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​​​​Photo by iStock; Security Technology illustration​

What is Open?

​The security industry has been discussing open versus proprietary technology lately due to confusion in the marketplace about the two types of systems. 

Companies are making long term investments in their security programs and need to fully understand what options are available to them before making a commitment to a system.  

An open application programming interface (API)—sometimes known as a public API—allows the owner of a network-accessible service to give universal access to consumers of that service, such as developers.

Another way to explain the concept is when a manufacturer develops software and hardware and then makes the API available to any company that wants to integrate with another company’s software or hardware.

For example, a hospital may want to add license plate recognition (LPR) software to its access control and video system. If it’s an open system, the LPR software will integrate so the security operator can use it as part of the company’s existing infrastructure.

An open system is seen as providing more choices. End users can expand their security systems and integrate with complimentary technologies necessary to secure their people, property, and assets.

This contrasts with a proprietary system, a closed system that only works with a manufacturer’s own hardware and software. Proprietary companies do not share their API.

Proprietary systems are often sold directly to the end user. When the user needs a replacement part, he or she has to buy it from the manufacturer. As proprietary systems age, parts can be hard to obtain and expensive. Often, the only way to change the system is to replace it entirely. 

Some manufacturers claim that they are open as part of their business model. Other manufacturers brand themselves as proprietary and sell products based on the features and benefits within their own system.

But confusion exists in the marketplace. What about a company that requires an end user to pay a fee to integrate to an API? Is that open? 

Some manufacturers have created partner programs to manage the large number of companies that want to integrate with their technology. The manufacturer charges a nominal fee to offset the costs associated with testing and certifying the integration.

Once the API is provided, the open control panel can integrate with any access control software and operate with that software. This new way of doing business means that even the biggest competitors could become technology partners.

An example of this is what’s happening in access control. A company might decide to install a new access control system with panels designed for that system. Three years later, the company could implement a different access control system software that would work with the original panels it installed. 

Progressive companies understand the importance of delivering an open platform to the market. It uncovers new ways to drive revenue and makes customers happy. By owning their own hardware and software, manufacturers can control what success looks like, while being open for others to interoperate, and provide choices for end users.


Kim Rahfaldt is director, media relations, at AMAG Technology.