Interview: Pawel Grzegorczyk, Area Account Manager, Hungary and Balkans, 2N
Our goal is to lead our sector. That means continuous innovation, both in terms of technology and design, and the acquisition by Axis has really helped us here. Before it, we used to introduce a wide range of different products with the idea that, if one didn’t work out, we would try something else. We are now much more focused, concentrating exclusively on smart IP intercoms and access control.
a&s Adria: Mr. Grzegorczyk, what is your role at 2N, which department and markets are you in charge of?
Grzegorczyk: My name is Pawel Grzegorczyk. I am Area Account Manager, responsible for Hungary, Poland, and the Balkan region: Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Albania, North Macedonia, and Kosovo. I received the ‘Ing.’ title – which is granted to graduates of Master’s programmes – from the Faculty of Applied Informatics at Tomas Bat’a University in Zlín, Czech Republic, where I specialized in Security Systems and Management. I worked at CSC Computer Sciences as a technical support and then spent two years at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise as an Account Manager. I joined 2N in September 2017.
a&s Adria: For 30 years 2N has been at the forefront of access control and telecommunications. Among other things, you developed the first IP and LTE intercoms. What were the most important milestones and, in numbers, what does 2N looks like today when it comes to revenue, number of employees, offices, and countries you sell your products to?
Grzegorczyk: 2N is the global leader in IP access control systems. We were founded in 1991 in the Czech Republic, and it’s true that we have been in the vanguard of innovation in the sector, developing the world’s first IP intercom in 2008 and the first LTE/4G intercom ten years later. We now cover the full range of solutions in the field of access control systems for buildings and communication within buildings, with a focus on contactless technology.
Prague remains our global headquarters, but we now have teams in many other countries, including the USA, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, France, UAE, and Australia, as well as an extensive distribution network across the rest of the world. In 2016, we became part of the Axis Group. This has helped us to continue to innovate, as has the fact that we reinvest 14% of global revenues in R&D to meet the growing demand for smarter access control systems.
a&s Adria: In 2016, you became a part of the Axis family, which again became a part of Canon. How did that complement your business throughout these years? Can you give us an example of their support?
Grzegorczyk: The acquisition by Axis has been hugely beneficial for our business. The global trend from analog intercoms to IP technology has helped us significantly, but we have delivered an average annual growth rate of 20% since the acquisition. Our goal is to differentiate and lead our sector. That means continuous innovation, both in terms of technology and design, and the acquisition has really helped us here. Before it, we used to introduce a wide range of different products with the idea that, if one didn’t work out, we would try something else. We are now much more focused, concentrating exclusively on smart IP intercoms and access control, and working with Axis has accelerated our product development. For example, we are developing new intercoms on the Axis Artpec chipset platform and are getting into video processing technology and video compression based on what Axis has developed over the last twenty years.
Perhaps the most important impact, though, has been on 2N’s mindset. We used to be a mid-sized company in terms of our thinking and behavior. We think much bigger now. Some of our recent projects illustrate this. For example, 2N intercoms are in the One Palm project in Dubai and our lift technology is in Warsaw’s Varso Tower, the European Union’s tallest building.
Axis is more focused on the security vertical, whereas 2N supplies access control solutions to the residential and commercial sectors that Axis is not targeting. There have, however, been instances of 2N and Axis working together on integrated residential projects. One example is in Boston, where Urban Property Management maintains a portfolio of more than one hundred upscale condominium properties in the city and outlying suburbs.
But the bigger picture is our long-term strategic vision: to become number one in the intercom market in our priority regions – North America, Europe, and Australia – which are less price sensitive than elsewhere and which value innovation most highly. This will require us to accelerate the transition from analog intercom systems to IP smart intercoms, a task that 2N and Axis are taking on together.
a&s Adria: As the “number one company in IP intercoms“, to quote 2N’s CEO, Michal Kratochvil, you certainly have an extensive portfolio in that segment. Can you present your IP intercoms portfolio in brief and single out one flagship (or the most sold) product/s?
