Home Innovators How HID helped physical access control solutions to take off 

How HID helped physical access control solutions to take off 

by Geny Caloisi
HID Global has its origins in the aerospace industry. For over 30 years HID has been leading the way on what it takes to make access to buildings easy and secure and how to help businesses evolve with the times.

We interviewed Steven Commander, HID Global’s director of consultant business management to find out where the company, and in particular its Physical Access Control Solutions [PACS], is and what can we expect in the near future.

Steven has been at HID for 14 years. His role focuses on liaising and engaging with security consultants, electrical engineers and access control system designers. His depth of knowledge gives an in-depth insight into HID’s complete range of physical access control solutions so that consultants can include them in their designs. 


Can you provide a short introduction to your company?

HID originates from the aerospace industry. The name, HID, is an acronym for Hughes Identification Devices. The business was founded in 1991 and was originally a subsidiary of Hughes Aircraft. You may remember the 2004 Martin Scorsese film, Aviator, starring Leonardo di Caprio which depicts the life of the founder of the firm, Howard Hughes.

HID was acquired in 2000 by the Swedish conglomerate, Assa Abloy AB, a global leader in access solutions, and is now a wholly-owned business within the group. The group has 190 brands, such as HID and Yale [locks and home security]; significant market leaders in their own right.

HID Global’s vision is powering the trusted identities of the world’s people, places and things.  Every day millions of people in more than 100 countries use its products and services to securely access physical and digital places. And over two billion things that need to be identified, verified and tracked are connected through HID’s technology.

The company structure comprises six business areas: Physical Access Control Solutions (PACS), Secure Issuance (SI), Identity and Access Management Solutions (IAMS), Citizen ID Solutions (CID), Identification Technologies and Extended Access Technology (EAT).

Put simply, HID Global sells products and services to enable authorised access to buildings, allows people to securely log into computer networks and track assets in manufacturing plants and other commercial settings. HID Global also makes the various components like chips that go into passports, national ID cards and driving licences. The scope of its portfolio is broad. 

From a PACS perspective, the mission of the company is to be a market leader for trusted identity solutions by providing a seamless customer experience leveraging a connected architecture complemented by cloud services.

To provide some scale to this, as international markets recovered after Covid-19, group sales increased 8% in 2021 to SEK 95,007 million [Kronor] with operating profits up 19% to SEK 14,181 million. In Pounds Sterling, that’s around £7.74 billion and £1.14 billion respectively.

HID Global employs about 4,400 people worldwide.

What are the company’s flagship PACS products?

When a person wishes to enter a building, they walk up to a door, use a badge to touch a reader on the wall and then – if authorised – a controller unlocks the door giving them access. The component and platform technology behind this simple scenario is what HID Global designs, manufactures and sells. In other words, the badges, readers, [door] controller modules and associated management software. This has now evolved into a mobile and digitally based approach underpinned by cloud-based services.

HID’s main flagship PACS products are:

  • Seos® – credential technology platform;
  • HID Signo™ Readers – the signature line of HID readers launched in 2020
  • HID Mobile Access® – allows an individual’s mobile device to be used to gain access to secured doors, gates, networks, and services
  • HID Aero™ and HID Mercury Controllers –  a controller range which provides a flexible, open architecture, IP-enabled platform for deploying a broad range of access control systems
  • HID Origo™ – a cloud platform which allows technology partners to create access control solutions.  It stores identity information about users in a database, their access rights to a building, specific zones and so on.

What makes HID access control solutions special?

HID Global was the first company to bring to market contactless access control technology, namely cards and readers, 31 years ago. It was a true pioneer.

Since then, many competitors have entered the market but HID Global has maintained its dominant position because of its large installed base, expertise and broad portfolio range.  A key reason for this is a focus on ensuring that existing end-user customers always have a clear upgrade path so they can migrate easily to the next generation of its technologies – cost-effectively and seamlessly.

Millions of HID readers and hundreds of millions of HID cards are therefore in use today. HID solutions are used in all industry sectors such as government, education, healthcare, financial services and so on.

How have your methods for doing business changed since the inception of your business?

