay combines the technologies of both companies into a single solution.
Q: How does the system work from an operational point of view?
A: The whole idea of Salto Clay is a very simple plug and play online access control system. There are no portable programmers, there are no encoders, there’s no software to install – it’s all in the cloud. So the system is real time online and accessed via browser. The management app can be downloaded for free from the Apple store or from Android.
The heart of the system is the Clay IQ which has 2 wireless elements – one talks to the lock cylinders and wall readers and the other is a cellular modem that talks to the cloud. The beauty of this is that when you buy a system you don’t have to plug the IQ unit into a router, just into the mains and that’s it. The next thing you do is set up your account with Clay and you’re up and running. You can manage the system through desktop, a tablet, and there are apps for smart phones.
The fit is small medium enterprise – that includes an end user segment and massive distribution from dealers including alarm installers and locksmiths which might not have been able to deliver access control functionality like this in the past – dealers who were left behind when it came to access control.
Salto Clay leaves installers free to focus on finding customers and installing hardware, which they are good at. We help installers with the software and the network side of the installation – we make it plug and play for them.
Q: So installers or locksmiths buy the locks and the Clay software is free?
A: It’s a dual distribution between Salto and Clay. Salto takes care of everything that is hardware distribution. So you buy the locks and the controller from a Salto dealer and you take them away and install them. Then you create your Clay account directly with Clay online and you get a week of free support and from then on there is a fee. This can be monthly, yearly or even longer – it’s up to the customer.
There is no charge for communications usage – we have calculated our costs with our telco partner and take care of that without bothering the customer. And there are different models, depending on your user numbers and other factors. You might have a maximum model and over that you wouldn’t pay anymore.
If your end user does not like monthly payments you can bring that cost forward and they can pay upfront for the service at a good discount – so that becomes the equivalent of buying the system outright. So for us it is innovative on the technology and innovative on the business side.
Q: What’s the maximum number of users Salto Clay can handle?
A: From a technological viewpoint there’s no limitation on doors, and there’s no limitation on users but we are targeting this system towards small/medium enterprises so we want to keep the interface very simple and we are going to be strict about that.
The moment you have hundreds of users to search through and manage it becomes too complicated using a very simple interface. You need more functionality, so systems will self-limit. If you have large cardholder groups it will be easier to manage them using another of our systems in an SQL environment.
Q: For an Australian user, what would a monthly fee be for say, 16 users?
A: The exact figures aren’t available yet for Australia but it will probably be around $25 per month. You need to consider this in the context of overall cost. For starters you don’t need a portable programmer for locks, or a programmer for cards and you start with a smaller investment.
Then you have all the additional remote functionality and reporting.
The system is also upgraded all the time and we assist users as part of the service so that is all rolled into it. Salto Clay is a completely different service model.
Q: From an observer’s perspective Salto Clay seems a great solution – it leverages Salto’s existing locking technology and SVN and it’s also a pioneering application on the network side. From a business point of view for Salto, but also from the perspective of an installer or an end user, would you say it’s a real jump into the future?
A: Definitely. Many companies are still doing the same thing they have always done. But we have always pushed the envelope with data on the card, with wireless. I think just at the moment some of our competitors thought they had us worked out, this is another game changer.
An interesting thing, when Clay developed this system for us they didn’t look at access control products – they looked at Facebook, LinkedIn, at third party applications. These guys think in a completely different way. And I think now for others to catch up – it’s not just a different product, it’s a different way of thinking.
Q: Do you believe a paradigm shift like Clay is easier for a younger company – a company without the deep investment made over decades in controller-based access technology?
A: I think it’s the best chance we have to compete, as a medium-sized company. We have to get up earlier than everybody else and run like crazy.
Q: A cloud-based RMR model is a good move from a business perspective – how has the market reacted?
A: The places we have presented Salto Clay in Vegas and IFSEC in Birmingham in Amsterdam and now here in Sydney, the reaction has been phenomenal. The future definitely looks exciting for us. The market segment we are going for, smaller systems of 2-3 access points, we believe it is huge.