Video monitoring leads the way, access control is catching up

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Video monitoring may have gotten to the gates first, but it's access control monitoring that many believe will be the next big opportunity for central stations.
With players from the central station software market such as Bold Technologies and Dice Corp. teaming with HID Corp. on a card access panel and program, the table is set for expansion in this arena.
Cliff Dice, chief executive officer of Dice Corp., said software companies have become card access companies through the development of new programs. The opportunity it presents on the monitoring side, said Dice, includes extra services and extra revenue through the monitoring of access control systems and the providing of cards.
"I'm quite shocked by how it has taken off," conceded Dice, who has 20 monitoring customers involved with access control products.
Per Mar Security Services in Davenport, Iowa, is one of the companies that has begun testing access control monitoring.
"Conceptually, I think there's a lot of opportunity here and a niche in the market," said Mike Simpson, Per Mar's vice president and chief financial officer. "I think it will take off."
Simpson said offering an access control solution will fill a need in the market, especially among small and medium-size customers who don't have the wherewithal to maintain their own access control systems.
"The biggest challenge for us," said Simpson, "is the impact on the people." He cited training as one issue. "Anytime you add something like this or video--something outside the normal things you do--it takes time to do it well," he said.
Still, he said, "we can add this type of service and it will happen gradually. From our perspective, we have some pretty talented folks in our central station."
While Simpson said adding access control monitoring doesn't appear to be a technological challenge, Dory Walker, central station manager at Per Mar, said she sees some issues arising with after-hours situations. "Most needs will be handled during the day," she explained, but it will be the holidays customers forgot to allow for or the off-hours terminations that will present some challenges.
Simpson agreed that it will take education on the part of the central station and the customer to deal with those unique situations. Both will need to invest in training back ups, he said, "otherwise we'll get those frantic phone calls."
The decision to pursue access control is part of an overall one of becoming a one-stop shop for customers, said Simpson.
"Most security companies pick a niche," he said, but Per Mar handles alarm monitoring along with guard services and investigations. "We go after everything," he said. "Our goal is to provide all our services and products from each location and to be positioned to meet all security needs. We're very much aware of what's going on with our customer base and want to be able to react to their security needs," he said.
Like Per Mar, Doyle Security Systems, Rochester, N.Y., is also gearing up for installation of the HID-based access control system.
Jim Boller, director of sales at Doyle, said because the program has been written in conjunction with existing central station monitoring products, it will be a fairly seamless transition, with the information "hitting the same screen as they see with any alarm."
The idea of combining the new technology with existing ones, said Rod Coles, president of Bold Technologies, is part of the focus on having one point of control. "Traditionally they have been separate programs," he said. "We've put it (access control monitoring) right in the center of our software."
Having separate packages doesn't fit with the overall industry idea of integration, continued Coles.
Diebold's monitoring operation has also begun exploring access control monitoring, said Steve Ipson, director of monitoring services. Included in that, he said, would be everything from making changes for companies within their access control database and downloading changes to readers to using cameras on site to capture images and print new cards.
He said many customers that have their own access control systems "are tired of managing it or find it difficult to manage. We can do it cheaper than they can because of economies of scale."
Boller said while it's still early in the process, "the interest level (for access control monitoring) is out there. People are tired of doing this themselves."
One reason access control makes sense for central stations, said Boller, is because it is so entwined with existing alarm monitoring. "Access control is in our wheelhouse of monitoring and administering security systems for business owners," he said. "The two are intertwined. I really see it as the future."
Still to be determined is how well informed customers are on the availability of the product and how quickly they'll get on board.
Relying solely on the sales staff to get the word out "is pretty tough," said Simpson "Most of the marketplace doesn't know it exists. We have to figure out how to support it. It needs a marketing campaign and it has to be aimed at someone who is security minded."