Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
September 27, 2016

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Integrated thinking: Connected security for smart infrastructure

“Never more than 2-3 clicks from getting things done”: TDSi MD John Davies on the open-platform GARDiS

TDSi has doubled its R&D spend in the last two years as it prepares for one of its most important product launches of recent years.

A web-based, open platform GARDiS is charting a new course for the integrated security specialists that will define the “future of the business for the next 10-15 years.”

The company offered a sneak preview of the new platform for the first time at IFSEC 2016. IFSEC Global caught up with TDSi managing director John Davies to find out more, not just about GARDiS but also about the trends shaping the security market.

Davies, who recently won a BSIA Chairman’s Award for Contribution to Exports, says customers increasingly eschew proprietary platforms, that the access control industry remains conservative despite recent innovation, and that the cloud will transform the installation business model.

IFSEC Global: Hi, John. So you will shortly be launching the GARDiS platform?

John Davies: GARDiS will replace our EX-Series platform, which was launched in 2000/2001. Then in a year or 18 months’ time we will be looking to update the MICROgarde controller platform.

A lot of development is on the software side and linking systems to other business systems. We have OPC and Modbus engines to link into building management systems and command and control, or XML. There’s a lot of tools there to make it easier to integrate into anything.

On the hardware side, to my knowledge there’s only ourselves and Axis who have actually developed access control to the ONVIF profile A and C standard

Historically, access control systems – and most security systems – have been built on proprietary technologies. So with ONVIF profile S being so predominant in CCTV, ONVIF has also written profile A and C standards for access control. The IEC [International Electrotechnical Commission] has adopted them.

So the GARDiS hardware and software platforms that we’ve developed and are launching are compatible with ONVIF profile A and C.

What this means is a PSIM company like IMRON, Prysm or Synectic, if they’re using ONVIF A and C drivers in their software, can control our hardware. They don’t need our software.

It has a REST API as well, which enables us to interface into any other type of system. So we’ve really gone down the open platform rather than propriety route.

On the hardware side, to my knowledge there’s only ourselves and Axis who have actually developed access control to the ONVIF profile A and C standard. Then on the software side it’s designed for use on both premises in the server environment, or as a cloud-based system. So it’s our first foray into truly cloud-based access control.

IG: Where do you anticipate demand being strongest?

JD: I think it depends on the market segment. Large corporates or governments are still reluctant to have a lot of stuff in the cloud. They want that control.

But cloud is doing really well for mid-market customers.

It also allows installers to move away from an equipment sales and maintenance business model to just selling maintenance contracts. So installers are not actually selling equipment, but selling a three or five or seven year maintenance deal.

If you take the cloud to its natural conclusion it will change the business model of installers

IG: And is that maintenance actually becoming an easier job in the IP era?

JD: More and more these days systems are designed for remote diagnostics. So if there’s something wrong with it, it tells you before you get to the site. So if the control is faulty, you know you need to replace it.

It provides more intelligence into operating and maintaining these systems.

IG: So it really has profound implications for installers and integrators…

JD: If you take the cloud to its natural conclusion it will change the business model of installers. They will need to deal with leasing companies and finance companies to finance the installations.

But I think there is a revolution within the security industry as far as IT and networking skills are concerned – that’s already happening. IP CCTV has driven that. Most installers now are very familiar with networks.

A big part of the market is still on the mechanical locking side of things, but even that is changing with the likes of SimonsVoss, SALTO and ASSA ABLOY doing wireless locking products. So the humble lock is now becoming electrified and hooked onto the network.

The access control industry has been conservative, and I think still is. A lot of our competitors are still on proprietary systems

IG: Is the access control sector finally shedding its reputation as a conservative industry?

JD: When I came into the security industry 13 years ago from the telecoms world, I would have described the whole security industry as conservative with a small ‘c’.

Then IP came along and then PSIM. So the whole industry has been on a journey, pushed by CCTV.

The access control industry has been conservative, and I think still is. A lot of our competitors are still on proprietary systems.

We decided that we needed to open it up. Then if people want to use our software, it’s because it delivers a solution or is easy to use – not because you have to use it as the hardware won’t work without the software.

People can use our hardware with other people’s software. Naturally we would like customers to use TDSi, but it keeps us on our toes in trying to stay relevant.

IG: Where does this resistance to change in the industry come from?

JD: People want to own the customer rather than delivering a solution. But you can’t do that these days.

A lot of our competitors have a wireless hub interfacing with their controller, before it talks to the reader. For us, that wireless lock talks to its wireless hub, and that wireless hub talks straight to our software. It doesn’t need anything else.

So some of our competitors still have the mindset that “we’re in the business to sell controllers – that’s what we do. Therefore, we need to architect that system to make sure that the  controller is there.”

But from an engineer’s point of view it’s surplus to requirements. It’s not doing anything.

Does that mean you need to change the way you price things? Yes.

The way GARDiS is architected, we’ll always be able to introduce new functionality, features and connections into other systems because that’s how the software has been designed

You’re either part of the movement to change it, or you’re trying to resist change. If you try and resist change, you are unlikely to be successful in the long run.

Even the way software is written now is completely different. Gone are the days when you used to  spend months writing and testing code.

Now the process is ‘Agile’. You write a piece of software to do one thing, or one part of the thing. Write it, test it – then it’s done. Then you move onto the next bit. You’re constantly improving the software and bringing in new user stories and functionality.

The GARDiS platform today is just a basic access control platform. Over the next 12 months it will have all the whistles and bells of our EXgarde platform, which will fall by the wayside.

The way GARDiS is architected, we’ll always be able to introduce new functionality, features and connections into other systems because that’s how the software has been designed.

IG: Presumably this makes you much more responsive to customer feedback on how to improve the software?

JD: Exactly. Someone might say “it would be nice if you did that”. Then we ask: “OK, so how do you want that to work?” We look at the user experience, what the user is trying to achieve, then you tell the software team to write the code that achieves it.

So access control is still conservative, but we’re not!

It’s all about the user experience. That’s our goal with the GARDiS platform: you’re never more than two or three clicks away from getting anything done.

We’ve been writing the code now for over a year. We’ve invested heavily. We doubled our R&D spend over the last year, and the year before – because this is the future of the business for the next 10-15 years.

The next push is into the internet of things. Systems that learn from data rather than just delivering information.

 

IFSEC International 2018

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