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For facility managers, open, interoperable systems can deliver many benefits, from lower life cycle costs to the ability not to be locked in to a single vendor. Over the past 20 years, BACnet, LonWorks and other standard protocols have brought openness to building automation and HVAC systems, transforming the way those systems communicate. Now, the same process is underway in the security industry, where open communication standards are beginning to take hold, says Steve Van Till, president and CEO of Brivo, a SaaS company offering physical access control, video surveillance, and mobile credentials for commercial buildings. In the past few years, three organizations have introduced open communication standard for access control products, says Van Till, who also chairs the standards committee for the Security Industry Association (SIA). One of those recent open communications standards came from SIA. That standard governs the relationship between access control card readers and door controllers. The SIA standard is being very widely adopted, says Van Till.
Another standard was developed by ONVIF, an organization best known for standards that are widely used by video surveillance product manufacturers. ONVIF aims to develop standardized interfaces for interoperability of IP-based physical security products. One of those interfaces is for communication between controllers and management software for access control systems. Another industry group, The Physical Security Interoperability Association (PSIA), has also developed a standardized approach to the relationship between controllers and access control system management software. PSIA says that its “specification” aims to “standardize the communication into access control and intrusion products, making them interoperable with the overall security system.”
Neither of those communication interfaces has been widely adopted by access control product manufacturers. “We’re really very early in that process in security,” says Van Till. The existence of competing standards is reminiscent of the early days of BACnet and LonWorks, when facility managers had to choose between two different approaches to interoperability. “I think it’s going to follow a similar course [in security],” says Van Till. “It will be interesting to see which one wins.” There’s also what Van Till calls a “de facto” open standard for access control products. Mercury Security hardware is widely used in the access control industry. That hardware is based on the company’s Authentic Mercury open architecture model, which has been adopted by about 25 access control software providers, Van Till says. The Authentic Mercury platform amounts to an industry standard because the platform’s API (application programming interface) has been so widely adopted by software companies. End users that purchase Mercury hardware can choose among the software providers that have adopted the Mercury API. “If for some reason [end users] fall out of love with the software provider, they can switch to another head end software,” Van Till says. Brivo recently became an Authentic Mercury partner, implementing the Mercury API as an option on the Brivo OnAir cloud-based system. And Mercury has implemented the PSIA specification as an option, marking another step on the industry’s path to open systems.;