In The Boardroom With...

Howard Johnson
Chief Operating Officer
AMAG Technology

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com:Thank you for joining us today, Howard. After 34 years at AMAG, Howard Johnson has seen a lot change: change at the company, change in the industry and change in technologies. In this interview, Howard takes a deep dive into these topics and shares his views. Before discussing AMAG in more detail, please tell us about your background.

Howard Johnson:Beginning in 1984, I started as a technician working at customer installations in what we’d now call the Professional Services Department. I moved on and became a QA Test Engineer for the product line, which then consisted of primarily manual testing of Intruder Alarms before moving back to the technical side where I ran the technical support department. Next, I managed Product QA, then ran hardware development before moving to manufacturing and distribution. Eventually, I took over product development where I oversee all development and management of the Symmetry Security platform and a team of engineers.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: AMAG is a well-established security management solution provider. What direction do you see AMAG heading?

Howard Johnson: We are close to completing the transition from being a product-led business to a solutions-led business. The breadth and sophistication of the product set we have is becoming difficult for the traditional integrator to communicate to their user base. Increasingly, the product manufacturer needs to be involved in selling the solution to ensure the requirements are met and the value proposition is fully explained.

Technology makes things simpler over time, but in the security industry, innovation branches off in different directions making it difficult for technology to make things simpler. Remember all those printer driver problems you used to have? No one ever thinks about that now; they just plug in and go.

We are finding complementary markets for our products where integration opportunities are helping companies with different aspects of their businesses. For example, intrusion integration, fire integration, BMS, space management and heat and light are all part of security. Our Symmetry products can integrate with these solutions and help users meet compliance, mitigate risk and save money. Our long-term strategy remains the same: to be a long-term valued partner and provide continuous value to our customers.

We are reinventing ourselves to provide a consultative approach so our customers know how to best use our Symmetry Security Management System. There are new challenges, technologies and propositions. It’s our job to help our customers learn how to use Symmetry to be more efficient.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: How do you see Symmetry evolving to meet the demanding needs of your customers?

Howard Johnson: One of the natural things for a product provider to do is to provide the complete solution. When you provide the complete solution, tech support is easier and the connectivity is more sophisticated because you understand the whole solution. We’ll continue to manufacture the whole solution. As we develop our products, we’ll have more flexible interfaces so integration becomes easier and easier. Our customers can start anywhere with Symmetry, whether it’s visitor management, video, access control and ultimately branch out from there. The difficulty is wanting to be all things to all people, but in essence that is what we have to achieve, from a solutions sense.

Our product line is evolving to meet new market needs. We recently launched RISK360, an incident and case management platform. RISK360 lets users automate, investigate, analyze and document incidents so businesses can make informed decisions to operate efficiently, save money, mitigate risk and enforce compliance. This is a new market for us, yet it compliments the Symmetry System and provides another layer of security.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: In your opinion, is there anything you can do as a company that can help your integrators succeed?

Howard Johnson: I think the big conversation we don’t have with our dealers is, how do we work together to bring out our best skill sets? Quite often we see a dealer who just wants to see a serial process, which is product to provider to end user. We need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder when we go to the customer. It’s better for the dealer to do this, better for us AND better for the customer. We need to work more closely with our dealers to make them feel more comfortable that we have joint aims and objectives. We want a true partnership with all of our dealers.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: What can AMAG learn from their integrators and end users?

Howard Johnson: I think there is a difference between listening and hearing. We hold user group meetings often, but typically what happens is each person states what they want and we write down their ideas. While that is great, what would be more beneficial is if the room full of customers would cross-collaborate between themselves to work out what the real value is with the things they want us to do and not do. I think we can do more to help end users and dealers to work together. Our Security Engineering Symposiums and end user group sessions are good, but the process needs to deepen and mature. We will keep holding customer sessions, but will work to build relationships so our customers feel empowered to change our business if they are prepared to put the effort in to really think about what they want out of us and Symmetry.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: Do you think AMAG is leading the way with any trends or technology?

Howard Johnson: I think there is a big interest in Bluetooth right now, and we were one of the first to market with our Symmetry Blue Bluetooth reader. We are growing our Bluetooth product offering to provide several options.

I think in our core product offering we are leading the industry. If you buy a product from us, the support is from us. We offer an all-in service approach. No more bills across the system, whether it’s our system or a system we integrate with. If you pay your Site Support Agreement, our responsibility is to understand the system enough to support it. There is nothing worse than getting hit with a bill you weren’t expecting. (We see that enough in our daily lives.) From a product manufacturer’s point of view, most product manufacturers sell third-party products because people like to buy it that way, but the real trick is to be able to provide support for the things that you sell.

Our products allow for backward compatibility with previous technologies so customers can upgrade technology with minimal investment.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: Have the additions of the Symmetry GUEST Visitor Management and Symmetry CONNECT Identity and Access Management solutions changed your customer’s perception of AMAG?

Howard Johnson: I think we’ve disrupted people’s views of AMAG. We have an old identity and a new identity, and while they are both valuable, we’ve disrupted by adding cloud-based visitor and identity and access management solutions to our product line-up and our customers are starting to understand we offer solutions beyond access control. We explain the new identity--that we offer a unified solution-- and the new strategy. We are growing as a business. In one or two years, people will be more comfortable. We are keeping our core values, processes and commitments to support our products and product development. It’s all there. It just comes in a new, shinier, expanded package.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: What impact could Symmetry GUEST and Symmetry CONNECT have on your customers?

