DAYS after a major exhibition like Security 2016 in Melbourne last month you’re still getting your mind around the things you saw, deciding which solutions stood out, which presaged developments of the future and which trends were strongest.

Discounting the overarching shift towards ever more integration, the strongest growth trend at Security 2016 was access control. It’s not surprising this should be so. Current global risk profiles demand that organisations control access to their spaces – there’s no doubt this is a driving force behind the trend. There’s also the relentless and endless pursuit of lower costs which push users to seek greater efficiencies, including remote management of onsite functionalities. 

Alongside an increase in remote management power runs the inclusion of additional capabilities that have enhanced modular access control solutions in ways no one would have thought possible 5 years ago. The ability to receive event notifications, view video footage and authorise or deny access remotely in near real time is a big deal for many users and choosing the right system can save hundreds of thousands annually per site. It’s not just big national organisations with hundreds of locations that benefit. Single site companies can exploit this functionality, too. 

Running parallel is another driver – something that’s no less a feature of the digital age. It’s the overlay of intuitive programming software than turns a process that has long been profoundly complicated into something that’s manageable for typical installation businesses. When you think of the difficulties of access control installation – not just the physical aspects of the task, but managing monstrous things like role-based databases on big legacy sites – the advent of comprehensible software solutions from companies like Paxton and Inner Range is having a major impact. With access control more widely available, there’s more competition and that makes owning the new technology more affordable. 

And let’s go back to the inclusion of additional functionality again – automation, fire control, intercoms, remote reporting and management, video surveillance integration and more – all this stuff gives aspirational installers who are taking up the new generation of access control solutions truly wonderful sales hooks to take to market – sales hooks that have real value when it comes to increasing the security and safety levels of the businesses that employ them. 

There’s more to such sales hooks than meets the eye. They speak of changing market expectations. End users are beginning to ask for capabilities that are at the cutting edge of system functionality. Users want integrations of functionality that offer not only access control, but intrusion, surveillance and automation functions wrangled together in ways that improve the efficiencies of multiple aspects of their businesses and all within a single solution – the management of stock, tracking numbers of customers in a store, the safety of staff, the security of assets, the ability to remotely monitor events, management of event response and much more. 

Something that’s interesting is the sheer number of capable access control solutions that are available on the market. Alongside Inner Range’s Inception and Paxton’s net2 Plus and net10 there are solutions from quality makers like ICT, Isonas, Concise Security Systems, Bosch, Tyco, Genetec Synergis, Interlogix with v10, there’s Genesis from Mainline and now Dahua too, is expanding into this area of the market. There are plenty of other quality competitors with clever solutions in this space – including companies like Salto and ASSA ABLOY and others. All are pushing the market forward together.    

Perhaps it’s not surprising the access control business should be developing this way. When you consider that compact and highly capable wireless-based security and home automation systems are so simple and quick to install, downward pressure on prices in this part of the market was certain to drive installation businesses to seek opportunities elsewhere. What wasn’t expected is the lateral capabilities of the solutions installers can now offer, the suites of integrated functionalities that draw here and there from what used to be disparate disciplines. The flexibility of IP-based infrastructure and the simplicity of IP-based systems is completely re-writing the potential that underlies system design. 

Where will things go from here? Anywhere you like. For decades, end users have been forced to warp their operations, forcing them into the shapes demanded by the frozen structure of analogue electronic security technology. That’s going to change. Thanks to a new generation of flexible IP-based solutions, system design is going to be driven by a multiplicity of operational requirements arising from individual applications. From here out, the revolution is going to reverse engineer the industry. ♦

By John Adams