Grzegorczyk: The real strengths of our IP intercoms are their modularity and enhanced capabilities. The modularity allows the functions of the intercom to be modified very precisely based on the user’s requirements. Most of our installations are now assembled with the Bluetooth module which allows residents and office workers to eliminate entry cards and use mobile phones as a means of identification to gain entry.
In terms of one flagship product, I would single out the 2N IP Style because it incorporates the best camera, the best video transmission, and display, and has a quality user interface that can be activated by a simple tap of a smart device. It’s also beautiful. The 2N IP Style has already won multiple awards around the world, including three in the US for technological innovation: a CE Pro BEST (Best Electronics Systems Technologies) Award at the CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis and two separate awards at the IoT/Connected Product Awards. It has also won two high-profile design awards: an iF Award for product design innovation and a Red Dot Design Award, one of the most prestigious awards available for product design.
a&s Adria: 2N’s IP Style range of intercoms has received four awards for design in 2022. What makes it so appealing and suitable for modern architecture and what multiple technologies does it combine?
Grzegorczyk: We definitely take design just as seriously as technological innovation. In the case of the 2N IP Style, it has a minimalistic design built around two main elements: a horizontal bar at the top which shelters ‘invisible’ speakers and the best camera on the intercom market, and below it, a thin, 480 cm2 glass touchscreen. The touchscreen is unprecedented in the intercom market both for its size and for being complete without buttons. The glass is also IP65 and IK08 certified for durability and tested to endure heavy rain, a dusty environment, or vandalism.
However, design is of limited value on its own, which is why we prioritize the combination of design and functionality in our products. Technologically, there are a few things about the 2N IP Style that elevate it above the competition in the market. For instance, it incorporates a 5MP camera with a wide dynamic range (WDR) and our revolutionary WaveKey mobile access technology. We recently added a bi-directional video and a QR code reader as well. The QR code upgrade, in particular, was a response to changing trends in consumer behavior and working patterns, specifically the acceleration of e-commerce and companies operating hybrid, less centralized working models.
a&s Adria: What are the benefits of IP technology in the intercom segment of access control?
Grzegorczyk: IP technology has transformed access control since the 2N IP Vario was launched in 2008. It has enabled the development of smart, flexible, fully customizable solutions – which can also be integrated into complex, comprehensive security systems. The kinds of innovative solutions that are commonplace today would simply not be possible without them. IP technology has also enabled access control systems to be managed remotely, in real-time. This has made a huge difference in residential buildings, where building managers are able to monitor, maintain – and fix – a large number of devices from one place.
But I believe that one of the most transformative impacts of IP technology is still in the relatively early stages: mobile access control. It seems so natural to us now, but phones have replaced watches, cameras, calculators, calendars, CD players, TVs, books, newspapers, and, most recently, credit cards. Keys will soon be added to this list. Driven by the convenience it offers, industry forecasts indicate exponential growth in mobile credentials over the next few years.
In residential buildings, for example, we also expect to see an acceleration in the trend of homeowners integrating access control into their home automation systems. As more and more people start to appreciate the full potential of IP intercoms and answering units, these devices are being transformed into the central control panel, regulating everything from the lights, air-conditioning and music system through to the garage door and lawn irrigation system. They are also being connected with security systems to deter intruders while, at the same time, allowing couriers to deliver packages even when no one is at home.
a&s Adria: You’ve enriched the new 2.35 version of the 2N OS with several new useful features. Bi-directional video is especially a great feature for the hearing impaired, but leaving the video message and pinching-to-zoom is also something that will be a standard in intercoms. Tell us more about these updates.
Grzegorczyk: It’s true that bi-directional video helps ensure that 2N’s devices can be used by the hard of hearing, as it allows them to communicate using sign language. However, that wasn’t our only motivation in adding bi-directional video. It was also a response to the fact that, based on CBRE’s EMEA Occupier Survey 2022, 72% of companies are moving towards a ‘hybrid workplace’ model. Over 60% of companies are looking to increase the provision of mixed, shared or mobile work settings, with nearly 80% planning to downscale dedicated assigned seating. This change has led more and more companies to reconsider the viability of a ‘traditional’ receptionist: a person sitting on the front desk for the full working day to oversee access into the building. For buildings that decide to go without a dedicated reception, bi-directional video is great because visitors can still see the person they are talking to as well as vice versa.
