Access Interoperability: Going Nowhere

By Brian Rhodes, Published Nov 11, 2014, 12:00am EST

The dream was simple: access control interoperability.  You know; the ability to change management software on a whim, or mix together different brands of controllers, yet have everything work together.  It is an idea could fundamentally change the access control market.

Especially when ONVIF's Access Profile C was announced, many hoped it marked the start of this dream. Perhaps it would even kickstart the stoic and insular access market in the same way ONVIF has caught fire in surveillance.

Alas, this dream may be over before it really even starts. In this note, we survey the dreadful status of access interoperability and discuss why this is not likely going to change.

Proprietary Model Reigns Supreme

Despite the hopes that manufacturers would jump on the interoperability movement, there is no evidence this is happening. The major access incumbents still are developing proprietary solutions, with no signs of slowing. Reviewing IPVM 'most favored access software' results show 6 of the top 10 platforms only use proprietary hardware designs, with all reselling 'self branded' controllers as a preferred first option.

Even one of video interoperability's biggest champions, Axis, appears to be shunning the concept in access, as evidenced by a newly released card reader locked to work only with its own controllers. (see: Axis Releases Card Reader for details)  Beyond that, those controllers come pre-installed Entry Manager, a free small system management software that further encourages many to use only Axis for their access control.

Little Interoperability Interest

Current 'standardization' efforts are floundering. The strongest early effort, ONVIF Profile C, is showing no signs of widespread acceptance. While there are approximately 2,500 video products (from 500 members) conforming to Profile S in the market, only one member (Axis) has released a Profile C device [link no longer available] (A1001). When integrating to that controller, widely promoted to be an 'Open Platform for 3rd Party', vendors are not using ONVIF C, but are writing custom drivers.

ONVIF was not the first to publish a standard framework, either. In early 2013, PSIA proposed and later published [link no longer available] an access interoperability spec that has not faired better, with no major access vendors announcing support or conformance.

Fundamentally, the effort for access standardization differs from the precedent set by the video market. Camera vendors are motivated to have as many platforms as possible support their cameras, while access companies are concerned about losing business when others integrate with them. Simply put, access companies seek to maximize revenues by selling everything: hardware, software, and sometimes even peripherals. As a result, systems only work with companion brand products.

In the last two years, the biggest 'interoperability' success story may be OSDP, which only addresses the connection between reader and controller. Many consider OSDP as 'Weigand 2.0', since it adds features like encryption, bidirectional communication, and smart-credential bitrates. However, the new standard only addresses a small part of the total access system, and while support looks positive, overall adoption is still spotty.

 
 

Outlook

Unfortunately, do not expect 'access interoperability reform' anytime soon. The combination of a limited business case and a lack of market outcry means that adoption will not be a priority for access vendors.

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