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Low-cost cameras, access card concerns, where is the money in security now?

Low-cost cameras, access card concerns, where is the money in security now?
The security industry has evolved quite a lot over the past decade as digital technology and integrated solutions made inroads into the market. A major question that bothers security systems integrators (SI) and solution providers now is where is the sales opportunity? Is it in the surveillance camera systems? Analytics? Access control systems? Where should you concentrate to further your business?

Answers from industry experts might surprise you. According to Larry Reed, CEO of ZKteco USA, sales opportunities are certainly not in surveillance cameras or DVR hardware anymore. Camera sale profits have nose-dived dramatically due to fierce competition and price wars waged amongst competing vendors, especially from overseas manufacturers and suppliers.

"The beef WAS in access control 10 years ago. And although prices for access control panels and card readers have come down significantly, the recurring revenue from consumables (i.e., cards) remains attractive to dealers,” Reed said. “But today’s customers are examining their operations more closely. And many by now have reached that line in their accounting ledgers which notes the ongoing replacement cost of prox cards. So, does the access control ‘beef’ go away if/when customers finally stop purchasing cards? How can the access control industry maintain its ‘beef’ as it appears to become equally commoditized as the surveillance camera industry?”

Biometrics is the answer, but SIs are reluctant

Reed suggests that the next big thing in the security industry, especially as far as the business sales opportunity is concerned, is biometrics. According to ABI Research, the biometrics industry has grown into a US$26 billion industry. However, SIs still appear to be reluctant to recommend biometric products to their customers because of three unsubstantial claims, according to Reed.

1. Perception/excuse that biometrics is cost-prohibitive for commercial customers
2. Perception/excuse that biometrics would be rejected by customers due to its complexity
3. Perception/excuse that biometric accuracy/identification read-rates are unacceptable

"The reality is, biometrics is NOT that expensive,” Reed said. “There are many competing fingerprint reader manufacturers today driving down the cost of fingerprint readers. Some of these vendors can produce fingerprint readers which approximate the cost of today’s prox card readers. Even face readers aren’t relatively that expensive. If you do your research, you’ll find biometric vendors who can deliver quality products at prices customers can easily afford, at least when it comes to restricting access to their high-value assets (i.e., cash rooms, warehouse, computer room, etc.).”

Biometrics is not that too complex compared to the key-pad technology either. Reed pointed out that for the most part, biometric readers share the exact same wiring, power and communication requirement as do keypad and card readers (i.e., 12V power, TCP/IP/RS485 communication, 12V relays and Wiegand output). From keypad to iris recognition, readers differ only by their sensor (i.e., PIN code, card sensor, fingerprint sensor, face sensor, iris, etc.).

The fear that biometrics is not accurate is misplaced as well, as the technology has improved dramatically over the past three to five years primarily due to improved image capture technology and faster processors. Anyone with a bias against biometric readers either hasn’t tested one in the past three years or haven’t tested enough vendors. While some vendors’ technology lags, other vendors have stellar, reasonably priced biometric technology.

So, with the three major myths about biometric technology busted, it appears that if SIs want to gain market share and stand out in the market, biometrics is the way to go. In Reed’s own words, they need to stop making excuses and “look for the beef.” 

“Also, don’t lose sight of the fact that if you are not offering biometric technology as an option, your competitors could very well be stealing YOUR beef,” Reed concluded. “For example, if you’re a traditional card access control supplier who doesn’t offer biometrics . . . when your customers seek out a biometrics supplier, that biometrics supplier can very well steal your card access business. Customers like one-stop shopping. So why risk sending your customers to a competitor? Don’t share your beef, either.”


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