Pinching-to-zoom on the answering unit is a clear security benefit because it allows users to see the caller’s face, name tag or ID more clearly.
a&s Adria: Thanks to open standards, IP Intercoms from 2N can connect with a wide range of external devices. What kind of devices and from what manufacturers? Also, since ONVIF settings have had a total rework, what profiles do 2N intercoms now support?
Grzegorczyk: 2N’s products can be integrated with the largest players in the residential market, including Control4, Stratis, and Brivo. With more and more customers seeing the value of integrating access control into their home automation systems, for example, this is becoming a huge advantage because easy integration is key in this area. Consumers – quite rightly – have no patience for smart home devices that don’t work well together, so proprietary, closed systems which can’t be interconnected with different brands are a real problem. It means that the buyer then has to seek out a home automation vendor that specializes in custom solutions – which, probably, means buying a whole range of appliances that the vendor is endorsing, thereby increasing the costs.
The re-work of the ONVIF settings means that 2N intercoms now support T as well as S profiles. The S profile already supported basic video streaming; the T profile enables advanced video streaming. This opens up a range of new possibilities, including motion detection and tamper alarms, as well as the support of bi-directional audio. This therefore even further broadens the integration options with third-party security devices, allowing customers to connect 2N’s devices to fully comprehensive security solutions.
a&s Adria: The residents like being able to monitor their entrance and open the front door remotely using the 2N Mobile Video app. As a key service provided by My2N, which is hosted on Amazon servers, it provides top-level reliability. Thanks to what architecture can you guarantee a high percentage of connectivity to your customers and what are other key benefits of using your cloud service?
Grzegorczyk: Our rapid developments in cloud computing have brought the option of remote administration and scalable solutions, as well as a reduction in costs. Remote management is one of the key selling points of 2N IP access control devices – and emergency lift communication systems too. Being able to configure, integrate and administer our devices online, via the My2N portal, allows service providers to monitor a huge number of units from wherever you are based, 24/7, and it’s a free service.
a&s Adria: Last year, you introduced WaveKey. What features make it “the fastest mobile access technology on the market, with unrivaled reliability and absolute security,” as you state on your website?
Grzegorczyk: WaveKey is our next-generation Bluetooth-based mobile access technology. The new patented technology is capable of unlocking a door in just 0.3 seconds, which is twice as fast as an RFID card. The secret lies in its unique pre-authentication system of up to eight mobile phones within the reader’s range.
In terms of security, WaveKey solves the challenge around the unwanted door opening. Thanks to our adaptive algorithms and RSSi signal trend analysis, the reader knows whether the user is approaching the reader or moving away from it. A phone within range but lying on a table will never open a door. WaveKey thus resolves limitations that have sometimes been associated with earlier versions of Bluetooth access control technology. Bluetooth communication is also fully protected in our own secure channel. We used AES-128 and RSA-1024 encryption keys.
And in terms of reliability, WaveKey was tested intensively over a six-month period in busy office buildings. We tested over 15,000 door openings with 100 different phone models covering 20 brands – all to guarantee that our customers can trust WaveKey.
a&s Adria: 2N has developed solutions for different industries’ properties and scales. Among many case studies, you recently finished projects in the Park One building in Bratislava, the Churchill Residence in Prague, and Varso Tower in Warsaw, the new tallest building in Europe. On a couple of these examples, how did you meet customers’ needs for a premium and complete access control and/or elevator system?
Grzegorczyk: Park One, in the center of Bratislava, is a good recent example of a project which incorporated a large number of 2N devices. It’s a 12,000 m2 office space plus a four-story parking lot and 72 2N Access Unit Ms form the heart of the solution. The 2N Access Unit M is the ideal reader for office buildings like Park One. As well as being quick to install and affordable even for projects requiring a large number of units, the glass front panel remains scratch-free even after years of daily use.
