“The RMR model has momentum”: Vanderbilt on recurring revenues and the ComNet dividend

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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
September 19, 2019


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Vanderbilt, which develops systems for access control, intrusion detection and video management, has recently upgraded its cloud-based ACT Enterprise solution.

The company has also been championing the benefits of its growing integration and partnership with sister company and transmission and network provider ComNet.

IFSEC Global spoke to Ross Wilks, head of marketing communications, Vanderbilt and ComNet EMEA, about these and other topics, including intrusion system SPC Connect and the benefits of recurring revenue models for installers.

He also reflected on efforts to engage more closely with customers and take them on a “journey”.

IFSEC Global: Hi, Ross. What products and solutions did you showcase at IFSEC 2019 in June? Shall we start off with access control?

Ross Wilks: At this year’s show, we focused on our ACT Enterprise access control solution and are currently presenting a beta version, 2.10. We’ve been developing the product over the past three years since we acquired the ACT business.

For a little background on the ACT solutions, ACT Enterprise is our on-premises edition and ACT365 is the cloud-based access control and video management offering. Both provide companies with complete security management solutions.

We also highlighted our latest access controllers that use Ultra PoE. The benefit for the installer with these is that they get to draw power directly over the Ethernet – powering the readers, ancillary devices, etc – resulting in time savings for installation and cost savings for the end customer.

Vanderbilt also highlighted a recent integration with our latest IP door-entry phone partner, Akuvox, which is proving popular with the customer base. We certainly see the market opening up to door entry phones that bolt onto the access control system over the network.

“When you badge the card an automatic rule could turn the office lights off and automatically send your pizza order via email”

We’ve also launched the latest version of our rules mapping engine in ACT Enterprise, which takes complexities out of programming input/output scenarios.

A good example of how it works can be summed up from one of our sales managers in Denmark. He explains it well by telling his customers that when he badges out of the office at 5pm on a Friday night, he turns up at his local pizza parlour and his dinner is waiting for him. That is because it can be used to set up automatic rules, so when you badge the card it turns the office lights off and automatically sends your pizza order via email.

IG: What about intruder detection?

RW: Vanderbilt’s key product is SPC. It is well established in the marketplace, has approval in all key regions. We’re highlighting integrations with both Milestone VMS and Seetec VMS with the SPC interface.

The cloud-based intrusion solution, SPC Connect, is based on a recurring monthly revenue (RMR) model, so an installer can monitor and maintain their customer sites remotely by charging a small monthly fee. The interest in the RMR business model is seeing a lot of momentum on both the access control and intrusion sides of the business.

IG: Why are you seeing more interest in RMR or cloud-based solutions?

RW: RMR removes the need to visit the site and the complexities of updating firmware – it’s all done remotely.

One of the key challenges in our industry is not so much selling a solution, but selling a business model to installers. And I think everyone is starting to recognise the opportunities they can have by adopting an RMR-based solution and model for their business.

Particularly when you look at platforms like Microsoft Office 365, businesses are a lot more open now to the concept of a small monthly fee for a service as opposed to buying a full-suite solution with a large initial investment.

IG: How do Vanderbilt and ComNet combine to benefit their respective customers?

RW: Our parent company, ACRE, acquired ComNet three years ago and since early this year, we’ve been harmonising the businesses and leveraging efficiencies across both companies in EMEA. Vanderbilt is well established with more than 200 employees, and we are enhancing support for the ComNet customer base with the Vanderbilt customer service teams, tech service teams, logistics and more.

ComNet is a transmission and network provider and we’re now working on integrating our products to provide an end-to-end solution. For example, the PoE controllers, both on Enterprise and 365, can be powered by ComNet switches, which is a nice added value for customers. Obviously as a security product manufacturer we produce the data, but the data needs to be transmitted, so the businesses are harmonising well together.

The brands remain completely independent, but we’re identifying ways that we can share resources across both businesses and increase efficiencies.

IG: What would you say Vanderbilt’s USPs are in relation to competitors?

RW: We were formerly seen as Siemens Security Products [before ACRE acquired the business]. One customer used to refer to the business as being like an oil tanker: it took forever to change direction.

But at Vanderbilt, we’re much more in touch with the customer base, and if a customer needs something or has a special request, we’re better able now to take quick action in response. Our goal is to always put the customer first.

IG: In what ways are you ‘in touch’ with the customer?

RW: Essentially, through word of mouth and communication with our customer base. In addition to our sales managers speaking with the customers and providing internal feedback, we also engage in monthly questionnaires that help us pinpoint issues and gather information on key topics.

IG: Is it just installers you engage with?

RW: Our business channels are primarily through distribution and direct installers. But we’re introducing project teams to work with consultants and specifiers to give us that reach to end users.

IG: Are we likely to see more acquisitions from your parent company, ACRE?

RW: ACRE is keen to continue on the acquisition trail, pending the right kind of fit with the overall mission of the company. I don’t have anything in the pipeline I can discuss, but I’m sure you’ll see things on the horizon.

IG: Anything else worth highlighting?

RW: I heard the term artificial intelligence around quite a bit at IFSEC. It’s not something we’re entirely focused on, but we’re developing third-party integrations and paying attention to development in this space. Ultimately, it’s about what it does for the end customer – not the industry.

Our theme this year at IFSEC was about taking a customer on a journey, so we’re looking at value-added assets and resources that we can provide to the customer, which is at the core of our mission now and into the future.

We’ve recently launched a web shop across all of our key regions, and we’re looking to develop that, not just as an ecommerce platform, but to take the customer through the process.

For instance, if you’re looking to acquire an eight-door access control system, it takes you through a simple set of yes/no scenarios: Do you want eight doors? Do you want it on premise? What sort of card technology are you looking for? Then it produces a detailed spec list that links to all technical data, area specifications and other assets you’d need to complete the job.

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