Are Mercury Access Panels An Open Or Closed Technology?

Reading this 'article' puportedly instructing one on how to avoid being locked in to a proprietary access control platform, one would get the impression that Mercury is the ultimate in openness:

A few industry veterans recognized the increasing value in being open and set a course to fulfill the value offering of open architecture within the access control industry. Mercury Security, as well as a couple of others, set out on a business mission of providing a truly open field-controlling hardware panel set. The others have since fallen out of favor....

Open architecture in access control is more than a concept. It is a set of operational constraints that restrict to the minimum any core element of the entire system that cannot be sourced from others.

Using the Mercury Security solution, the customer moves beyond this trap of proprietary hardware into a modern system with modern functionality, features, and most importantly, a Introducing the dynamic future of enhancements, network compatibility and options.

But isn't this just hypocritical BS, since you can't actually replace Mercury Hardware with anything but Mercury (or Mercury approved hardware with Mercury firmware). Moreover the fact that they are open to third party access control software is not surprising, it's essential, since they lack the software themselves. They have to open it up or write their own.

Is this just open spin or are they really different?

Background: Mercury Open Access Hardware Examined, Beware of Fake Access Control Panels?


If you will clarify the question you're asking, I'll take a run at answering it.

"Is this just open spin or are they really different?"

Are you asking from a technology or a business relationship/OEM prerogative?

If you read the PR article at the top it seems there are almost no limits to Mercury's commitment to open/non-proprietary systems. At the same time their is no lack of bashing everyone else in access control for trying to lock you in proprietary hardware. Stop me right here if I'm reading it wrong...

I understand to a degree what they are saying; they encourage multiple third parties to develop/integrate to their hardware spec; they publish their API and provide support so that others can create their own branded solutions on top of a core set of functionality.

So they say this is how they are different than the others, in that you are not tied to an particular access control software vendor, since many exist that are written to their API. So you have a choice.

But it's not like they even sell their own access control software anyway, so it's no big deal (to them) whomever you swap out with whom.

But let's say you want to swap out some of your Mercury hardware with someone else's? I don't think Mercury allows people to make their own Mercury clone hardware without paying them. So they talk a good 'open' game but when it comes to their profit it's business as usual.

So easy question: Do you find the article to be hypocritical? Why/Why not?

Are you asking from a technology or a business relationship/OEM prerogative?

Are Mercury Access Panels An Open Or Closed Technology?

So since you clarified your question, I think Mercury's "Open" claims are too general and can be easily misinterpreted. (I do think they know this, and are not too motivated to correct it.)

Especially given software/technology examples where "open source" is claimed, it generally means "free, and public domain". This is simply not the case with Mercury, who licenses use of their firmware or manufactures resold hardware for profit.

But as a matter of semantics, to Mercury's defense, nowhere do they claim "Open source". They adopt the same use of "Open" like Axis does with the VAPIX API. Essentially the claim is "We are so commonly used, almost everyone integrates with us." That claim is defensible by the fact a big slice of the access market uses Mercury hardware or is able to integrate with it, regardless of which company's logo is on the board sticker.

So why doesn't Mercury have more competition? Is manufacturing access hardware so difficult/ dangerous that it scares others away? Or are the margins just too small?

I do think that life/safety liability does play a role in that answer. Example: There are few stepladder manufacturers these days (in large part due to trip/fall liability suits.) I have to think this sort of life/safety risk is an aversion for new players in the space, which benefits incumbents like Mercury.

"Open" doesn't always neccessarily mean that the product can be 100% replaced by another product.

Mercury is a hardware company in the access control market. In the context of that, they mean that the user has the flexibility to choose from multiple software products that support their hardware. You can deploy Mercury hardware, and if a better or different access control software platform comes along in the future you could use that software (provided that it supported Mercury).

If an access control software company says they are "Open", they would mean that their software works with multiple hardware platforms and that you did not have to buy specific hardware to go with the software.

