Security Sales & Integration: Getting a Read on Access Control in the New Year

January 13, 2021

By Rodney Bosch Article originally posted via Security Sales & Integration. Access Control Reader with person waving credential card in front The most recent market research by Omdia indicates the ongoing economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic may well have stifled access control sales in the past year, but new opportunities are nevertheless arising to meet end-user needs for newly preferred use cases. Revenues from the sales of access control equipment reached nearly $2.1 billion in North America in 2019, which accounted for more than one-third of the global market. By comparison, revenues were expected to decline nearly 12% in North America in 2020. Sales of control panels are most impacted, while electronic locks and software will be slightly less impacted by the pandemic, according to Bryan Montany, an access control market research analyst at Omdia. "The market will experience comparatively modest decline during the first half of 2021 before vaccines are introduced and distributed. Once vaccinations become widely available, the market will rebound and stabilize in the latter half of 2021," he forecasts. "By 2022, market growth rates will reach prepandemic levels, though market demand in several non-residential end-user sectors will not fully recover until 2023." Read on for additional market forecast insights as SSI also consults with subject matter experts from the manufacturing and integration segments to uncover opportunities around hardware and technology types in the year ahead.

Access Control Management Is Key

Like so much of the wider security industry, the access control market has been hit hard by construction project delays and protracted closures. Although the turmoil can be expected to continue well into the New Year, there are pockets of opportunity. For example, some end users continue to take advantage of lockdowns to pursue comprehensive retrofit projects of their security systems while their buildings have been emptied of occupants. Opportunities and annual growth rates for sales in the multifamily, utilities, healthcare and education sectors have remained vibrant and attractive. And while most of the lost growth in North America has been experienced in the retail and commercial sectors, the latter is expected to recover later in the year as occupancy levels rise. Managing the flow of large crowds of people and safety will be paramount when the recovery takes hold, says Jonathan Lach, vice president of sales for Paxton Access. "Managing and keeping track of flow, being able to make access decisions to buildings in real-time and having additional levels of safety control are what people are looking for today," he says. Lach cites commercial office space, education and healthcare as the top three vertical markets that Paxton expects to be most active for its solutions in 2021. He explains there are many ways that today’s access control can be used to greatly increase the safety and well-being of staff and site visitors. For instance, readers using contactless technology help to prevent the spread of infection by limiting contamination of door hardware. "Additionally, software features like being able to set checkpoints at various locations within a building or managing the number of people within a given area help to ensure a facility is more COVID-secure," he says. "These types of features can also help to control overcrowding and maintain social distancing in designated areas." Kastle Systems is closely following commercial building occupancy rates and expects this niche to present copious opportunity later in the year for its managed services. The company has been studying keycard, fob and app access data from the 3,600 buildings and 41,000 businesses it secures across 47 states. The anonymized data is being analyzed to identify trends in how Americans are returning to the office. "What we’ve been seeing is that no city anywhere in the nation has even reached 50% office occupancy. We’re confident that office occupancy will rise in the months to come, but in the meantime, commercial real estate office buildings need to plan and prepare for how they will have to adjust their spaces when we eventually return to the office," says Kastle CEO Haniel Lynn. With so many employees across a range of vertical markets still working remotely, system management has become extremely important for end users, explains Stephen Spinelli, senior vice president of sales for Napco Security Group. "It is no longer a question of reading a card and letting you in. It’s really how are you managing it today, which has completely changed the conversation than it was even eight months ago," he says. Hybrid solutions, especially, can oftentimes meet pandemic-era security and access control needs by providing remote management, Spinelli explains. Be it Cloud-based management, mobile management or on premise, remote connectivity allows users to gain access to the system via a portal and manage it just as if they were sitting in front of a PC in the office. "Management of these access control solutions is key. It opens up opportunities for the dealers for managed access control for these facilities," he continues. "Most of the end users don’t have the bandwidth to keep management of the systems."

