CORONADO, Calif. — Mercury Security, the leading OEM access control technology company, hosted its annual MercTech symposium here, near San Diego, March 2-3.
Now in its fifth year, MercTech convened around 50 consultants who interacted with representatives from several of Mercury Security’s top OEM customers. This year’s group of participating vendors included Avigilon, Feenics, Genetec, Honeywell, LenelS2, Open Options and RS2 Technologies.
The gist of the event is to provide a free-wheeling platform for consultants and OEM partners to discuss product roadmaps, identify and deliberate industry trends and challenges, and generally exchange ideas on the direction of the security industry.
Some rainy-at-times weather aside, the Loews Coronado Bay Resort provided postcard views of the Pacific Ocean and San Diego skyline, as the event unfolded in windowed conference rooms for general sessions and private suites for smaller gatherings with individual OEM partners.
Opening General Session
Mercury Security President Matt Barnette led off the general session on the first day with introductions and an overview of the company. Founded in 1992 (and acquired by ACRE in 2013), Mercury’s global distribution to date is around four million deployed open-platform panels. Barnette dished a bit of trivia to illustrate Mercury’s explosive growth since 2009: It took the company 17 years to reach one million globally-deployed controllers.
In all, the Long Beach, Calif.-based company provides its controllers and IO modules to about 25 OEM vendors. Here’s another factoid: Mercury’s total reader capacity that has been converted with its Casi Micro5 bridge product — 210,000. Barnette also reminded attendees there is a lot of business still to be had converting legacy Casi-Rusco systems, which are being supported through 2020.
Also in attendance were executives from ASSA ABLOY and HID Global, which acquired Mercury Security from holding company ACRE in 2017.
Harm Radstaak, managing director of physical access control at HID Global, addressed the opening general session to discuss, in part, the company’s connected architecture and Cloud services. He highlighted Origo, the recently launched platform that combines HID technologies for mobile IDs (and eventually location services) with its access control architecture to join physical security and a wide range of building applications, services and IoT use cases.
No matter the inexorable march to the Cloud and IoT adoption, Radstaak stressed that hardware will remain a foundation to future access control solutions. “Hardware is not going away … I am convinced of that,” he said.
Mercury Security Vice President of Engineering Michael Serafin addressed the session to provide a “product journey” that glanced ahead to upcoming feature sets to the Mercury and HID portfolios. Among them, apps on-board controllers. Along with a forthcoming reader manger-over-wire application, he said possible target areas could include hosted web apps, device protocol drivers, device integrations, diagnostic/troubleshooting tools, analytics processing and more.
Serafin also highlighted Mercury’s next-generation LP intelligent controller platform built on the Linux operating system. The new controllers are said to offer advanced security and performance, plus extensive support for third-party applications and integrations.
Attendees were told, as of 2019, Mercury Security no longer exists as an entity and has officially assumed the HID Global moniker. Mercury, however, will remain a brand within the HID family of products. HID competed against Mercury in the OEM market with its VertX and Edge controllers, and HID Global Director of Product Marketing Damon Dageenakis said these two lines will continue — although they will be reintroduced to the market under different names.
Dageenakis said the future VertX and Edge products will be marketed to medium-sized enterprises, mostly overseas, and will be materially different leveraging Mercury technology. Whereas Mercury boards are red, VertX will now sport blue boards and are due to hit the market in September. The Edge gear is scheduled for release in 2020. Neither VertX nor Edge is intended to compete with Mercury panels in the marketplace.
Among others to address the session, Donna Chapman from ASSA ABLOY, who serves as director, security consultant relations, previewed upcoming product releases. She highlighted the company’s collaboration to support mobile access capabilities for student IDs with Apple Wallet. She explained how student ID cards can be added to Wallet on iPhone with iOS 12 or Apple Watch with watchOS 5. ASSA ABLOY’s reader technology, combined with embedded HID technology in the company’s locks, will be part of a broader technology solution supporting mobile student IDs at Duke University and Oklahoma University.
Consultants Roundtable: Need for Integrator Training
A consultants roundtable anchored the second day of the event, which also included additional meetings with individual OEM partners. Although the roundtable was intended as an open dialogue, the need for additional integrator training — specifically surrounding the OSDP standard — consumed a considerable chunk of the session.
As specifications are increasingly calling for the installation of OSDP-enabled readers, and as the Wiegand wiring standard fades, installation challenges are becoming a pain point on projects, multiple consultants expressed.
“We are certainly seeing an uptick in OSDP both from the HID reader sales side and people requesting it from Mercury. The different manufacturers and the PACS providers handle OSDP differently,” Barnette explained. “Some of the dealers are shocked when they turn it on and the reader didn’t have an LED. They are used that being on by default, so I think there is still some standardization in how these things should come out of the box or they should be pushed down in configuration that does the basics right from the beginning.”
Ed Chandler, chairman of Security By Design, explained OSDP provides the functional capability of downloading firmware to readers, which is one of the highlights of the standard. However, that feature in general is not yet enabled because it is not entirely supported by vendors across product portfolios. Adoption is expected to increase, given the standard’s network-hardening features. Integrators need to be preparing for the day when Wiegand, a far more vulnerable standard, is necessarily put to pasture by a majority of specifiers.
“It is definitely a huge vulnerability to be running Wiegand today, just like it is a huge vulnerability with proximity cards and the earlier version of all the symmetric keys,” Chandler said.
As discussion of the topic proceeded, a resolution began to coalesce: the consultant community wants to see installation certification requirements around OSDP technology, among others, to better ensure more efficiency on job sites and fewer complications for end customers.
It was suggested, for example, that a specification could include a line item that states an integrator must have manufacturer certification or similar to be eligible for the project. The education topic also included discussion of working with the Security Industry Association (SIA), and possibly the Electronic Security Association (ESA), to create baseline training programs.
One thing is clear: It will take a village to remedy widespread training needs and requirements across the channel.
“I run into a lot of integrators with challenges, but like with a lot of integrator sins it’s not clear that we have given them the right tools,” commented Rodney Thayer, a network security practitioner with Smithee Solutions. “The specific example is the PACS vendors are not real good at helping get troubleshooting information and protocol traces and stuff like that. Once you fix that you can resolve a lot of issues.”
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