In early 2021 it’s difficult not to wonder about the future of alarm and access control solutions. Faced with always-up big band internet support from cabled NBN and 4G/4GX/5G wireless links, and a growing number of hub-free Wi-Fi devices, the possibilities for the segment are wide open. Will alarms and access control move to the cloud, will they remain welded to the reliability and distributed intelligence of solid-state boards, or will we see the evolution of an increasing dimorphous hybrid sector offering all things to all users?

The catalyst for this sort of thinking springs from a couple of key releases in the alarm access market recently, including solutions like Ubiquiti access, the Gallagher Security For SMB solution, now available in New Zealand, and Shelly Motion, a new Wi-Fi PIR sensor powered by a 6500mAh battery, compatible with a standard Wi-Fi router and controlled via an app with no hub. Shelly Motion is also compatible with Alexa, Home Assistant and SmartThings and can link to inputs and outputs around the home or small business.

These are quite different solutions, but they highlight how digital business models are changing the way the electronic security industry meets same-old operational concerns. In the case of Gallagher SMB, that’s putting an affordable access control and alarm system into the hands of small businesses which is light on capital expense and heavy on reporting and management capability. In the case of Shelly Motion, what stands out is the concept of constellations of Wi-Fi sensors on networks federated in software, not physically aggregated by a controller.

In each case, the new technology wants careful consideration. Gallagher SMB highlights a move by a pioneering access control provider to get ahead of a fundamental market trend – a hunger for lots of functionality at reduced operational expense. Taking access control into cloud is no new trend – think Salto, Eagle Eye Networks, Brivo and Risco, which has offered cloud access for longer than many realise – but its appearance in the product stacks of high end providers is new.

When it comes to Shelly Motion, it’s not a reach to wonder whether the impact of Wi-Fi security devices on the SEMS market might be profound and whether that impact might be felt in the same way – not only as part of the product spreads of new cloud players – but through the expansion of the product offerings of high-end electronic security manufacturers.

The trouble with speculations like these is that applications vary. An apartment or SME office, with its ubiquitous Wi-Fi and compact spaces, might be supportable with a 7.5 metre PIR like the Shelly Motion. But in many larger domestic applications, as well as bigger SMEs and industry and commercial applications, the sensor’s performance doesn’t cut it – not only in terms of detection range, but comms range, too.

And we can’t leave this topic without touching on Ubiquiti Uni-Fi Dream Machine Pro, which is a hub-based access control solution that plugs and plays with Ubiquiti’s other network devices and is powered by PoE. I want to touch on it because of the lesson of its core parts – the Dream Machine hub, which is designed to gateway all Ubiquiti’s security gear to a network – and the Uni-Fi access hub, which looks very familiar to modern access control systems. Yes, it’s got PoE in, but it’s has also got I/Os for alarm zones, door status, electric strikes, mag locks and more.

It’s this acknowledgement by a network device maker of the underlaying physical fundamentals of many access control solutions that brings us to the hybrid future and underlines the importance for security integrators of incorporating new cloud solutions from trusted access control suppliers into their product offerings without fearing they’ll be white-anting existing business models.
While some applications in the future will benefit from lower cost and simpler installation, these characteristics will not be universal.

From the point of view of installers and integrators, finding the best solution for their customers’ applications is going to involve more choices allowing greater creativity in installation and management, without weakening the fundamental capabilities of access control and alarm systems to manage access, to report door status, to report intrusion, to be professionally monitored with full redundancy, and to always fail safe.

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