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Anixter supports biometrics systems with unique lab


The development and adoption of advanced security technologies puts pressure on businesses to not just understand them, but to communicate them to clients. For this reason, Anixter supports the growth of its biometrics products distribution business with a unique laboratory at its Glenview, Illinois headquarters. The Anixter Infrastructure Solutions Lab is used to demonstrate the effectiveness of different technologies in different situations and configurations, to help systems integrators and end users choose the most effective products and configurations for their specific application.

As one of the largest global distributors of network infrastructure and traditional security products, Anixter boosted its stake in the biometrics market with the acquisition of Tri-ed in 2014. With security contributing over 20 percent of its overall Network & Security Solution business last year, Anixter has developed its lab to evaluate and showcase biometric solutions integrating products from Safran/Morpho, Iris ID, and other manufacturers. The UL-certified 4,000 square-foot research and educational facility is utilized to reduce risk and support informed purchasing decisions for physical security products, as well as industrial communications, enterprise networks, wireless solutions, and data centers.

Active Partnership with Systems Integrators

As a distributor, Anixter delivers value for its security systems integrator customers in part by supplying a range of quality products from 65 locations around the world. The company’s scale and experience provide advantages, but Stone Security President and Co-founder Brent Edmunds told an audience at Anixter Media Day 2017 that the greatest advantage Stone receives by working with Anixter is strategic.

“Anixter is by far our most strategic partnership,” Edmunds says. “I don’t know how many companies can say that about their distributor.”

Beyond delivering products, Anixter offers assistance with supply chain management, and can save time and money for its customers by kitting and staging systems in its own facilities, so they are ready for immediate demonstration and installation.

Anixter also looks for opportunities for its systems integrator partners to expand their role with end-user customers. “How do we take that data and leverage it for the integrator to do something more,” says Director of Technology, Network & Security Solutions, Bob Dolan. “We use it to help the integrator become stickier.” That something more could take the form of maintenance contracts, additional support, or related services.

The company also supports partners by helping them anticipate technology refresh cycles, and the impact of emerging technologies. To that end, it not only communicates with manufacturers, but also is actively involved with technical standards organizations, to a degree unusual for a distribution company.

Dolan is involved with several industry organizations, including ASIS International, and he is currently the vice-chairman of the ONVIF Technical Services Committee. Anixter is the only distributor active with ONVIF, Dolan says, and the company has been involved with the group’s work to establish global open standards for physical IP-based security products since 2009, when ONVIF was in its infancy. Other organizations Anixter is also actively engaged with include UL, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), and the TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association).

Its involvement in these bodies contributes to standards development for several areas of market challenge, such as addressing systems vulnerabilities, interoperability, and leveraging IoT.

Together with customers, Anixter applies a methodology it calls “CASE” to determine the most appropriate technology for the particular application. CASE is an acronym for convenience, acceptance and security, speed and accuracy, and environment. Anixter applies this methodology to both credential and biometrics technologies, asking customers to order each category by its degree of priority from one to five.

The Infrastructure Solutions Laboratory

The Anixter Infrastructure Solutions Lab provides testing and demonstrations including for multi-manufacturer interoperability, proof of concept (POC) testing, ONVIF conformance validation and independent certification, technology deployment best practices, image resolution testing, simulations of product performance in terms of bandwidth, light sensitivity, and cabling infrastructure. It was born out of a need to develop specifications for cabling performance so that Anixter could properly advise its own customers based on their performance needs. It was the resulting specifications that TIA originally used as a basis for its own in the 1990s, according to Andrew Jimenez, Vice President of Technology for Network & Security Solutions.

The original test and measure use of the lab led to the ability to provide insights for customers about interoperability and other network factors. Today, Jimenez says the lab has comprehensive testing capabilities, with a range of capabilities from testing on a full ONVIF bed to testing with real world conditions, such as with sub-standard hardware.

The latest and best hardware is also available, however. Dolan says the lab is refreshed roughly every six months, and carries about 20 different servers, from major manufacturers including HP, Dell, Lenovo, IBM, and Supermicro.

The lab contains iris recognition, fingerprint, touchless fingerprint, combined fingerprint and vein, hand geometry, and facial recognition devices. In addition to devices, Anixter sells and can test software and technology for live identification or forensic investigation using video facial recognition. Its camera and infrastructure measurement capabilities also allow for testing of systems performing complex analytics, such as distinct moving object recognition.

The demonstration room also includes multi-factor biometric devices employing passcodes, credentials, or both, and the data center area showcases biometric readers specifically for securing data cabinets.

“For all of the different business segments and technologies we support, we evolved our demo room to support those solutions,” says Jimenez.

Beyond the Fortune 500

While its reputation as a Fortune 500 company was largely built on serving global, and national integrators, it also works with regional integrators, and the acquisition of Tri-ed brought Anixter further into the SMB market. It serves customers in the residential, commercial, healthcare, government, educational, and utilities sectors. The company notes an increase in demand for biometrics in the data center market over the past six months, which applies beyond TIA requirements for Level IV data centers to control access with biometrics at points of entry.

From “test and measure” use, through insights about issues such as interoperability, the Anixter Infrastructure Solutions Lab has also developed into an educational resource. As with any emerging technology, standards and education are important to the growing acceptance and adoption of biometrics. If Anixter can bring its considerable corporate weight to those issues, the industry as a whole stands to benefit.

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