Q&A with Axis co-founder Martin Gren

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Martha: I just returned from the Milestone conference where partners, including Axis, extolled the virtues of the VMS. Why does Axis really need to develop its own access control product?

Martin: The virtues of software and system intelligence provide even more reason for why Axis developed our first network door controller.

Moving into physical access control is a natural step in the evolution of Axis. We weren’t always a network video company, but we’ve always been an intelligent device company. Some people didn’t know that we invented the network camera after being in business for 12 years. Attaching different intelligent devices to IP networks (print servers, storage devices, scanners, cameras, etc.) has been in our DNA since we were founded. But because the opportunity in network video has been so huge, it’s as if we forgot to launch a new network-attached product these past 16 years.

If you understand the Axis history, then it’s easy to see that access control is a complement to our existing network video portfolio, and a complement to our partner programs. Since our core company values are rooted in open technology platforms, AXIS A1001 provides partners and end customers with unique integration possibilities. This open technology concept enables our VMS partners to develop intelligent software and applications to best serve the market, making the VMS even more powerful.

Research shows that 80 percent of customers want physical access control and video surveillance to be integrated (BSRIA’s 2011 World Security Report). By entering the access control market with the first truly open, nonproprietary door controller, we are working with our VMS partners to deliver true integration.

2. When I spoke to Axis GM Americas Fredrik Nilsson at ASIS about Axis’ decision to launch an access control product, he said: " On the software side, [our partners] prefer one API [instead of one for several devices]." Can you elaborate on what your integration partners are asking for and what you're providing?

Our ADPs (Application Development Partners) all want an API that is easy and straightforward to implement. This makes new product and feature implementation much simpler for their development staff. We pride ourselves in having a truly open API for anyone with an application idea to work with. Our partners that are used to working with our camera’s API, VAPIX, will recognize many similarities.

For the integrator, this open development means that they can utilize the same network door controller for small or large installations and anything in between. The end result is that they pick the software that best meets their customer’s needs, and install the same AXIS A1001 they already have in their van for any installation. One product, many solutions.

3. The AXIS A1001 was beta tested in Chelmsford, Mass. and at other sites with Diebold, Kratos, Stanley and Wachter. What did you learn from those beta tests that's of interest to integrators?

The common theme we learned from beta installs was that the AXIS A1001 was the easiest controller to install from the integrator’s standpoint. The feedback has been that installation and use is very intuitive, which we were extremely pleased to hear. Another common comment was that the ability to power devices at the door from the A1001 is a big labor savings.

And, since we are committed to open IP technology platforms, many suggestions for improvement from our integrator partners can be handled in later firmware releases. That too is part of the power and promise of IP.

Also, don’t forget the synergies in distribution. While access control is a complement to our network video portfolio and our ADP program, it’s also a complement to our sales channel. In the past it was common to buy everything in your system from just one supplier who took advantage of integrator one-stop-shopping. As end users learned that buying cables and servers from nonspecialists who did basic rebranding was not good for their budgets, they adapted the best-in-class strategy, which changed the landscape in networked video. Axis sells the AXIS A1001 through the same channels as our network video products, so integrators can build best-in-class access control and network video solutions for their customers all from the same distributors.

4. Where is the biggest opportunity for Axis access control products in terms of applications/market segment and why?
 
The biggest opportunity for Axis and our partners is similar to what we faced together with the launch of the world’s first network camera (1996) and world’s first video encoder (1998): to move the industry away from analog, proprietary systems to open, IP-based digital solutions.

Almost every end customer who buys a video surveillance system also needs access control, and vice versa. It’s typically the same person within the organization making the purchasing decisions, and they all want good clean integration between video and access control. Too many end users—from schools, to retailers, to offices, to hospitals—rely on post-it note integration where they look up the access control system log, handprint the date and time of an entry attempt, and manually search for the video in their VMS. By using open components, the Axis API and leveraging our software partnerships, we can now deliver true access control and video integration to the level the industry has yet to see.

5. What's the process for educating integrators on the products? Is much education necessary? Required?
 
Many of our integrator partners are already selling access control as part of their portfolio and have shown quite a lot of interest in the AXIS A1001 launch. Our sales team in the U.S. also has quite a bit of industry experience selling access control, which is a major reason why we are launching first here.

Fredrik [Nilsson, Axis’ General Manager] and I have joked that we could take a lot of our same IP video educational material from ten years ago and re-use it for the access control market. Many of the same myths, misconceptions and market opportunities about shifting from analog CCTV to network video exist when bringing open IP technology to access control.

From an installation perspective we took great efforts to create a better and easier way to install and configure an access control system. We color-coded everything for the integrator, and the controller can even print out its wiring connection sheet for foolproof installations. Powering the whole system with PoE simplifies cabling and takes hours out of installation to save a lot of money for end users while providing reliable installations for the integrator. In short, it’s simple by design so as not to require too much training.  

But of course Axis will offer a one-day class for those integrators needing technical training and basic access control knowledge as they enter the PACS market. These trainings are currently taking place in our North American headquarters outside of Boston, and then will be rolled out to our new regional offices as part of the U.S. expansion plan. Our academy team in the U.S. is also taking regional training requests from partners as needed if they cannot travel to an Axis office.

6. How does this launch fit into the Axis vision for the next five years?
 
Our original brand promise from 1984 was that anything can be attached to the network, with the slogan: “Making your network smarter.” Thirty years later this influence is still felt in today’s vision of innovating for a smarter, safer world.

We began our product journey with networked printers, then optical storage, then scanners and then to network video. We know from experience that ramping up a new product category takes time. So we see that access control will make up a relatively small yet important part of our total business in the first few years. More importantly is that our open API enables system integrators to deliver nonproprietary solutions that are easier to integrate with other security systems, like IP video surveillance.

So you can see how our vision remains the same. The AXIS A1001 is yet another intelligent device from Axis to help make the world a smarter, safer place.

7. How will Axis' recent announced U.S. expansion plan aid in the growth of access control sales, and the strategic business plan in the next five years?

While the access control launch is exciting, network video of course remains our core focus. The U.S. expansion plan is a way for the team in North America to get even closer to their regional partners. By opening new offices around the country, our team can provide more local partner resources. This mostly includes sales and training resources. However, as we expand our product portfolio into non-video specific products and overall system solutions with our partners, the U.S. has created area business development roles as part of the expansion plan to support this strategy.  

Since the IP video world innovates at a fast pace, training and hands-on demos are more important than ever. The expansion plan with Axis Experience Centers planned for each business area provide the exact resources for our partners to take advantage of in order to stay on top of the latest and greatest technology—that includes IP cameras, video encoders, accessories, partner solutions and access control.