Is Andover Continuum Good For A Global Client?

We are providing consulting services to a client building a new global HQ that does not have any physical security system standards. The HVAC integrator is advocating Continuum access control for the HQ which would become the global standard for the enterprise security systems. Our recommendation is a Mercury based solution for access control.

Are there any compelling reasons to use Continuum access control versus a Mercury based platform that has been designed for security use?

I have not had much interaction with Andover besides competing against it. I know it lends itself well to large enterprise systems and integration to other Pelco products. One customer explained they liked the SNMP monitoring it is capable of. The HVAC integrator is promoting it because it is a natural extension of their HVAC system. I've dealt with a few large clients on different systems (Software House CCURE 800, CCURE 900 and Honeywell ProWatch) and they all have their complaints.

Mercury based solutions are nice because in theory you should be able to use any software that can communicate with mercury hardware but that's rarely the case. Firmware and other items severaly restrict what can be used. We quoted a few that we never won and it was a nightmare just to get the quotes done because of the firmware and board differences we had to collect.

What I've found is there is never really one system that will do 100% of what the customer expects it to do. I would get a clear picture of what they want out of the system now and what they want from it in the future. Are you looking at video integration and using the access control as a PSIM light? Integration to HR systems for hiring, firing, etc so people are automatically issued cards and access taken away?

Good feedback Jason. I'll chime in with text of my original response to Undisclosed in our initial email:

"(Multisite) scaling Continuum to multiple servers can be done, however it isn't a linear path compared to 'Access Control' specific solutions like the Mercury based solutions you mention. You have to license additional portions of the building management software to have multi-site connectivity.

Andover Controls specializes in HVAC management controllers, and the 'Continnum' portfolio is a 'me too' offering that allows Schneider building management integrators to also 'do access control' as a corollary offering. However, it is not very common in the field, and Andover /TAC's access portfolio is outdated when compared with mainstream vendors.

Aside from the dated hardware design, the initial acquisition costs and ongoing system support might be a big issue. Most security integrators can not bid, nor are able to maintain/support an Andover system. Finding someone in close proximity that is able/willing to do so will be a challenge.

Your recommendation of a Mercury-based solution is much better from this perspective, as your global client will be able to find local support of the system rather easily compared to the Schneider offering. When it comes to bids, they will be able to solicit bids from a much larger pool of responders, and pricing will be more competitive and less expensive simply due to economies of scale."

Continuum would seem like a terrible option for your situation. The hardware is limited and very proprietary with a limited dealer market. You might have a good dealer branch in NJ, but a terrible dealer branch in Japan and becuase of the dealer territory base you'd be stuck. Also the software interface is very basic out of the box and limited in its graphics, and requires hours of custom development to make it applicable to a customer site. Also the Video Monitor video integration is limited at best, unreliable at worst. There are options that are much better suited for your situation.

I wasn't going to say it but I agree with both Brian and the other poster. From what I've seen of Continuum and other feedback I would never recommend it.

As a former Andover tech / project manager, I have to agree with Brian’s assessment. More specifically to the last few comments about being able to support the system. In my territory, there are only a hand full of authorized dealers. Unless you need some crazy off-the-wall process control outside of traditional security / access control functionality, I would recommend a mercury based platform.

One application that really worked well for Andover / Access was the ability to control HVAC functions through the use of card readers or keypads. For example – when a user presented a badge to a specific and defined reader during off-peak work hours (Saturday / Sunday), we would (based on their access group) enable the HVAC controls for their specific work area / floor. In a large multi-level building, this can be beneficial.

We actually tried to become an Andover Dealer to support one of our larger customers and we were denied. Further more dealers are limited to certain vertical markets as well. We tried to work with another Dealer to support them but they were denied as well because they were not in that vertical market. They go to the extreme to protect their dealers which locks the end user into one or two companies that can actually support them and if they do a poor job you're basically out of luck. Best to steer clear, they are still stuck in the old Physical Security age of being proprietary and closed.

I am also a consultant. Be careful about Andover, I do know that Comfort Systems is one of the few Andover dealers with a large footprint. I have three clients with Andover, and they all love it. That said, they have a smart staff to run it; and you will need it. In my view, its a reasonably robust system, but its pretty complicated. There is a new GUI they debuted at ASIS in '11 that looks really simple but i don't have any experience with it. Very limited dealer availability, particularly on a global market. I agree with the others, I like the Mercury solution. You probably already know this, but if you have a global need, you need a manufacturer that can support a global market with many integrators to choose from. Andover can handle it technically, but i am not so sure they have the integrator network you need to support a global effort.

I would also reach out to Andover, give them a list of sites (including potential sites) and have them indicate integrators who can support each. Ask for at least two. I would be surprised if they can handle it. No problem in big cities, but in your small remote sites, you will have difficulty (of course this could be true of most manufacturers) .