Exclusive: The data which predicts the future of access control

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Wireless access control looks set to transform security into 2022 and beyond, reports ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions.

The 2020s will be a wireless decade. From headphones to hoovers — and banking to bike hire — consumers reap the benefits when they cut the cables and adopt a wire-free technology. The same applies to electronic access control, where business benefits include improved cost-efficiency and flexibility. Wireless technology gives organisations greater control over who should have access, where and when.

The “move to mobile”, growing importance of ecosystems and the cloud are just a few of the trends identified in a new report sponsored by ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions, with exclusive analysis from Omdia. The report reveals data from a survey of 400 security professionals across Europe and farther afield. Respondents included end users, installers, integrators and consultants serving large corporations and small- to medium-sized organisations in education, healthcare, industrial, commercial, infrastructure, retail, banking and other sectors.

Survey data confirms over a third (38%) of end users have now deployed wireless locks as part or the whole of their access control solution. The corresponding data point from ASSA ABLOY’s 2014 Report was 23% — representing a rapidly growing role for wireless in little more than five years.

“Electronic access control continues to become a wireless technology,” says Russell Wagstaff, Platform Director at ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions EMEIA. “Even after more than a year when many long-term investments have been deferred or curtailed, the report still finds increased adoption of wireless locks and access systems.”

Mobile access control: Is convenience now king?

Is mobile access control — based on digital credentials or “virtual keys” stored and managed on a smartphone — a security technology of the future? In fact, data from the report and multiple other sources suggests mobile access is booming in the here and now. Among those surveyed, 26% of access control end users already offer some kind of mobile compatibility; 39% plan to roll out mobile access within two years. Before the mid-2020s, perhaps two-thirds of access systems will make use of the smartphone.

What drives this rapid adoption of mobile? Survey data cited in the Report pinpoints convenience — for both system users and facility managers. “Nearly half (47%) agreed that mobile was more flexible than physical credentials and 36% believe that mobile credentials make it easier to upgrade employee access rights at any time,” says the report. In short, the smartphone becomes a mobile key just as easily as it transforms into a payment card or a map. The device which users already carry lets them unlock buildings or rooms, across one or multiple sites, securely and at a lower cost to the business than alternative credentials.

Arkansas State University Campus Querétaro (ASUCQ), for example, uses the Openow mobile solution instead of keys or key-cards. Staff and students store their virtual keys inside an app. The smartphone communicates with lock readers via standard mobile protocols, exactly as an access card would. There is no difference in the locking hardware, only the credential. Campus managers can amend every virtual key’s access rights whenever they want, in real time if necessary.

Omdia data suggests mobile credential downloads grew by 220% between 2018 and 2019 alone. The report continues: “The growing appreciation of the convenience and cost benefits such solutions can bring, combined with much greater accessibility as vendor offerings grow and prices drop, are two factors playing into this trend.” The adoption of mobile technology in access control shows no sign of slowing.

Convergence: Interoperability and its obstacles

Over 90% of survey respondents identified the importance of integration across building functions. Access control is critical to building performance: Half or more would prioritise electronic access system integration with CCTV, alarm and visitor management systems, according to the report.

“The introduction of security integration platforms has led to further unification of security systems under a single comprehensive software application,” explains Omdia’s Bryan Montany. “The most significant advantage of connecting security domains through such a platform is the capability to manage each associated system through one centralised software hub with one user interface.”

The business benefits of access control hardware integration can be substantial. Aperio technology, for example, powers wireless locks which integrate seamlessly with third-party systems from more than 100 different manufacturers. A recent online integration with the AXIS A1001 Network Door Controller enables managers at H-Farm in Italy to control access to doors at multiple sites from a single Axis interface. “At the end of the day, it costs less for the end user,” says Ernst Westerhoff, Axis’ Business Development Manager for Access Control in Middle Europe, in an interview discussing the integration.

