Should Smart Integrators Lead with Access Control?

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Aug 02, 2012

Video gets all the hype but should savvy integrators lead with access control instead? Recently, some integrator members advocated this as a strategy to overcome the ongoing challenges in the video market. In this note, we examine why this is being considered and what the advantages and disadvantages are.

Background

Video is being hard hit by three major factors: the rise of internet sales, the dubious 'value proposition' of some integrators, and progressive role many end user IT groups play as primary stakeholders. The net effect of these forces is that 'video surveillance' is no longer a security system that must be subcontracted to specialized companies. The option of self-performing surveillance projects from end to end means that traditional security vendors have thinner margins and less opportunities to choose.

However, physical access control bucks this trend. This subset of integration has shown far more resiliency to commodity pricing and 'DIY' installation than many areas of physical security.

In the sections below, we contrast the Video Surveillance market with Electronic Access Control (EAC) and examine the underpinnings of the idea that shrewd integrators hang their hats on the access control business first:

Advantages of Leading with Access Control

What value does the EAC business offer integrators beyond what video provides? A few of the major elements are:

  • Much harder to Buy Online: Unlike Video components, Access Control is a more piecemeal design and specification problem than video. Buying a complete access control system often composed of hundreds of pieces is much more difficult compared to buying a few cameras. In addition, IP video has a closer affinity to 'wide open' computer and network equipment internet resellers compared to the closed distribution models the 'door hardware' market is built on.
  • Much harder for End Users to 'DYI': Installing access control requires specialized skills not generally possessed by end user IT groups. Beyond the custom wiring schemes, mounting door hardware, modifying door frames, and programming credentials require a level of knowledge beyond common skills.
  • Much harder market for Non-Experts to Enter: Video is frequently sold and installed by 'trunkslammers' with no real technical expertise. However, this type of competitive element is much less common in Electronic Access Control. Selling and performing this type of work successfully requires experience and training difficult to intuitively learn. The buying relationships required to resell most manufacturer's access control systems require a level of committment beyond casual involvement. The end result of this positioning is that resell pricing is higher due and margins are more protected compared to video.

Advantages of Leading with Video

However, not all strengths are equal. Video Surveillance provides some distinct advantages over EAC that should not be presume:

  • Bigger market: Put bluntly, more people want and use video compared to EAC. Video has the quality of being generally useful in a variety of applications, where access control is useful to controlling who is authorized to enter a given area.
  • Faster growing: In the 'tiered' security model, video surveillance is more fundamental than EAC. While access control expands on simple keys and locks, video introduces another surveillance layer altogether. When customers seek to 'enhance' existing security, they very seldom think first about EAC, but rather look to video as the next step. The result is that end users buy into video long before they justify or grow into need for EAC.
  • Faster changing technology: Access control lacks the 'game changing' technology pace of improvements afforded video. While every new year brings a variety of new advancements over previous video technology, an EAC system purchased 15 years ago has the same major features and functions of a system sold today.
  • EAC 'system changes' are Rare: Partially due to lack of technology improvements, and also because of capital expenses involved, simply 'forklift upgrading' an EAC system is rare. While incremental improvements to video can be experienced by upgrading select cameras or servers, improving EAC covers a larger system scope that generally encompasses a large expense. As a result, the life of many access control systems is measured in multiple decades, not 5 to 7 year replacement cycles.

Our Recommendations

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Smart integrators who ignored access in the past should reconsider the positive impact EAC can have on existing video surveillance clientele. Aside from the close system proximity that video already share with EAC - they are frequently integrated together - providing both systems distances the integrator from being replaced on a whim, and provides the customer with a 'single source' contact for two major security systems.

Commonly, end users and integrators negotiate different pricing for combined systems rather than separately. The overall maintenance cost for either system can drop when the integrator can combine service calls into a single stop, and the integrator can sell this increased efficiency.

Finally, the strongest business aspect of selling EAC comes from the higher margins on sales and more complex nature the work entails. Simply stated, end users are less likely to consider self performing EAC work due to the specialized knowledge it requires.

However, the challenges of doing access control should not be overlooked. Stepping into EAC is not a casual decision and venturing into doors and hardware requires atypical skill for most integrators. Some of the risks to consider are:

  • Code Knowledge: Because access control can significantly influence Building Egress, it is subject to many safety and building codes. Familiarity with these codes, and how they practically translate into design and operation of EAC is mandatory and failure to comply is subject to punitive actions.
  • Mechanical Knowledge: The interaction of doors, frames, and hardware is deceptively complex. Understanding how all these components interface, and then modifying that interaction with EAC equipment has no common ground with traditional video surveillance work.
  • Craft Knowledge: Finally, installing and servicing EAC commonly require trade skills not shared with Video Surveillance. Modifying doors and frames to support electrified locking hardware require uncommon tools and training. Good 'surveillance technicians' do not always double as good 'EAC technicians'.

