Tech Trends: How Middleware Makes Impossible a Reality

How it Helps Smaller Manufacturers

Interestingly, middleware has been around for a while; however, many in our industry – especially manufacturers – do not seem to understand its value. For example, many start-up companies lament about the costs of integrating their technology with enterprise platforms like Software House C-Cure or Genetec Security Center. It is true that many of these enterprise platform companies require a large fee for certifying the integration; however, without the integration, a smaller start-up will find itself struggling with end-user adoption.

This is where the middleware companies come in. They have already built back-end Application Programming Interface (API) connectors and/or firmware for these enterprise giants that enables other companies to make a connection to the middleware. This allows data to flow bidirectionally across the middleware, without the need for and cost of a direct connection.

Why it Matters to Integrators and End-Users

Another key element to middleware is that by nature, the companies that provide it are customization houses; in fact, middleware is one of the tech trends (the other is Digital Twins), that is solving technology integrations used for business intelligence use-cases.

The reality is that enterprise end-users have use-cases they need to solve that require more than just another camera or access control reader. They need integration partners to work with the existing technology ecosystem. The problem is that enterprise software – typically due to size, complexity, or lack of desire to move – has less agility to meet these unique use-case requirements.

This is where middleware solutions thrive. A simple redirect to one of the middleware customization houses turns “not possible” into “we can do that.” And for end-users and integrators who want to ensure a certified integration, the middleware companies are certified by the enterprise applications as partners to connect. Due to their deep integration relationships with the systems they connect to, middleware software providers have foreknowledge of most changes to software platforms, as well as the agility to update their platforms quickly – resulting in almost no disruption in service.

Middleware Being Felt on the Show Floor

My first introduction to middleware was Convergence to Pixels ( about eight years ago. Since then, I have come across a few of these companies – and some software-savvy integrators – who have developed ways to solve these unique use-cases, such as Z9 Security (

Back at ISC West, conversation after conversation included Z9 as “the solution” to various problems. One enterprise software provider told me Z9 had added value to their solution; a connected software vendor told me Z9 helped their product become more mainstream.

An end-user would never see Z9 or likely know it exists; however, it was a critical part of an access control solution. More importantly, Z9 provided the door to interoperability, via standards like Public Key Open Credential (PKOC) and Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP), but also through hardware and software communications across multiple access control platforms.

Unlike most middleware platforms, Z9 has a hardware middleware component as well. For clarity, z9/op=n is the hardware component, and Z9/FL=X is the middleware designed for interoperability.

“z9/op=n is open-architecture technology for wired access control panels and smart locks, connecting them to Z9/FL=X, and enabling interoperability among a wide range of hardware and software from multiple vendors,” explains Ken Larson, Z9’s President. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen an explosion of new access control hardware platforms, as well as vertical-targeted software experiences. As the number of possible hardware and software combinations multiplies, it becomes harder and harder for all these ‘dots’ to be connected one by one. A unified, central integration point with a single API becomes the only scalable, sane way to achieve the level of interoperability that our industry and its customers need, and this is what Z9/FL=X provides.”  

Middleware solutions like Z9’s are getting things done in the security industry. Fully vetted and supported, they offer the ability to connect independent systems to solve for next-level use-cases, with agility and cost savings, while robust enough to work with the enterprise platforms.


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