Access to Partnerships

Access to Partnerships

Everyone has a partnership in some form or fashion. Usually, one partner supports the other, and the two together make a strong and formidable bond. It works that way in the security industry between any number of manufacturers. In fact, we’ve published numerous press releases over the years of companies touting their new found relationships.

Partnerships are an extremely efficient way to keep the open architecture alive and well in the industry, and most generally, end users are the benefactors of the strength of a partnership. For 25 years, Mercury Security has been building products that are only sold through partners. The core technology designed, developed and manufactured by Mercury Security—access control panels, firmware and the software that drives them—is accentuated and brought to market by Mercury partners to help customers solve problems.

“End users should be asking for three things,” said Matt Barnette, president of Mercury Security. “Cyber-secure products, interoperability and open standards. These are the essential ingredients to flexible systems that can stand the test of time. Security devices need to be cyber secure. Period. Mercury and our partners are building more functionality into the products to extend the capabilities of the system making them more interoperable. An open platform that incorporates industry open standards allows options. Minimizing the use of any proprietary products allows customers to be assured they are positioned for future growth as their requirements evolve and change.”

“By sanctioning these three features, customers can buy products and services at a competitive price and never have to worry about how to expand the system as their business grows. With the increasing danger of cyberattacks, only selecting products that are constantly being tested and upgraded is equally important. The manufacturers that are being selected need to have a clear cyber policy and a protocol that they can articulate to ensure end users are not opening themselves up to a problem.”

Barnette was recently named president of Mercury Security, and brought with him the ability to strengthen the partnerships already established by Mercury for more than two decades and define a roadmap to success with new potential partnerships. He does understand what makes the access control market tick.

“We believe access control is the backbone of any security plan. A good access control system provides the most fundamental security need; the ability to lock and monitor a facility, protecting a customer’s people, assets and intellectual property,” Barnette said. “With the addition of video and audio to the access control platform, a customer is empowered to control who can go where and when; they can also see the activity live and recorded plus have the ability to communicate bi-directionally. Without a strong access control product providing the core, the implementation of these disparate products are less capable and therefore bring customers diminished value.”

Access control has consistently been the most talked about security issue and solution over the past 20-plus years, and the major software vendors have continued to serve the market as it’s changed over the years. Barnette inherited a number of software providers that integrate with the Mercury hardware, including their top tier partners: Lenel, Avigilon, Genetec, Honeywell, Open Options and RS2 Technologies.

Historically, determining who is allowed to enter or exit a facility, where they are allowed to exit or enter, and when they are allowed to enter or exit was partially accomplished through keys and locks. When a door was locked, only someone with a key could enter through the door, depending on how the lock was configured. Mechanical locks and keys did not allow restriction of the key holder to specific times or dates. Mechanical locks and keys also did not provide records of the key used on any specific door, and the keys could be easily copied or transferred to an unauthorized person. When a mechanical key was lost or the key holder was no longer authorized to use the protected area, locks had to be re-keyed.

Electronic access control was initially introduced to solve these limitations of mechanical locks and keys, where a wide range of credentials can be now be used to replace mechanical keys. The electronic access control system grants access to unlock a door based on the credential presented, and the transaction is recorded. When access is refused, the door remains locked and the attempted access is recorded. The system will monitor the door and alarm if the door is forced open or held open too long after being unlocked. This was the basic function of physical access control systems in the beginning. Today’s access control goes quite a bit deeper, now serving a broader purpose as a hardware backbone, especially as systems are becoming more connected.

The evolution from simply solving the issues of using mechanical locks and keys with electronic access control was a giant step for the industry. Access control is now on the cusp of yet another generational leap of importance, as it is poised to serve as the foundation for many interrelated, complementary security and building systems in smarter buildings plus the IoT. An open access control model is critical to this evolution in the access control market.

“Our goal is to brand the access control industry the same way Intel branded the computer world, with ‘Mercury Inside,’” said Joe Grillo, CEO of Access Control Related Entry (ACRE), the parent company of Mercury Security. “Our intent with Mercury is to be more visible to help the industry understand the importance of open access control hardware in the overall holistic approach of the security system. We also expect to continue addressing ongoing trends, such as cybersecurity, wireless locks and the various abilities of a panel.”

Because access control is linked so tightly with a software solution, the inevitability is that there will be an evolution to the cloud, or at least Denis Hébert, CEO of Feenics, a Mercury partner, believes that to be the case.

“We owe the very latest technology available to the end user,” Hébert said. “It seems the access control community is generally slow in adopting new technology and solutions, but new trends are coming or are available now, that will change the way we think about access control. End users will pay by the month, and per door. End users will also have access to the data bank and can change anything necessary to make their access control system flow more smoothly. With a Mercury panel installed at their facility, a customer can have a system online in minutes.”

Because of its open architecture (platform), Mercury Security sees the market placing a lot more value in hardware, so much so that they are on track for a 50 percent growth rate through 2018. After several years focusing on Bridge products for the retrofit market to include Casi-Rusco, Infographics and Software House, this coming year is a time of renewal for Mercury with a refresh of the current product line. In addition, Mercury is working with other industry partners like HID, Technology Industries, Otis and Vingtor-Stentofon to integrate their products into the Mercury product ecosystem.

Looking forward to 2018, Mercury expects to introduce its Nex- Gen panel architecture, which will offer advanced features never before achieved in this industry—and in a new physical format. These will be available to all partners. Among the goals and concerns that Barnette expects to see in the near future are addressing higher security in the physical access world, as it will become crucial for security professionals to stay relevant in the IT world. Cybersecurity also is something to think about constantly. Barnette said cyber is now engrained in the Mercury culture as something to be reviewed with every product enhancement. It will be critical to make cybersecurity a top priority, through accountable policies and clear guidance on how to optimize and protect access control systems. And, of course, there is ongoing testing and training that every security company and enduser organization should conduct. Barnette said that assessments by outside laboratories are a good place to start, plus adding education and internal testing by implementing security tools and scanners that are widely available.

From a partner viewpoint, Chairman of Open Options Steve Fisher said working as a Mercury access control partner allows him to co-develop many new solutions and take ideas from concept to fruition. He described access control somewhat like a pyramid where, at the bottom of the pyramid, keys and locks still work, but as the end user moves upward, they expect products and solutions to do more and provide more security.

Fisher also pointed out that security consultants are a measuring stick of where the access vertical needs to—and can—move toward. Mercury Security spends significant time and energy working with these industry experts to understand the varying requirements they want to meet customer needs. Mercury partners like Open Options then turn these products into feature-rich offerings for their channel. When consultants base a design on the Mercury open architecture, their customers have a choice of multiple software platforms and a sense of confidence their investment will be sound.

“Access control is a huge segment of this industry,” Fisher said. “We believe that open architecture is the message.”

Access control is not a mysterious part of the security industry, and often goes unheralded. It is, however, the fundamental element of a security plan that allows an end user to gain entry to almost anything under certain parameters.

The idea of knowing who you are, where you are going and when you are allowed to go there makes access control one of the most important feature sets in the industry. Just because you can’t see the software interacting with the hardware doesn’t mean it’s not working. On the contrary, it’s working perfectly.

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Security Today.

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