Industry Perspective

A conversation with Denis Hébert

LEADING the access control industry as a supplier and manufacturer, HID has been part of the worldwide marketplace for years with identity card issuance systems, including secure card printers and encoders. Recently, the company announced its plan to acquire Fargo Electronics to strengthen its position with secure cards and electronic access control. We spent a few minutes with HID's CEO Denis Hébert to get a few answers.

Q. This acquisition seems to expand the opportunities for both HID and Fargo. With a national identification credential program in the works, will this merger be of even greater benefit?

HID has always operated on a worldwide basis and what we're doing is offering new innovative technologies to the access control and identity space, which provide greater benefits for the customer.

A. While we have entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Fargo Electronics Inc., the transaction is still subject to Fargo stockholder and regulatory approvals. As such, we are unable to respond to questions about the acquisition because we are in a "quiet period."

Q. HID recently released the multiCLASSTM access control reader, the VertXTM central station managed access controllers and AxioTM RFID electromechanical lock cylinders. Coupled with the company's Asure ID® Exchange software, it appears the revolution will take on a worldwide marketing platform. Detail the genesis of the products and the worldwide program.

A. HID has always operated on a worldwide basis and what we're doing is offering new innovative technologies to the access control and identity space, which provide greater benefits for the customer.

multiCLASS access control readers permit a seamless migration for customers from the former proximity technology to iCLASS technology. The VertX platform serves an underdeveloped segment in the market in the application of a recurring revenue model for selling access control. The Axio RFID electromechanical cylinders promote a greater expansion of access control in existing installations and facilities by bringing decisions to the door in a disconnected fashion. Finally, Asure ID aims to solve some of the challenges that customers have in creating credentials.

Q. RFID encompasses everything from simple devices to contactless smart cards. What is the current research on RFID viruses? What is HID focused on for such applications as product identification in retail?

A. First of all, in the proximity world, viruses can't affect our cards because it's a one-time programmed number that is put in the card. Since it doesn't write to the card, there is no virus that can go with the card. In the smart card world, the technology is based on enhanced security provided through encryption and mutual authentication, making it less susceptible to tampering.

As indicated by our CTO Peter Lowe, the reality is that readers never interpret the contents of a card as executable code; they always interpret the contents as data only.

We have nothing to do with product identification in retail. We're strictly focused on the identification of people and their flow, which is, in turn, managed by access control systems. The role we play with our products is to identify a credential (and hence, the holder) via our cards and readers. After that, the decisions are made by access control systems.

Q. HID has recently named Kathleen Carroll as director of government relations. How is she spearheading HID's RFID privacy initiatives?

A. We created Kathleen's position to proactively address the use of RFID and the associated privacy concerns. When people talk about problems with privacy, their problem is the application of technology, not the technology itself. With that in mind, Kathleen's role is to help increase the understanding and knowledge about RFID and its applications in the identification space.

She will help bridge the communication gap between the use of technology, and its benefits, and the rightful privacy concerns. In addition to developing materials to educate legislators on RFID technology, its benefits and inherent security features, she is working to create and support public policies that safeguard individual privacy while fostering the responsible use of RFID technology.

Q. In March, HID announced the formation of HID Global. What is the focus of this new business entity and what services has the company targeted for the worldwide consumer?

A. HID Global is a response to channel dynamics in our industry and represents a unique opportunity to expand the value we bring to the market by focusing on the needs of the channels that serve users of our products worldwide. It was established to align the resources that were focused on access control channels. We have structured the organization to better serve those channels and their unique needs.

The value proposition this represents to our channels and the users of our products is a more complete service and product offering, enabling easier migration solutions to newer, more powerful technologies.

Q. While the goals of security professionals remain pretty much the same in offering secure protection, what products and strategic goals are planned from HID? And what is your outlook for the security industry overall?

A. I expect that there will be a paradigm shift on two levels: technology and channels, with technology pushing the convergence of physical and logical access.

In terms of technology, there will be a de-linking of components. Today, there's a certain separation, but as we look toward the future, the separation becomes more distinct. For example, when people put bids out for cards, they do not ask for readers. They will have another RFP for readers, separate from the cards. In the smart card world, you can do that. Vendors used to sell complete systems. Today and in the future, standards will drive interoperability between components, much like the IT world.

This convergence demands the use of IT infrastructures. So for channels, the dynamics will change as there is a move for products to be IT-centric. IT directors start managing the budgets for physical access, on top of the logical access that they already handle. So I expect that a more IT-centric security focus will demand industry standards for software and hardware compliance.

This article originally appeared in the August 2006 issue of Security Products, pg. 58.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .


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