There are some access control platforms that allow you to use multiple hardware brands on the same system (eg: Mercury and HID), which essentially makes the Mercury component swappable by virtue of the software giving you other options. It might not be a perfect one-for-one controller swap if you're using additional I/O points or stuff like that, but you would be able change hardware vendors.

So open like Sony Cameras are open, you are free to buy any VMS that integrates with them?

Yes, basically the same concept.

How many of these third-party Mercury compatible access control systems only really support Mercury, if you have any idea?

The difference is that if you want to change out a Sony camera, you have Axis, Bosch, Hikvision, etc., etc., with generally the same featureset, and often similar performance.

If you want to change out a Mercury controller, usually at best you have the option of HID's VertX/Edge. But HID isn't supported by nearly as many access management software platforms as Mercury.

This isn't the fault of Mercury. There has been very little demand for open platform access hardware, so few have attempted to enter the market. And since so few have attempted to enter the market, there's been very little demand.

If you want to make a comparison to cameras I would say Mercury is more like AXIS. Every VMS integrates and works with AXIS cameras AND AXIS works with (almost) all VMS products. Mercury is same way with access control. If you have a Mercury panel you can have pretty much any access control software and it will work. Will it function with 100% of all the bells and whistles on that particular software? Maybe not, but it will do all the important things.

So yeah you could go with one vendor and get tons of personalization let's say for example you chose GE as your supplier and used let’s say Picture Perfect. How did that work out? Closed system where you can’t just wipe the server and slap something new on there.

Mercury has really changed the way access control is sold. There are many positives to their business model but there are potential limitations to a single source for hardware. For example; The situations when a customer requests a specific feature or function that requires a change to how the hardware operates. Can a single source manufacturer make these changes without effecting their other customers? Can they make the change in a timely manner? I don’t sell Mercury so I do not know the answer.

Companies that manufacture their own hardware can quickly accommodate these changes. Is this proprietary? Absolutely, just like buying a car. You choose the vehicle that best meets your needs. It is ridiculous to think that there is any one solution that is best. \

What Mercury has done is open up the access control world to some very good software companies. Many of these companies do not have the resources or talent to manufacture their own hardware and for many people that works.

To me the companies that set themselves apart are those that go the extra mile to support their customers. You cannot always accomplish that by being a "me too" company. In essence everything you sell is proprietary in some way it is just a matter of perspective. To me customer service is the key. If your customer is happy whether or not your hardware is proprietary will not matter.

I agree with Uc. As a designer, specifier and consultant, i like the Mercury business model. Although i believe it is somewhat proprietary, as has been noted, multiple AC manufacturer's support the Mercury panels.... unlike Software House, AMAG and Cardkey (Now Johnson Controls, Inc). It is noteworthy that JCI's P2000 system now supports the Mercury boards as well as the P2000 line of panels (Kudos for JCI!)

I believe the biggest reason an owner changes systems is because the he is dissatisfied with the integrator. If the integrator has a sales relationship with the Manufacturer of a proprietary system-- particularly if that relationship is exclusively regionalized-- the owner has to replace everything if he wants the integrator off the job. Another issue occurs when the integrator's relationship with the manufacture dissolves and he (the integrator) can no longer support the system installed. The owner may try to seek out a new integrator, but if the integrator is good, the owner’s loyalty lies with the integrator—not the system manufacture (in fact, most owners have no idea who built their system). Again, a rip and replace.

Until there is a better mousetrap, my vote is for Mercury, Axis and HID. Maybe this is the first step in truly an “open” architecture (whatever that is); but for now, its all we have, and it is now the only solution I will specify.

I would add here that Mercury sells a component, with which you can build and sell an access control system. Mercury does not build and sell full systems, like Software House and others do. The Mercury board is just one piece of a whole system. Given the context of an end user's choice, Mercury hardware provides the openness that matters the most: being able to change your system without having to rip/replace everything. (disclosure: I worked at Mercury for several years and still provide consultive services)