How do I differentiate?

If I were a supplier of access control equipment today, a question I would be asking myself is how can I differentiate my product? You only have to visit one of the leading security trade shows to notice how the industry is engulfed in video surveillance with more than 500 suppliers showcased at ISC West 2011.

By Blake Kozak, Senior Research Analyst, IMS Research July 12, 2011

If I were a supplier of access control equipment today, a question I would be asking myself is how can I differentiate my product? You only have to visit one of the leading security trade shows to notice how the industry is engulfed in video surveillance with more than 500 suppliers showcased at ISC West 2011.

Product differentiation is a difficult task for suppliers of access control equipment. Often times the features for access control hardware are very similar, with the software being the true value-add. Furthermore, any differentiation is as much product range, as it is a product feature related. While the video industry has its own subtleties, the access control industry is an entirely different and more complex shade of gray. Unfortunately, a picture speaks a thousand words and access control will rarely make the daily news thwarting unwanted criminals and terrorists.

Having a single/ small product offering could prove to be lucrative since the access control industry is slow moving and overly loyal, but it is only a matter of time before the learning curve for integrators and end-users begins to flatten. Since access control can be a significant investment, end-users will seek out product ranges that will future proof subsequent investments. In doing so, how will the end-user know which brand to use?

Offering unique software and a complete product range has been a key differentiating factor in recent years but is this enough to survive in an ever changing security market?

Three things you need to consider are: 

  • Lowering the cost per door
  • Electromechanical (EM) Locks
  • NFC (Mobile Access)

Lowering the cost per door, can open up the market to a wider customer base. While large projects such as government facilities, and multi-nationals, are better suited for the bottom line, the penetration rate of electronic access control still remains small. For the end-user, the benefit of installing an electronic access system must outweigh the cost of rekeying/ issuing keys. By lowering the cost per door in terms of installation and hardware, more end-users can be introduced to the benefits of access control.  

Electromechanical (EM) locks, are possibly the fastest growing hardware type in the access control industry. EM locks have come a long way in recent years, transitioning from offline to wireless online, offering faster install and less wiring. Although there are still questions in how to power these devices, they certainly offer a truly diverse opportunity, used completely standalone, as a virtual network or wireless online.

NFC is a great concept, but its nothing new. While there are a number of suppliers actively promoting NFC, its progress is restricted due to the fortress of barriers that exist. Any further uptake will depend on a number of factors coming together, such as handset suppliers, application writers, security suppliers, government standards and testing. The end-user has to know how to use it, and perhaps more importantly, how to apply it to their conditions.