The Islands of Access Control

April 7, 2020
Written Insights

Imagine there are 4 islands called Old Tech, Today Tech, Tomorrow Tech, and Future Tech.

Between each island you have bridges so you can go from one to the other. You can also start on one but typically everyone has one home island where they have roots. With each of them, you will find products, people, habits, terminology, cultures, mind sets, and a whole bunch more.  

Now fortunately, as time goes on, the islands are dynamic. Some start to break down and some start grow (re: phase change). Some of the people, technology, culture, products etc on one island come over to newer islands, at some point one island begins to look like an older one, new ones form, etc.

It is important to mention that some of the people, technology, culture, products etc …well…they just don't make it.  Now they may continue to exist for some time, but as things go, they get to an end of road at some point because they lack relevancy, capabilities, talent, and new customers.

Business happens and the circle of life gets played out in business.

To the diagram…on the far left labeled Old Tech is where the majority of the industry is at today.

This is the opportunity and our current problem.

“Old Tech Island” has been ruling way too long. You’ve seen it as incremental investment dollars for R&D (example: introductions today of products with bluetooth), support of Wiegand, Cloud vs On Premise conversations, ad campaigns where you put your ACS panel in the middle and display your cards and readers around it, and prox cards being sold as a secure method. Like I said above, the is where the opportunity and current problems reside. We need to start moving off of “Old Tech Island” and onto “Today Tech Island.”

Sometimes you see start ups show up here but, keep in mind, they do not start in “Old Tech Island.” What happens is, they start over on “Today Tech Island” and after they get some traction or are looking for scale, they start to come over to “Old Tech Island.” Why? Because they choose what to disrupt, but then need to conform to grow.  It's basically modern day looting.

This manifests itself in deep security feature development, dealer sign ups, trade show booths, tear downs in IPVM about the missing blinky light that only matters to Old Tech, and news that your outside sales person in the Bay Area now works for that start up.

It is a fine line to balance for these startups because if they stay on “Old Tech Island” too long, they start to see their growth slow, start listening to and questioning themselves with “why it wont work” or “we tried that 10 years ago…my customers won't ever use mobile.”  

Some end up dying on “Old Tech Island” or get acquired. Some get what they need and get back to Today Tech and even move to Tomorrow Tech.

To the right of “Old Tech Island” is called “Today Tech.”  Today tech is where most of the public and the mass market resides and where they think we as an industry are at. But we are not.  A few incumbents will make their way to this island but its a slow plodding pace.  

It takes leadership, risk balance, M&A, prioritization and a willingness to embrace change that may cause some old relationships to be challenged.  Most startups make a bang here, like August, Openpath or Latch. Their limited resources and problem statements allow them to focus on technology the customers want or expect.  Examples of this: Mobile, biometrics, analytics, APIs and SDKs, Open platforms, balance of convenience and security. You start to see bigger and external investments happen here as well.

Mainstream media and outlets start to talk about what these companies are doing in the space, like Lockdown. “Old Tech Island” sees it and starts saying “Lockdown? We’ve had lockdown for years but no one writes about us.” Sorry “Old Tech Island,” your message is breaking through. You need to move to “Today Tech Island” for anyone in the mainstream to hear you.

There is massive amount of opportunity to lead from “Today Tech Island.”

To the right of that is called “Tomorrow Tech.”  This is where you see two tribes living. The first tribe is better known as the MegaTechs. The MegaTechs ideate here and start digging in their moats (eg. CHIP). They have deep conversations and then pilot solutions in this space with primarily Today Tech companies but they want the Old Tech scale of existing installs. Why? To prove their theories and show their leadership whether it is worth the investment or not. They need the fast feedback data loops and product iteration.  They need the install base and scale to have relevant data to fuel that innovation machine.

Today Tech companies do not have that scale yet. Most will at some point and they may have some key customers that make them attractive.

MegaTechs think in billions not millions. The friction starts to be felt when the MegaTechs start to engage with Old Tech and they find out two things: (1) Old Tech’s technologies won’t support the desires of the MegaTechs (2) The MegaTechs threaten the business models of the Old Tech.

What ends up happening here is, MegaTechs, like Apple, Amazon, and Google, work with the Today Tech and keep conversations going with the Old Tech.


This results in the Today Tech companies building their war chests full of marketing and value added gold.  It also allows some of the Old Tech companies to get things in line to act more like Today Tech but Old Tech loses a lot of the bump they could get with participating earlier.

The second trip on “Tomorrow Tech Island” are start ups. As far as the start ups on “Tomorrow Tech Island,” most of them are features or access as a feature companies vs full scale solutions.  They have identified a problem within a use case (eg. tailgating or identity management or visitor management) and have developed a solution for it.

They typically have raised money based on a larger vision and the first product release is phase 1 of a 3 phased world domination plan.  You see these companies start to try and fill the innovation gaps Old Tech and Today Tech companies by integrating with them. At some point they either get absorbed by their partner, turned into competition with the partner as they develop around the core feature and start to look more like an access control company or go out of business.

The best companies on “Old Tech Island” and “Today Tech Island” find ways to work with Tomorrow Tech. They either invest in them, create proof of concepts, or help Tomorrow Tech by integrating their feature and using Old Tech and Today Tech channels.

Farther to the right of Tomorrow Tech is “Future Tech Island.” For now, I won't spend much time on “Future Tech Island” as it's way out there.  Super relevant but for the purpose of this article, I want to keep it to Old Tech vs Today Tech vs Tomorrow Tech as this is where the phase changes are happening now and critical thinking needs to happen.

And that, my friends, is my story of xyz islands and tribes. It is about the phase change that is happening and the need for honest critical thinking about where you, your company, and the industry is at.

Let me know what you think and if it helps frame the conversations for you.

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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