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IP Video and Access Control Systems integration business case is clear, but why has it not yet taken off?

Photo of Frank Crouwel, Managing Director of NW Systems GroupThe physical access control market is already a substantial one. IHS (formerly IMS Research) valued it at $3 billion globally in 2012 and projected its CAGR of 7% over the next five years (source: IHS report 2013). There is no doubt that the business case for Access Control System (ACS) integration with IP video strengthens when you consider the backdrop of the rise of what is commonly referred to as the ‘intelligent’ or ‘smart’ building (see for example the SmartBuilding Conference 2014).

Smart buildings today are designed to be controlled through touch-screen user interfaces which are tailored to users of that building who might be the building’s facilities manager charged with managing that building. Or take the example of a teacher trying to get the Audio Visual (AV) system to show a film to students in a lecture theatre. Designers of smart buildings’ building automation systems have an ambition to integrate all systems in the building so that it becomes possible for that teacher to use a simple touch screen user interface located in each lecture room to control the lighting, heating and ventilation (HVAC), as well as the AV system, adjusting audio volume and then checking when the next fire alarm test is due to avoid disturbance during the film being played.

With the vision of the smart building in mind, access control-IP video system interoperability is immediately valuable in the context of a desire to keep a building secure, ensuring only authorised individuals can access the building or certain rooms or areas. Access control systems demand that users of a building carry a RFID Identity (ID) tag or equivalent to give them access through doors.

When unauthorised individuals are trying to get through specific doors into secure areas without an appropriate ID tag this should send an alarm to a guard or facilities manager. But with proper integration with IP video it is also possible to record high resolution images of the individual who has triggered the alert. So in a large building it becomes much easier to apprehend an unwelcome guest.

So powerful building control systems could deliver an alert to the control desk or send a message to a security guard’s smart phone, with a link attached to it to live video which tells him which door has been breached and provides a view of the person concerned. In an IP-enabled world all this is possible today. So from a security perspective ACS and IP video should be one of the first integrations to happen in new smart buildings, many in the professional security industry would surmise. So, why isn’t it happening in a big way in Europe yet and is this likely to change any time soon? There are some barriers to progress…

Fragmented ACS market 

The access control market is a complicated and fragmented one. To give a quick overview, there are actually three core products which make up the access control systems (ACS) market. These are the readers, the controllers and the electronic locks themselves.

Across EMEA the market is still dominated by the big lock brands of Assa Abloy, Kaba SimonsVoss, Salto and UTC Fire & Security. There are also many different types of technology in use. They sometimes even work alongside each other to add extra security for government buildings for example. There are four different types of readers in wide use for example. These are:

  1. Magnetic stripe
  2. Smart card
  3. Proximity
  4. Biometric

Smart card readers use a number of different families of chips to hold information and transmit data. These are:

  1. LEGIC
  5. CPU

MIFARE chips, for example, which are manufactured by Netherlands-based chip manufacturer NXP Semiconductors, are widely used in contactless smart cards and proximity cards.

There are also four types of biometric reader in common use:

  1. Finger print recognition
  2. Facial recognition
  3. Iris recognition
  4. Finger vein analysis

In the controller space there are:

  1. Standalone controllers using offline keypads
  2. Serial controllers using the RS-485 standard
  3. IP devices controlled via an internet interface or PC only

RS485-controller panels make up about two-thirds of the market today whereas IP-enabled devices are probably rising towards 25% today. That said, the majority of new installations are fitting IP-based access control systems.

Many locks are still offline and un-networked. Those that are online are either Electronic Cylinder or Electro Mechanical (EM). EM locks, as the latter are called, are either hardwired in or provide wireless communications.

They are linked to individual Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) reader at each door which itself links back to a hub controller. RFID technology is increasingly being replaced by the proximity card readers.

Barriers to open systems adoption

One of the barriers to open systems adoption is the fact that many of the leading ACS manufacturers produce their own software as well as hardware, unlike the video world where generally they do one or the other. This fact means there is a greater preponderance towards proprietary systems.

This being the case integration between systems can be extremely tough and expensive and frankly the perceived value of the integration may be outweighed by the cost of completing it.

The fact that the Video Management System (VMS) market is highly fragmented as well, with many players offering many different solutions, does not help either.

In addition, the integration needs to be tight for its value to be fully realised. There is no scope for any latency in the communication between ACS and the VMS.

The industry analyst IHS also believes that there is less momentum for open systems because the ROI associated with linking ACS with other systems is less apparent. In other words it tends to be geared to specific benefits which the customer places a value on.

Another barrier has been the lack of education amongst end-users about the potential for integration. But this is now changing with ‘intelligent’ or ‘smart’ building systems receiving increasingly more media attention and government bodies and larger corporations looking for continuous efficiency improvements and energy savings.

Further, Access Control Systems are deployed during the fitting out of a new or refurbished building whereas IP video systems often come later in response to a specific security risk once the building is in use. This timing difference prevents much thought being put into integrating the two.

Exception that proves the rule

However one market leading open systems-architected Video Management Software provider, Milestone Systems, has had the vision to invest in deep two-way technology partnerships with some key ACS providers, including Paxton. These two companies have been working together for more than three years to resolve integration issues and ensure full two-way integration between each other’s platforms. We experienced the value of this integration in a recent customer install for BAM Nuttall.

Smooth ACS and IP video integration makes a massive difference and means that you can show clear benefits to the customer very rapidly.


Despite evidence of legacy technology barriers to interoperability between access control and video management systems it also clear that as the smart building revolution continues to gain ground, the pressure on designers of buildings and specifiers of systems is to select IP and open architected system providers. These systems in turn can link into centralised building management systems. Much of the innovation today in both the ACS and VMS markets is coming from exploring the full potential of bringing these systems together.

Blake Kozak, senior analyst for Access Control, Fire and Security at IHS Technology said: “New entrants will certainly have an interesting role to play in the access control industry in the coming years, especially since many of them have products which touch upon the trend for customers to gravitate towards solutions which offer rapid return on investment; are easy to use; offer easy connectivity with other systems; are cloud-based and ideally offer remote management from mobile devices.”

Published on March 18th, 2014 by Frank Crouwel

One Response to “IP Video and Access Control Systems integration business case is clear, but why has it not yet taken off?”

  1. Renay Simerly says:

    Great site. Cheers for posting.