Access-ing an innovative future

Philip Ingram chats to Gareth O’Hara, Paxton’s Chief Sales Officer

Success rarely makes the headlines and it should, especially when we see a British manufacturer build a reputation in the market for being one of the best and then to take that message and their products globally.  Who am I talking about?  Paxton Access, the Brighton based access control and video door entry systems manufacturer who is doing so well they have just expanded and opened a new Technology Centre.  Philip Ingram MBE went along to see the centre for himself and chat to Gareth O’Hara, Paxton’s Chief Sales Officer.

Gareth is focused on keeping Paxton Access at least one step ahead of the competition and to do that, understanding how the market is changing is critical. “The biggest challenge for the market comes from changing user expectations.  It’s now possible for a consumer to purchase a security system from their local hardware store and operate this using a handheld device and this is resetting expectations as to what can be achieved with technology,” he says.

But how much is the market really worth? Gareth thinks that by 2020 the global access control market will probably be worth around approx. $9-10 billion. “I think that there is a massive opportunity for Paxton to really take advantage of this. But even more so, the intelligent buildings market is growing exponentially as well. More and more systems are talking to one another, the internet of things is a term which people know about and perhaps customers are asking their installers: ‘how can I use that?’ What is clear is there is a lot of opportunity outside the pure access control market and this is where we are seeing Paxton’s products moving in the future.”

Part of the rationale behind the building and opening of the Technology Centre is to keep up with the pace of change of technology, “to stay at the forefront you must innovate to stay relevant.   Our challenge is to continue to stay ahead of the curve in relation to user expectations while still aligning ourselves with Paxton’s philosophy of keeping our solutions simple, easy to use and install,” he adds.

However, in wider discussions the challenges that are coming are getting technically more and more complex.  Looking forward Gareth says, “in the next 5 years we expect to see the identification of people and the movement of people around a building to change from not only using tokens, but a greater demand in the use of smart credentials especially with the increasing popularity of wearable technology as a means of identification.” 

“What we have seen over the last few years is the increasing number of integration partners that are approaching Paxton with a solution that they wish to incorporate into our access control system, Net2. That could be video management software, or it could be physical security management systems where everything is on one portal. What they want to do is take access control and make sure it’s integrated with their CCTV or make sure that it’s integrated with HR function for example.

I think that customers are much more aware about what they want the system to do, but don’t want to have multiple systems to do that, the recognition of these changing requirements is in thinking behind the ongoing investment into the evolution of Net2. The fact that so many integration partners are approaching us to say we want to work with you, shows that the industry is moving more towards an integrated system approach and one sort of cohesive system, rather than multiple systems that don’t talk to one another.”

“However, innovation is at the forefront of Paxton’s growth and investment plan and innovative thought and product development will mean that over the next couple of years we will release more products than we have done in the previous 10 years. We are continually investing in improvements to functionality and hardware within our Net2, Net2 Entry and Net2 Paxlock systems whilst continuing the develop Paxton10 our building intelligence solution that combines access control, video surveillance and building automation.

With any developing technologies especially with IP enabled capabilities and as Gareth said wearable technology, the cyber threat should be something that comes to the forefront of all professional’s minds.  Never to shy away from the awkward question I asked Gareth what measures Paxton takes to negate the cyber risk.

“We take the security of our systems very seriously and are constantly developing our software to ensure both Net2 and Paxton10 are up to date and secure.  We ensure security updates are part of our regular software releases. Cyber threats often come from an attack on an IT network that Paxton’s products sit on and we always ensure our products have the latest levels of encryption to ensure their endpoint security,” reminded Gareth.

Alongside the cyber challenges are challenges in getting sufficient trained staff to keep companies at the forefront of the innovation race.  Paxton clearly have a winning recipe which has enabled them to expand and open their new innovation hub, so how do they do it?

Their second strand is to encourage the engineering and product design talent of the future by working with local universities. “We want to make sure that we have the staff working for us that are able to push the boundaries of innovation, product diversification and development. We are fortunate to be close to the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton, both of which have great engineering departments.  To improve our engagement with these universities we have launched the Paxton scholarship. This is initially in association with the University of Brighton and we invited students studying engineering, product design and computer sciences to see us and to find out a little more about the access control market, the security industry and see what it’s like to work at Paxton.

We were very encouraged by the number of students that came here, they certainly were full of great ideas, many of which could well be adopted by the security industry in the future. We had a lot of applications and selected three students to come and work with us on a work placement in the summer and their final year project will be a Paxton project.

We can take these enthusiastic young students and help them in their journeys and their future careers. Ultimately, we hope they will be able to have a career at Paxton once they have graduated. We are very aware that in order to be an innovative company, we need to constantly be at the forefront of what’s happening in the industry, but also what’s happening in the wider technology industry, and want to encourage young people to consider a career in the security industry and for us to advance and move forward.”