Platforms and ecosystems: An integrated, multi-function future

As the way we live and work continues to change, people, data and goods move more fluidly than ever. It already seems less useful to think about building management functions in isolation, as the report’s findings on integration show. Rapid urbanisation, technological change and shifting patterns in global working put all buildings systems to use simultaneously, every day. How can a new generation of security technology address this?

“We are on the brink of significant change in access control. In fact, change beyond access control,” says Kevin Hoare, Incedo Business Unit Director at ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions EMEIA. “As manufacturers — a leader in the security market for many years — our challenge is to develop solutions which create a seamless experience for security managers and building users: genuinely joined-up, intelligent solutions designed to meet the changing needs of our customers.”

Across many industries — including security — such future-oriented solutions must think bigger than technologies, devices or even systems. In one Accenture survey, 76% of business leaders identified “ecosystems” as the main agent of change for existing business models. A single, all-encompassing security ecosystem can deliver this connectivity and convenience. It can keep premises secure and filter access to manage the ever-changing movement of people, while protecting investment by creating a dynamic base on which future security products and technologies can interoperate.

“This is the approach we adopted for our new Incedo platform,” explains Kevin Hoare. “With Incedo’s modular ecosystem approach, customers simply choose the access control hardware and credentials they need and the appropriate management system. Everything is managed from a single interface.

“In addition, with the recent launch of the Incedo Plus management option, third-party systems like video surveillance and alarms can also be managed directly from Incedo.”

Control in the cloud: Security and service

Over a third of end users now manage access control in the cloud (35%) and of those around a third employ third-party hosting — Software as a Service (SaaS) or Access Control as a Service (ACaaS).

In security and beyond, cloud services are booming. One recent Forester analysis forecasts 35% growth in the global market for public cloud infrastructure in 2021 alone. Research & Markets estimate the demand for Access Control as a Service (ACaaS) will grow at 19.8% annually through 2027. Within that, the Hosted Service sector is expected to experience even faster growth: over 24% annually.

Over a third of end users surveyed for the Wireless Access Control Report 2021 now use cloud management for access control. Why do they increasingly choose cloud solutions? The familiar answers — cost and convenience — are supported by report data. A majority of respondents chose “the ability to manage my security from any location at any time” (55%) or “to effectively manage IT infrastructure costs” (50%), or both, from a list of business priorities.

”A SaaS solution makes budgeting more predictable for facility and security managers,” says Thomas Åkerberg, Business Unit Director CLIQ & Pulse at ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions EMEIA. “It removes the need to hire additional in-house IT support and maintenance teams: You know ahead of time how much resource to allocate and can scale infrastructure up or down quickly. One of Germany’s major multi-location food businesses already relies on cloud-managed, key-based access control from ASSA ABLOY, for example.”

Sustainability: Energy efficiency in the spotlight

Report data supports the relevance of sustainability. Only one survey respondent in ten suggested sustainability would have no impact on their security technology procurement in the next five years. Over a third say it will impact their commissioning planning “to a great extent.”

The survey reveals the key areas where access control has an impact: wireless technology and energy efficiency. Over half of respondents placed cable-free installation and operation at the top of a list of ways access control can contribute to an organisation’s sustainability goals.

The report notes: “There are energy-harvesting options now available in the market and many wireless systems ‘switch off’ when not in use, [so] perhaps this represents a development opportunity… as we move towards a more sustainable future.” ASSA ABLOY Pulse key-operated electronic locks, for example, run autonomously without wiring or batteries. Kinetic energy harvested from turning the key powers lock microelectronics.

“Across multiple sector trends and megatrends impacting the access control ecosystem — and in almost every vertical — scalability, flexibility, sustainability, cost-efficiency and convenience are major considerations for 2021… and far beyond,” concludes Russell Wagstaff.

To download a free copy of the Wireless Access Control Report 2021, visit https://campaigns.assaabloyopeningsolutions.eu/wacreport2021  

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