Frictionless, Mobile Credentials Trending

The coronavirus pandemic has changed end-user considerations and priorities in ways that have presented opportunities for some innovative access control vendors. Certain technological trends, such as frictionless biometric readers, have been accelerated, Montany explains. Facial and iris recognition readers can also be expected to replace legacy readers with cleaner, safer alternatives that better protect the health and wellness of building entrants. "Most fingerprint readers sold in the market today require each entrant to physically interact with a reader’s interface, enabling these readers to become vectors for transmission of viruses," Montany says. "Adoption rates for frictionless readers have trailed fingerprint readers in the past as they can be at least five times more expensive on average, but the additional cost will present less of a barrier during the global health crisis." The pandemic is projected to also boost demand for mobile credentials, which were already gaining traction. With the use of mobile credentials, entrants can avoid touching an ID card or badge by simply downloading a mobile application on their smartphones. This alternative will be particularly appealing for building owners of facilities that are frequented by many visitors or temporary contractors. "The use of mobile credentials has broadened to encompass a wider variety of end users, including universities, multinational corporations, and the industrial and manufacturing sectors," Montany says. In the context of COVID-19, society is experiencing a profound change in the way we interact within what use to be our everyday environment, says Frederick Trujillo, sales & operations manager, North America, for France-based STid, a provider of a wide array of readers as well as access management systems. "To meet this challenge, STid supplies contactless ID products and solutions that limit risks of contamination. Your smartphone, which is your most personal device, now becomes your key to access control thanks to its operations efficiency, smooth access and intuitiveness," he says. The user experience, as Trujillo describes, can be the wave of a hand to be granted access or a simple voice command like, "Hey, Siri, open door," to granting access without having to unlock the phone or open an app, even without removing the phone from a pocket or handbag. "Life becomes just a little easier in today’s world of COVID-19 with STid Mobile ID," he says. Users are issued a virtual credential to access facilities, based on the user’s profile. STid’s free online portal, a Cloud-based solution, allows for the management of virtual credentials so administrators can distribute and revoke credentials. "You can even allow for the user’s virtual credential to be transferred to a new smartphone one time in case the user upgrades their smartphone," Trujillo says. "This truly is an easy, yet effective way for users to receive their credentials without ever having to step foot at a facility." The clear trend in regard to mobile credentials has favored access control readers that accommodate both Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and NFC transmissions, Montany says. That is a projection Spinelli strongly concurs with, especially where it involves the management of access control solutions in the healthcare and educations markets. "The biggest change the market will see in 2021 is Bluetooth technology. Although it’s been available for some time, you now have an opportunity to provide the lowest total cost of ownership over all. For example, we offer no-charge Bluetooth mobile credentials. So it really reduces the cost to manage credentials." With Bluetooth-enabled credentials, no longer will HR personnel have to interact with users to issue credentials, Spinelli explains. "It’s a simple email that gets downloaded to your phone. You open up the app and then you have an electronic credential. It is like a one-click issuance for a mobile credential and overall provides that contactless interaction."

Emphasis on Video Integration

One indelible mark the pandemic has created is a corporate imperative to reimagine risk and security, as well as strengthen collaboration across the business. Prior to the pandemic, the introduction of integrated security platforms led to further unification of security systems under a single comprehensive software application. The most significant advantage of connecting security domains through such a platform is the capability to manage each associated system through one centralized software hub with one user interface. Traditionally, Montany explains, security personnel had to monitor different access control, video surveillance and intrusion alarm programs, but a security integration platform can aggregate and present data across all these domains, streamlining daily security operations. "In 2019, video surveillance remained the most frequently integrated security domain with access control systems. Based on the Omdia analysis, over 80% of all integrated access control systems are at least partially integrated with video surveillance systems," Montany says. "Demand for fully integrated access control and video surveillance systems has substantially increased as the cost of these unified systems has fallen." For those businesses and facilities where employees may not be accessing the site as frequently, or at all, it remains evermore crucial to protect the space. Here, video plays a key as part of an overall security solution. Kastle Systems created a new video security operations center to provide live monitoring of cameras by its security experts. Clients can also self-monitor using live viewing and push notifications. The company views video surveillance as especially needed in the short term to monitor workplaces when there are fewer staff present onsite, Lynn explains. Then, more sophisticated access control solutions will become necessary to screen and monitor occupants entering the workplace to give tenants and their staffs the confidence to return to the office. "This has been an essential difference for our commercial real estate and multifamily customers, who are looking for ways to protect their spaces and people during this pandemic," Lynn says. Of course, a pre-COVID security solution is not necessarily going to be imagined or designed the same as a post-COVID solution. Where once life-safety stakeholders had security foremost in mind, a reimagined solution may well now encompass security, health and safety, Identiv CEO Humphreys says.
"And that’s what everybody wants from any of their systems. The cool thing is access control systems — especially access with video, intelligent readers and credentials — is a perfect platform for security, health and safety because you can correlate the metadata of people’s behaviors and activities," he says.
If a facility elects to add in temperature testing, for example, it is uncomplicated enough to have users tap their access card and have their temperature taken.
"Now you’ve got that metadata associated with that person," Humphreys says, "instead of just some kiosk or some person sitting in front taking temperatures and the data goes virtually nowhere." He adds, "So there are ways that you can use — especially an access control and video management integrated system — that really create an environment for security, health and safety, which we all now have to be attuned to delivering."