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What’s behind the open-architecture door?

With the advent of IP communication, there are lots new players involved in access control from a manufacturer, integrator and end user perspective. These new players are stimulating lots of interesting innovations.

April 6, 2011  By Steve Bocking

In my opinion, the most important one is the move towards open architecture. Without going too much into detail, the basic function of a door controller is to open and close relays based on a person’s access rights — which in theory, is a less complex task than that of an IP camera which has many things to consider, video compression, resolution, PTZ, audio, etc., in order to manage the whole device. So it would seem that it would be easier to form a set of standards for a door controller to easily integrate with any third-party access control software. Yet, the video side of the industry is way ahead in terms of coming up with standards for IP cameras to easily function with multiple software vendors’ solutions.

While there has been a quick rise in the number of video surveillance software companies that don’t resell any IP cameras, the majority of the access control manufacturers sell software that works exclusively with the door controllers they manufacture (or rebrand and resell). The benefit for the manufacturer has been that if they sold a system with 30 doors, they were pretty much guaranteed to get any add-ons, as only door controllers sold by them would work with the rest of the system. This means that even if the end user or integrator is dissatisfied with the product or service from the manufacturer, often the cost to retrofit the whole system, to move to a new one, would eliminate the thought of changing.

However, with more and more door controllers using IP, the involvement of IT departments is no longer exclusive to IP video. I would say there is a relatively new group of users and system administrators that are helping the push towards open architecture. IT departments have become used to the concepts of open architecture in their management of other technologies and are quicker to question why their access control system is not. Secondly, the progressive access control manufacturers are now offering support for multiple types and brands of door controllers. Thirdly, standards groups are now starting to work on publishing standards for access control.

So knowing all this, I think it is important for integrators to start to question their preferred manufacturer about their open architecture strategy. Does their software support more than one manufacturer’s door controller? Is the door controller being used compatible with other manufacturer’s software? Do they plan to adopt any industry standards for open architecture?


It is always important to remember the end user is king. Both manufacturers and integrators that advise end users to choose future-proof systems are those that will most likely see more recurring business. In parallel, the manufacturers and integrators that offer service and product expertise will see long-term success with an end-user account. I think everyone would agree, the reason you want an end-user to continue doing business with you is because they are happy, not handcuffed.

Steve Bocking can be reached at sbocking@genetec.com

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