Steven Commander, HID Global’s director of consultant business management

Secure interoperability has been a big development in our industry.  Historically, if you wanted to connect a reader to a door controller in a secure way, you had to rely on a specific manufacturer’s communications protocol or language.  With the advent of OSDP, secure interoperability is possible across the whole industry because the protocol is public and open and anyone can implement it on their devices.  The upshot is that system integrators can ‘mix and match’ solutions based on a given [end-user] customer requirement.

As the industry introduces new digital mobile-based access control solutions – using smartphones – and cloud services become the de facto way to manage user access, there is a considerable ‘knock-on’ effect in the whole industry.  New partnerships will need to be established and new integrators found who understand and are able to deploy these new digital and cloud technologies.  To keep up to date and current, it also means that existing firms will have to learn new skill sets such as mobile app development and cloud integration as it relates to access control hardware.

In terms of the relationship between physical access control and the cloud, a good analogy is what has happened with music.  The music industry shifted from selling physical CDs to digital files of the music hosted on a web platform.  Think of Spotify. The same is now happening in the access control world – access data traditionally held on a physical plastic badge is now available via a virtual one running on a smartphone or wearable device.

Another key development in the industry has been the shift from low frequency 125 kHz-based cards and readers to more secure next-generation technology based on high frequency 13.56 MHz solutions. These feature many security features such as encryption and mutual authentication and are therefore inherently more secure.

What is the company’s long-term strategy?

HID Global’s strategy is to deliver solutions as a service and connect everything so that the user experience is completely seamless yet secure.

Mobile access is key to this and HID Global has a robust and feature-rich offering and one of the largest eco-systems of technology partners in the world to really deliver this.  For a recent example, please see the HB Reavis Varso Tower press release.

What strategic alliances do you have?

HID’s go-to-market strategy for the PACS business is all indirect via technology partners, OEMS, distributors and integrators. These organisations then sell to or have installers who then actually fit them at the [end-user] customer’s premises.

PACS is the biggest revenue-generating area for HID Global, with North America followed by Europe – specifically the UK, France and the Nordics – its biggest markets.

With the ongoing growth and interest in smart buildings combined with the ubiquitous use of smartphones as a tool for accessing offices, HID Global is partnering with so-called ‘PropTech’ companies so that its products are incorporated into overall real-estate and tenancy solutions. 

What do you think will be the most significant trends by the end of 2022?

There are a variety of key trends affecting the industry. To just focus on three:

1- Sustainability.  Constructing and operating sustainable and green buildings is self-evidently hugely important in the context of reducing carbon emissions and being environmentally conscientious.

2- The shift to digital access control solutions play a role here – fewer plastic cards are used and physical products don’t have to be manufactured and actually shipped globally anymore.

3- Data science and analytics.  Data generated from access control systems combined with other sensors which control HVAC and lighting, for example, will help owners and landlords to monitor and interact with their buildings far better and smarter by feeding information into connected management platforms. This can then be used to reduce energy consumption and deliver on sustainability goals.  HID provides some of the key technology used at a granular level to capture data and feed it into this overall process.

In time, HID’s solutions will be extended to include identity positioning solutions.  In other words, data will be collected about a person’s position within a building which can aid the better tracking of office space utilisation as well as boost safety [i.e the numbers of people inside a building and where they are at any given time].

About Steven Commander

What are your hobbies?

I love motorbiking and tour a lot on my wonderful shaft-driven retro-styled BMW R nineT. It’s a 2018 model and makes a lovely sound from its 1170cc flat-twin air/oil-cooled Boxer engine. The cylinder heads stick out, so you never get cold feet in winter. And I’m French, so I love food and wine, too.

What do you do when you’re not at the office?

I read, travel and go to restaurants and the cinema with my family.

What is your most outstanding life achievement?

When I did my French military service in 1996, I trained as a tropical forest commando in French Guiana, South America, which borders Bolivar, Brazil and Suriname. Most of the country is composed of tropical rainforests. The course lasted three weeks: 10 days trekking in, setting up camp, clearing an area for a helicopter to resupply us with food and then 10 days back.  It was challenging especially with all the snakes, spiders and other animals you couldn’t see making very weird and frankly scary noises.  But it was a proud moment to pass and receive the ‘Commando Guyane’ badge.  Steven Commander, the commando – it has a good ring to it.

Contact Steven on: linkedin.com/in/steven-commander-0527051

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