Conclusion

'Video-Only' integrators continue to face the threat of being a commodity business. Online/direct reselling will continue to squeeze margins and IT departments will become increasingly knowledgable at performing video work. However, integrators possessing EAC knowledge provide customers with a 'one stop' service contact for either system. The value proposition of an integrator increases significantly when complementing access with video..

However, the onus on training and developing skilled designers/installers is greater when adding EAC. Since many end-user/manufacturers complain "Integrators Don't Know What They Are Doing", this approach has the risk of spreading a thin resource even more thinly. However, the payoff is being skilled in a system that can grow integration business in a number of ways.

1 report cite this report:

Smart Integrators Should Lead With Access Control on Nov 10, 2015
3 years ago, we asked "Should Smart Integrators Lead with Access Control?" pointing out some of the relative strengths of access control and...
Comments : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Access Control Course Fall 2019 - Last Chance on Oct 17, 2019
Register Now - Fall 2019 Access Control Course. Thursday, October 17th is the last day to register. IPVM offers the most comprehensive access...
2020 Access Control Book Released on Dec 19, 2019
This is the best, most comprehensive access control book in the world, based on our unprecedented research and testing has been significantly...
Security Sales Course January 2020 - Last Chance on Jan 02, 2020
Notice: This is the last chance to register for the course. This sales course is customized for the current needs and challenges specific to...
Closed Cloud Cameras Trashed on May 13, 2019
When you buy a camera, do you own it? Not anymore. In the world of closed cloud cameras, you may think you are buying a camera but all you are...
Axis Will Not Block Resellers on Jun 10, 2019
While Axis generally has strong favorability amongst integrators, the biggest complaint is their channel model, which results in smaller integrator...
Verkada Attacks ONVIF on Jun 27, 2019
Verkada has now gone after ONVIF, expanding its attacks against the 'dinosaurs' of the 'ancient' video surveillance industry. In a recent...
Responsibility Split Selecting Locks - Statistics on Jul 22, 2019
A heated access debate surrounds who should pick and install the locks. While responsible for selecting the control systems, integrators often...
Access Control Mustering Guide on Sep 30, 2019
In emergencies, determining where employees are located can be critical for knowing whether they are in danger. Access systems can be used for...
Disruptor Wyze Releases Undisruptive Smartlock on Dec 06, 2019
While Wyze has disrupted the consumer IP camera market with ~$20 cameras, its entrance into smart locks is entirely undisruptive. We have...
Hotel Access Control Explained on Dec 23, 2019
Hotel access control does not work like typical commercial access control because doors in hotels are not typically directly connected to a central...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Every VMS Will Become a VSaaS on Feb 21, 2020
VMS is ending. Soon every VMS will be a VSaaS. Competitive dynamics will be redrawn. What does this mean? VMS Historically...
Video Surveillance 101 Course - Last Chance on Feb 20, 2020
This is the last chance to join IPVM's first Video Surveillance 101 course, designed to help those new to the industry to quickly understand the...
Vulnerability Directory For Access Credentials on Feb 20, 2020
Knowing which access credentials are insecure can be difficult to see, especially because most look and feel the same. Even insecure 125 kHz...
AI/Smart Camera Tutorial on Feb 20, 2020
Cameras with video analytics, sometimes called 'Smart' camera or 'AI' cameras, etc. are one of the most promising growth areas of video...
China Manufacturer Suffers Coronavirus Scare on Feb 20, 2020
Uniview suffered a significant health scare last week after one of its employees reported a fever and initially tested positive for coronavirus....
Cheap Camera Problems at Night on Feb 19, 2020
Cheap cameras generally have problems at night, despite the common perception that integrated IR makes cameras mostly the same, according to new...
Milestone Launches Multiple Cloud Solutions on Feb 18, 2020
Milestone is going to the cloud, becoming one of the last prominent VMSes to do so. Milestone is clearly late but how competitive do these new...
Video Surveillance Architecture 101 on Feb 18, 2020
Video surveillance can be designed and deployed in a number of ways. This 101 examines the most common options and architectures used in...
UK Stands Behind Hikvision But Controversy Continues on Feb 18, 2020
Hikvision is exhibiting at a UK government conference for law enforcement, provoking controversy from the press, politicians, and activists due to...
IronYun AI Analytics Tested on Feb 17, 2020
Taiwan startup IronYun has raised tens of millions for its "mission to be the leading Artificial Intelligence, big data video software as a service...