You need an overall system to be successful
From small start-up to big player: SimonsVoss Technologies GmbH (Unterföhring) has been on the market for 25 years and has significantly pushed ahead with the development of digital locking technology. Company founder Ludger Voss and Managing Director Bernhard Sommer provide a look back and a look ahead.
Founder Ludger Voss
Mr. Voss, what impetus led to the establishment of the company 25 years ago?
Ludger Voss: I knew Oliver Simons from back in college in Aachen. I studied electrical engineering, Oliver BWL. I worked as a system engineer at Siemens, Oliver as a consultant at McKinsey. After visiting the Security Fair in Essen in 1994, he wanted to invest in electronic access control (together with the later SimonsVoss CEO Bernd Dietel). Oliver showed me the different systems, which had a cabinet size at the time, and I thought, "That can be done much easier... Why not integrate everything into a compact system with standard formats? Low-energy, cable-free installation in minutes."
So that was the basic idea – what happened next?
Ludger Voss: We received a high bank loan, rented a small office on a loft in Schwabing, brought in an excellent system architect and strategist Herbert Meyerle, whom I knew very well from my Siemens time, and got off to a flying start in November 1995. At first, we did not succeed. The digital mortise lock was too expensive and there were too many variants due to the door complexities. In the fall of 1997 we had the idea that saved us to further minimise the system and integrate it into the knobs of locking cylinders. We had the first successful installation in 1998. Retailers immediately saw enormous potential in this digitalization of mechanical locking cylinders, and so the success story took off.
Which balance sheet would you take for the company in the anniversary year?
Ludger Voss: Never give up ... the path to success is tough. For our idea, it was not enough to develop a single product, rather an overall system had to be developed. In our industry, you need solutions for every type of door, you need transponders, programming devices, network components, management software. In addition, we had to open up a completely new market before we could generate the first sales. A strain of long-standing employees has also contributed significantly to long-term success, which has retained the company's know-how and made many innovations possible in the first place.
Looking to the future: In which direction is the technology going?
Ludger Voss: In our opinion, the development is moving towards universal connectivity. Components must be able to communicate with each other, with cloud-based services, with management centres, and increasingly also with smartphones. From the user's point of view, this makes things much easier. At the same time, however, the requirements for security against hacker attacks are rapidly increasing. SimonsVoss product developments take this into account. For several years now, we have been integrating secure elements such as those used in banking into all new developments. Additional NFC, BLE and wireless networking interfaces provide universal connectivity. Incidentally, the Internet of Things (IoT) is not new to us. We have been networking locking components "wirelessly" since 2003 and are able to communicate with them via IP networks.
Founder Bernhard Sommer
Mr. Sommer, in your opinion, how has the market developed?
Bernhard Sommer: Initially was a technological idea, namely to digitise locking cylinders, has developed into an industrial market in the past 25 years. SimonsVoss was not only involved in this development, but also significantly pushed it forward. Today, we are continuing this course seamlessly as part of Allegion and are therefore successful.
What perspectives does digital locking technology offer in the next five to ten years?
Bernhard Sommer: We expect a higher level of networking of digital locking systems within security or building management systems. And we expect Internet, web and cloud applications to increase, resulting in significant simplification and operation for users.
What about controversial topics such as IT security and data protection?
Bernhard Sommer: The requirements for locking system technology with regard to data protocol security, data access and protection against hacking are increasing. Digital locking systems are an ideal solution when it comes to data protection in companies. They can be used to ensure that the requirements according to the GDPR, such as access authorisations in human resources and IT departments, can be complied with.
Are there other current challenges for the industry?
Bernhard Sommer: The topic of live cycle costs – operating costs over the life cycle – is becoming increasingly important. For us, this means that considerably higher requirements are placed on the products in terms of both service life and maintenance intervals. For us, a central topic within product development is to achieve a long service life with extremely low operating costs. With this, we want to generate additional benefits for our customers.
What other changes are you preparing for in the near future?
Bernhard Sommer: We expect standards in building technology to prevail in the next five to ten years. You will see to what extent these standards can be applied to digital locking technology. Otherwise, we continue to rely on top service and advice from our local sales partners with very short reaction and solution times.
SimonsVoss Technologies GmbH, with headquarters in Unterföhring near Munich and a production and logistics center in Osterfeld/Saxony-Anhalt, has been part of Allegion™ since September 2015 and is thus part of a globally active network. Since the market launch of its digital locking and access control system "3060" in 1998, the company has modernised its (once predominantly mechanical) locking technology in line with modern technological standards and is now regarded as a European technology leader in the field of battery-powered electronic locking and access control systems. Further information at www.simons-voss.com
Allegion (NYSE: ALL) is a global pioneer in access control, with leading brands including CISA®, Interflex®, LCN®, Schlage®, SimonsVoss® and Von Duprin®. With a focus on door and access security, Allegion offers a wide range of solutions for people and property - homes, businesses, schools and more. Allegion achieved a turnover of 2.7 billion US dollars in 2018 and is active in almost 130 countries.