EXCLUSIVE: How has access control evolved?

Lee Odess - SIA Advisory Board, access control

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SJA speaks exclusively with Lee Odess, access control thought leader, consultant, speaker, author and Chair of the Security Industry Association Proptech Advisory Board.

Can you tell us more about your journey and background in the industry?

I first had one leg in the security industry in 1999 when I was at Lutron Electronics, then in 2009 when I started Energy+Light+Control (ELC), a technology integrator in the DC metro market.

I worked closely with a security integrator, Urban Alarm, whom we brought in to execute security and access control systems. Urban Alarm was a Brivo dealer, and when I sold ELC, I wanted to get back into the manufacturing side of the business. Brivo happened to be in the Bethesda, MD market where I lived, so made the introduction to Steve Van Till, CEO of Brivo.

I joined Brivo in 2012, which was both feet in the security industry – and the rest is history. From that point forward, I stayed on the manufacturing side of the business, either in access control or the lock industry, until eventually going out on my own with Group337 and now Access Control Executive Brief.

What are the major trends in access control that you are seeing today?

There are many trends currently impacting the access control industry. However, to highlight some less obvious ones, like mobile and cloud, I will distil it down to three that I believe are having massive impacts on our industry:

First, the access control industry has entered a mass or mainstream market versus only the historical high security cottage market. It is important to note that this new market is not about being better than the high security market. This new market is “and,” not “or.” It just comes down to where you want to focus. This opportunity is about increased awareness, opportunity and value. We have forever been a high security industry focused on applications like airports, schools and hospitals.

We then applied the same technology or said it was either a mechanical-driven solution or one for consumer products. Now, mainly due to software, we are seeing a vertical focus and more of an enterprise software market. That has pushed market demand and opportunity broader. To quantify it, it’s the difference between a $70b global market versus a $10b global high security market. That $60b difference is summarized as the value created beyond locking and unlocking, driven by software.

The second trend is just that, software, or better summarized as it goes beyond technology, to an overall digital transformation. Historically the access control industry has been slow to adopt change due to “security reasons,” but what has been a feature (slow adoption) is becoming a bug in certain use cases. Our resistance to change and, in some cases, lack of curiosity has massive business implications. It has allowed some companies to garner a more prominent voice, introduced new external threats and reshaped the ecosystem.

We have also started to see a new channel emerge focused on access control as an enterprise software solution. This new channel is called an independent software vendor (or ISV) and a systems integrator (or SI, which is very different from a security integrator). This new channel is driven by end user demand and finding places within the ecosystem that say “yes” versus “no” regarding software integrations, dashboarding and more advanced system optimization.

The move to a mass market industry and new channel leads us to a third trend – the need for a new type of manufacturer certification and training programs based around community and currency, not access to products. Forever, we have relied on associations and, unfortunately, some blogs to cover the basics of security while manufacturers handled the steps needed to get access to their products and specialize. The process has been very “one and done,” with the periodic recertification.

1-ISJ- EXCLUSIVE: How has access control evolved?

Still, it has yet to evolve to incorporate advancements and broader educational trends like community building for belonging, sharing and crowdsourcing. Look no further to Salesforce and its Trailblazer program for a great example of a current certification and training program. When it comes to currency, what I am describing is the ability of a company to leverage its brand awareness as a career accelerator for individuals where participants who go through the process can see a fundamental increase in compensation and market influence by carrying said company’s “badge.”

Again, look no further than Salesforce and its Trailblazer program. They have more than just currency. They have a rabid population going out of their way to celebrate their achievements and an even bigger community waiting to cheer them on. We need this. Many trends are impacting our business, but those three represent the massive opportunities and changes in our industry.

How important is digital transformation in the development of the access control industry?

As mentioned above, it is crucial. I cannot think of a more impactful paradigm over the past 30 years, meaning the life of electronic access control. Without being overly dramatic, it is a fundamental shift that is restructuring the fabric of our industry. Unfortunately, the industry has often primarily focused on digital transformation’s technical impacts.

Still, the more disruptive changes will be in how we do business and whom we do business with or, as some call it, the non-technical aspects of the industry. This non-technical transformation includes bringing the product to market, communication, pricing and, ultimately, our expectations. That is why I was so excited to see the Security Industry Association (SIA) start its Proptech Advisory Board and why I was so eager to participate in it.

Can you tell us more about your role as Chair on the SIA Proptech Advisory Board and the purpose of this Board?

Yes, I was asked to be the first Chairman of the Proptech Advisory Board. My primary mission is to work with Edison Shen of the SIA, help get it off the ground, organize the mission and next steps, drive participation and start to bridge the security industry with the Proptech market.

The SIA Proptech Advisory Board was created to foster engagement between the PropTech community and the global security industry through partnerships, education and thought leadership. The group’s objectives are:

  • Education: Developing educational content such as presentations, collectively researched papers, webinars, informative newsletters and curated resources and making them available
  • Thought leadership: Commenting on and providing feedback on initiatives inside and outside of the SIA that focus on PropTech, including standards activities, legislation, position papers and requests from the media
  • Networking: Partnering and collaborating with companies and organizations on PropTech-related activities

How important is it to ensure positive user experiences as well as effective security?

As an industry, one of our core value propositions is keeping end users safe. We have approached this core value proposition by putting barriers in place – locks, doors etc. So, ironically, in some ways, we have purposefully created an industry centered on negative user experiences to achieve the ultimate positive user experience of keeping them safe.

But, that has been our mission, and we were doing a good job as long as we did that. Additionally, we have never focused on a direct relationship with the end user as an industry. They were a card, and we concentrated on the channel. The channel took care of the customer and the customer took care of the end user. That is just how it was.

But, like many things, especially with mobile and software, the game has changed and we need to evolve. The companies in our industry that are leading this new mainstream enterprise software market that includes access control and goes beyond locking and unlocking will also be expected to deliver positive user experiences.

Because, if they don’t, they will be replaced or relocated to a commodity as external software solutions that sit beside them or on top of them create and receive the lion’s share of new value made. Shame on us if we do not take the opportunity afforded to us. Since we have permission, we should lead.

This article was originally published in the December edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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