Four 2N IP Verso intercoms were also used. Thanks to its modularity, the 2N IP Verso is fully configurable to the needs of each project and is easy to interface with other systems to achieve even higher site security. The intercom makes it possible to create a contact list of tenants in the building similar to that in your mobile phone and is scrollable via the touchscreen in the same way. It is also water and vandal-resistant. As the winner of a prestigious Red Dot award for design, the 2N IP Verso also fitted the Park One project’s focus on aesthetics.
2N Access Commander, 2N’s software tool for managing its devices, then allows the status of the intercoms and access control units to be monitored remotely, in real-time.
Four relay A9188 modules were also used for the lifts. The relay is part of 2N’s lift access control solution and is designed to be connected to both the 2N IP Verso and the 2N Access Unit M. Park One is a 13-floor building (nine above ground, four below) but the solution is capable of operating up to 64 floors.
The Varso Tower in Warsaw was a very different project. It is the European Union’s tallest building at a height of 310 meters, with 53 floors. The project developer selected the market leader in high-rise elevators, Schindler Elevators, to install 29 lifts (two of which are evacuation lifts in case of fire) in the building, and the 2N Lift8 – Central Unit was selected for emergency communication. It’s a highly modular lift communication system that only needs a two-wire bus and therefore does not increase the requirements for traveling cable. The system comes with its own application for surveillance. 2N Call Centre software can be supplied as well.
Up to eight lift shafts can be connected to one 2N Lift8 – Central Unit. Each shaft can have up to six communicators. It also offers a wide range of communication interfaces, including PSTN/GSM/UMTS/IP. The communication interface can be changed on a modular basis, without having to replace the whole system.
Within each of the shafts, it’s possible to run a conference call between all of the connected units, including the unit in the machine room. This makes service maintenance easier and is a 2N smart enhancement for the emergency communication system.
Finally, the fireman communication unit operates during fire-fighter interventions. It activates a top-priority call and allows you to establish a connection with the cabin communicator and machine room in the same lift shaft.
Separate from the emergency lift communication, 83 IP intercoms from 2N were also installed to upgrade the access control system, at the main entrance to the Tower and on each floor at the main doorway to the companies renting the building.
A third prestigious project is Šumi, a contemporary urban building situated in the center of Ljubljana, Slovenia, which was opened in the spring of 2022. The complex comprises residential, commercial catering, and hotel areas. The residential part of the project incorporates a string of award-winning products, such as the 2N IP Style, 2N IP Verso, and 2N Indoor View answering units. It also includes WaveKey, our new Bluetooth access control technology.
a&s Adria: What are the most important trends in intercom and access control markets and what can we expect from 2N in the following years?
Grzegorczyk: First, the switch from analog intercoms to IP technology is the most significant trend shaping our industry right now. With the IP intercom, you have features like HD, incredible audio quality, and a huge range of integration options. HD video intercoms are already being widely used in residential properties. The second trend is mobile. Mobile-based access systems were already in huge demand before Covid, but the pandemic will accelerate this because they limit skin contact with shared surfaces and so help provide a safe and secure home access experience. And the third trend we are seeing is the integration of new solutions like mobile access control and video calls from door intercoms into home automation control apps. To be able to do that, your devices must be IP-based to be able to offer appropriate APIs. It is also essential that you, as a manufacturer, can offer SDKs for your app, so it can be integrated into home automation applications.
a&s Adria: Your opinion on the Adriatic region access control market and your company’s position in it? What are your plans in this area, are you looking for a regional partner?
Grzegorczyk: The situation varies from country to country. In Croatia and Slovenia, we are active in the access control segment, but mostly as a module for intercoms. It is not common for us to install standalone access control devices, although sales are slowly growing in this area. We won’t be looking for another distributor in those two countries just yet. In Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro, we are mostly focused on the industry, transportation, and commercial segments. In this region, we would be interested in another partner with a focus on the residential sector.