Facility Security, Security Hardware and Technology

Vertical Integration and the Future of Commercial Security

If you have ever walked through an airport, there is no doubt you have glanced at the various doors when entering. If you pay a little more attention, or perhaps you work in access control and security, you will notice all the different types of locks, card readers, and electronic door controllers throughout the airport’s facility.

Once you have your coffee and sandwich in hand and are sitting at your gate before boarding, you glance at the jetway door again and will notice a completely different lock, in style and usage. It will likely have a 10-key keypad on top and a sturdy handle.

At this point, if you’re asking yourself, “I’ve just seen a bunch of different locks in this airport. Why does it matter?”

The answer to why it matters is the aspect of vertical integration, and what you may not realize is that the airport you just walked through does not achieve it. Most of the locks and card readers that you saw don’t communicate with each other. In today’s world, there are a small handful of areas in the commercial, residential, and multifamily property management space whose systems achieve this vital aspect of integration.

When thinking of various commercial properties, you would be hard pressed to find any other commercial property that is considered to be more secure than an airport. Each point of entry in an airport requires some sort of access control mechanism, from a basic cylindrical lock that uses a high-secure keyway to a man-trap entryway that can lock in and stop an active shooter trying to enter the ticketing area.

There are thousands of areas in an airport where access is controlled and regulated. However, there are very few security and access control products and systems that singularly achieve vertical integration. Most airports have each of these areas secured in some way, but there is an issue: all of these security platforms are not connected, or integrated.

Vertical Integration Explained

Vertical integration is the process where an access control platform is designed to have each method of security connected to one centrally managed system. This is usually achieved using an Application Programming Interface (API). An API is a software intermediary that allows two or more applications to talk to each other.

You see APIs in use everywhere, with home security for example. Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and other smart devices can control air conditioning temperature, lighting, and the locks on your home. 

Here is where the elephant in the room comes out to sit with us in this conversation. Because of the advent of “Frankensystems” (a favorite insider industry term of mine), vertical integration has been harder and harder to achieve commercially.

A major reason for this is due to hundreds of systems and applications being manufactured by different companies using differing software keys, platforms, door hardware, and access control boards. These systems are usually offered by the larger security hardware manufacturers who have purchased smaller access control and security companies, then add the respective system to their offering. Meanwhile, there may have been no research and development completed by these larger security manufacturers to attempt to make these systems truly integrate. There may also be a lack of API development by larger security companies to allow for the systems of different manufacturers to be able to integrate.

Let’s return to the residential example of an integrated system. You have one app to control your front door, and you have another app to control your garage door. You have a third app that controls the lighting and the air conditioning, and you have a fourth app for the home security system. These apps can and will fail on their own, and you would lose access to whatever system fails. Each has its own software controls, so they are not normally interconnected with an API. This is an example of non-vertical integration.

The Good News and Why Vertical Integration Matters

Vertical integration solves the dilemma of insecurity because with it you have one system that can integrate all these platforms. In the residential space, you can have one app, for example, that controls your front door, garage door, lighting, air conditioning, and entire security system.

Through API integration, this ability is working its way into the multifamily and commercial property management security. Vertical integration offers full access control and security priority to the end user, and it streamlines operations along with true, real-time reporting and audit capabilities.

There are singular platforms that exist which are vertically integrated, meaning there is one company that has the software platform available to connect all these products together seamlessly. These are often offered by manufacturers who are building systems in-house, which is when one company that makes all of the parts and software is able to build a security platform that can be easily managed.

This is essential for commercial property management as the main pain points in security come down to scalability, price, and ease of use. There are a wide variety of commercial properties, and within each of these properties lies a spectrum of access control needs.

For example, a custodial closet may not be as high of a security priority as a CEO’s office. The closet still needs to be secured, and the property manager needs to be able to control who gets in and when. The manager must also be able to run an audit report in the case of any questions or incidents at each respective entry point.

Vertical integration brings multiple security systems together under one umbrella, and it offers a more complete and secure access control platform because of continuity. It uses API functionality to interconnect various platforms so that the end user has one seamless security experience. As the security world continues to evolve, end users are craving these platforms and systems.

Rickey Green, AHC, is the Director of Sales-Multifamily and Institutional (Southern U.S) for LocklyPro. He has been working in the commercial and multifamily security and access control industry since 2008.