Scaling mobile in Physical Access Control. We can. Here is how.

April 7, 2020
Written Insights

Real talk about how to scale mobile adoption in commercial physical access control.

Anyone  in favor of seeing mobile as a common offering in the access control industry so we can move on to more added value innovation like what value mobile unlocks for the industry and consumers?

I am ready and after speaking to a good number of you, industry thought leaders (vets and new), it feels the sentiment is just that - it is time to move.  But for some reason the back channel conversations have not made it to the forefront. So let’s talk about it in an open forum.  

Here is what I have been having discussions about. Let me know if they resonate with you and you agree (or not). And if they do and you do, let’s keep it going as I think we, as an industry, need to be the change we want vs waiting for it to be changed for us. And if they do not or you do not, lets talk about it as an open discussion will add as much if not more value than the status quo we have today.

So here we go…

A classic rhetoric of “old guy security” is that mobile is not going to have the impact others believe it is because mobile has (1) been tried before and (2) we need cards, so who needs it when you have card.  You hear it manifest itself into ”my customers don’t want mobile.” (My question is…are you talking to the right people?) or “you won’t take my cards away because of [fill in the blank outlier].” (My question is…why when we talk about mobile does it go directly to a “this or that” conversation and we can’t talk about it as an option or compliment?).  So, I recognize the sentiment.  You are heard and I am going to put it aside as I think it is more about the fear of change vs relevancy of mobile.  

So, let’s talk about what needs to happen to move mobile forward.

Mobile in physical access control is a case of when not a case of if it is going to happen. On that point, if we are being real…it is already here. But it has not scaled yet and that is the right conversation to have.

What does “scale” look like and how do we scale it?

To me, what scale looks like is when there are zero press releases and booths with signage at ISC West showcasing “XYZ” companies new mobile offering. At that point it is a norm of the industry and we have moved to talking about the value it is creating.  What does scale look like to you?

Which leads us to, how do we get scale? In my opinion, this is where the hard work and discussions need to happen.  Here is what I have heard from many in the industry and what I think needs to happen to get mobile to scale. (In no particular order)

  • We hire marketing creatives or empower/allow your current marketing creatives to market more mainstream and…well…be creative. We get out of their way. We move beyond the spec sheets, hinge door panel photos or “we have mobile” banner ads and talk about what value mobile brings for customers and the industry. Speak to the consumers and value creation. And we get creative.  Adopt creative social media practices. Explore. Try. Use podcasts, videos, and become industry story tellers that the mainstream media and mainstream consumer market relate to, understand and see value in.
  • We need an industry reset on HID Seos and Mercury.  I think the marriage and dependency has reached the unhealthy stage and is slowing exponential growth of the industry (maybe not for ASSA ABLOY but definitely the industry).  The historical “we are the most secure” and “we are open” stories do not hold water anymore by measures outside of the industry (and frankly in the industry either). It is time to have a more relevant discussion and industry narrative.  Many believe it is not “more secure” and many believe it is not “open” but the voice of many seems to get watered down but the voice of a few that are really loud or have big megaphones. They have done a great job building the industry brand recognition and have invested above and beyond what most companies in our industry can/would, but it is time we as an industry take control of what secure and open is, how it is defined, and how we communicate it externally. The game has evolved. It is time for the industry to evolve.
  • While we are at it, can we all agree to put prox cards to bed or at least move them to a place where they are not as relevant?  It is a bit embarrassing as an industry that we promote this as much as we do.  The industry could use a collective push to support things like MIFARE DESFire EV2, get on the LEAF bandwagon, and start the move to PKI. We should lead as an industry, not lag.  
  • We should care less about the vehicle and more about the identity “on” that card or on the phone. A realignment and relabeling of “smart cards” is needed. Mirror some of what has gone on in logical access. There are great best practices there.  
  • As an industry, let’s open are arms to the mega techs, but first have clear point of views of where our value is and how to leverage it.  We need to have open, vulnerable, value added engagements, collaboration, and relationships with all the phone and operating system providers - Google, Apple, Samsung, etc.  If we refuse to engage or roll over, it will not be good for the industry, for the companies in our industry, for them, or for the consumer.  
  • Fix the business problem of how we charge for things as an industry.  I think its time to stop caring only about old legacy business models and start balancing those with new ones (note: I did not say the old legacy ones are bad. What I said is we need balance the old and the new). For example, if we stopped treating mobile like a card because you already have an excel spreadsheet created that shows the finance department of your company a model for selling virtual credentials, I bet we could deliver more value to our customers. I would even go further and say we may unearth an even larger business opportunity for ourselves and our industry. So here is an idea…stop charging for the mobile credential on a per credential basis. Sell software services (yes…plural) and include it as a service.

What other ideas did I miss? Agree or disagree? I look forward to the discussion.  

Lee Odess

I've worked as an Entrepreneur and an Integrator (founded E+L+C), for a multinational billion dollar manufacturer in the lock and access control industry (Allegion), as an Executive of a start-up who pioneered the IoT/smart lock/smart physical access control industry (UniKey), and as an Executive with the first cloud based physical access control manufacturer (Brivo). I put all those years together to form a Growth Studio focused on business creation in the CRETech, proptech and smart home markets for small to large companies in the security, access control and IoT industry.

Labeled as an uber-networker by the Washington Post, Lee Odess has over 18 years starting, building and leading businesses with an exceptional track record for sales growth and marketing effectiveness.

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