Video companies branching out into access control

Watch for more video companies to follow suit
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Friday, October 10, 2014

YARMOUTH, Maine—In the past 18 months, three major video surveillance companies have expanded into access control. There are many reasons why Axis Communications, Panasonic and Avigilon made this move, but the main reason, they say, is because of demand.

“More and more customers are looking for integration [of their video systems] with access control,” said Bruce Stewart, business development manager, access control, Axis Communications.

Willem Ryan, product marketing manager, Avigilon, concurred. “The demand for a combined video and access solution is coming from the market. That’s a definite market trend.”

Avigilon was the first to enter the access control market in May of 2013 with the acquisition of RedCloud Security. Then in September of 2013, Axis Communications announced the launch of its network door controller, which it developed in-house. Most recently, Panasonic in June 2014 entered the access control market in Europe through an OEM agreement with Bravida.

In a related development, VMS provider Milestone Systems in May 2014 launched an access control module for its XProtect product.

Experts believe more video companies will follow suit. “I think we’ll see more video companies getting into access control. … It’s a natural next step,” Stewart said.

Josh Woodhouse, senior market analyst, video surveillance, for IHS said, “We expect to see increasing convergence between access and video. This is likely to be achieved through further new product launches—video vendors launching access products—and further acquisitions.”

In addition to customer demand, the access control market has significant upside potential. Avigilon’s Ryan points out that analysts estimate that the global electronic access control market will reach $6 billion by the end of 2015. “That’s a large addressable market that’s in line with our goal of becoming a premier security solution provider. Access control is an important overall part of security solutions and it makes a lot of sense to be involved in access control,” Ryan said.

Being a go-to security provider was also part of the rationale for AXIS’s venture into access control.

Fredrik Nilsson, general manager Americas for Axis, told SSN that the company has always “provided intelligent edge devices, this is just another one.” Noting the size of the access control market, Nilsson said AXIS does not expect its access control product to generate a lot of revenue on its own initially, but said it “will have value because it makes us a more complete partner of edge devices … for our software providers, integrators and distributors.”

The combined offerings from the likes of Avigilon and AXIS may make an integrated access/video solution more affordable to small and medium sized businesses—a key market segment.

Indeed, Stewart said that the bulk of the access control market, in the neighborhood of 60 percent, is applications in the 10- to 14-door range.

“Cost and affordability can be measured in a few ways,” Ryan said. For the integrator “when it's a tightly integrated solution, it’s easier and faster to install, so the cost to deploy is reduced as well as the maintenance, because with a tightly integrated system there’s less of a chance of issues [arising] between the access and video systems.”

For the end user, Ryan said, the price tag is not necessarily what they will find most attractive about a combined access/video offering. Rather, it’s the “customer experience” and cost of ownership that they will be drawn to, he said.

They’ll appreciate the “one standard look and feel.” That eases the “overall adoption and usability,” which should translates less training for personnel. That’s where the cost savings comes in, he said.

Integrated systems will still not be viable for all applications. That’s a ways down the road, according to IHS’s Woodhouse, who cautioned that “for the near future, separate systems are likely to stay the most cost effective approach.” However, he added that over time, there should be “more choice in terms of the number of different integrated systems available on the market [and] in the price points they are available at.”

But if you have companies offering combined access and video, does this signal a return to proprietary systems, and ultimately lack of choice for integrators and end users?

Asked this question, Avigilon and AXIS say no worries. Combined video and access offerings are an option that some end users will want and others won’t. Both companies point out that their access control systems integrate with others.

“It’s available to any partner who wants to integrate with us. We have an open API that any partner can utilize,” Stewart said. Many partners already integrate into the AXIS access control and video systems. “We give customers the best of breed,” he said.

Likewise, Avigilon’s Ryan noted that Avigilon integrates with many third-party vendors on the video and access control side and said it supports “powerful integration” with third-party vendors as well as the simplified combined video/access solution.

“It comes down to choice, what’s applicable to the end user and the integrator,” Ryan said. Avigilon will continue “to provide both options throughout our [product] development.”

IHS analyst Josh Woodhouse agreed with the manufacturers, saying that this does not necessarily mean that proprietary systems will become the norm again. In fact, he believes that recent developments with some standards will help avoid proprietary systems.

“While vendors may develop their own solutions integrated to work with other products in their security portfolio, ONVIF profile C, which launched covering IP-based access, could be influential in ensuring some standard functionality between difference products,” he said.

He added: “ONVIF would especially appeal to video vendors who are used to working with ONVIF in their cameras.”