Howard Johnson: For our dealers, GUEST is a tremendous opportunity for them to take to any customer. It gives them a new and exciting business model where they don’t have to sell installation hours to put a card reader on a wall. They can sell a customer a proposition, and receive revenue for the long-term for that proposition that they’ve sold them.

For end users, GUEST is a simple, powerful, easy-to-use subscription service for managing visitors. It helps them start to understand AMAG as a business and see what else we have to offer.

Symmetry CONNECT is an enterprise space product and needs a different approach. CONNECT manages the different identities that enter a building and streamlines processes to help companies become more efficient. CONNECT helps regulated industries such as financial services, electrical power, healthcare and oil and gas maintain compliance. Its robust reporting delivers standard options needed to meet compliance and custom reports satisfy PCI, SOX, HIPAA, NERC CIP and other audit and compliance demands. It works well with GUEST, because customers won’t buy CONNECT unless they were already working with AMAG in the first place. You become so entwined in the business processes that you have a huge amount of trust with the supplier.

For our dealer base, all of our solutions allow them to stay with us. They don’t have to take ownership of the integration because it’s from one company - us. We have much greater breadth and depth for those integrators and end users who want to have one valued partner they work with. We are happy to provide commercial terms for long term support and with one fixed fee so there are no more bills for the customer.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: Thank you, Howard.  Is there anything else you would like to add?

Howard Johnson: One of our missions as a company is to make the end user’s life easier. We develop solutions to help our customers operate efficiently, reduce costs and meet compliance, which essentially are the three reasons companies are compelled to make changes in their security systems. To do that, we want to become a trusted advisor. Technology makes life easier, but with new technology comes more complex infrastructure and therefore a close partnership with IT is required. We want to work together with our integrator and end user to help them figure out their data and how to use it to streamline business, automate processes and reduce costs. If we can do that, everyone will be successful.

Kim Rahfaldt
Public Relations Manager
AMAG Technology

How to Overcome Airport Security Challenges and Solutions 

No matter the size, airports are responsible for the security of all workers who are employed within their walls, on the tarmac, and grounds. The challenge is ninety percent of those people don’t work for the airport. They work for the airlines, TSA, or different vendors that reside as tenants within the airport.

Airports need to provide a friendly and efficient experience for their tenants. They need to ensure the different employees (identities) are properly vetted and managed throughout their lifecycle. Additional challenges include the use of multiple disparate systems across an airport plus the rules and regulations that must be followed. How can airports provide a high level of customer service for their tenants, meet compliance regulations and ensure the safety and security of everyone? 


The faster an airport can onboard a new employee, the happier the tenant. When a new employee is hired, they get assigned to an airport and need a badge. The onboarding process is usually manual, and requires employees to make multiple trips to their airport to answer questions, get a background check, get fingerprinted, go through training, etc. Most of the time, the onboarding officer has to work in several different systems to complete the onboarding, which is cumbersome and error prone. Airports get pressured to quicken this process, and have an opportunity to show value to their tenants by getting new employees badged and out to work quickly.  By streamlining the onboarding process using an identity management system, the procedures are automated and the airline employee starts work faster. What used to take weeks, now takes days, plus automated processes also free up staff time, saving money.

Airports are highly regulated, and employees need to pass background checks and have a certain level of insurance to work in highly restricted areas like the Security Identification Display Area (SIDA). An identity management system can automate and streamline compliance requirements, ensuring the airport will not fall out of compliance. Built in reporting features provide pre-configured reports to streamline employee audits.

Unified Security

In the Security Operations Center, security officers monitor cameras that integrate with the access control system. When an alarm occurs, the video immediately pops up so the officer can see what is happening and respond quickly. Workflow modules outline what steps must be taken to address the alarm, which ensures the proper procedures are followed and quick action taken. Tools that allow officers to manage access control and video functions from one screen also aid in the response and provide a higher level of security. The ability to address alarms and videos from one screen along with a workflow aid provides unified alarm management and streamlines the process around what happens when an alarm comes in as officers receive, review and respond.

As alarms occur, security officers need to manage and document those incidents. Officers can investigate incidents and build a case when warranted using incident and case management software. The analytics uncover inefficiencies in processes and show where the airport can streamline to save money. 

Using a holistic, unified approach can automate processes around access control, video verification and alarm management, which improves security.

Multi Factor Authentication

In most markets, multifactor authentication is used on a fraction of the doors. In the airport environment, multifactor authentication is used throughout the airport. Every employee must present a badge and enter a PIN. If an employee loses a badge, a perpetrator cannot open a door without the PIN. This is especially critical on the SIDA side of the airport where tarmac access is available.


Employees who work on the tarmac must have a large amount of insurance. If an airline employee’s insurance lapses, but they still have access, the airline would have to pay a big fine. An identity management system allows the airlines and other tenants to automatically track when insurance premiums are due and when background checks need to be performed.  By automating these processes, airport tenants know who can be where and when, when certifications, insurance premiums or background checks are set to expire, and can renew premiums and conduct a background check at the scheduled time. This keeps the airport in compliance, mitigates risk, and saves money.

Sonoma County Airport

Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport is located in Santa Rosa, California. When Alaska Airlines began service, officials realized the airport was not equipped to handle current security requirements and the increased number of passengers. The airport received funds to remodel and expand the passenger terminal, and decided to upgrade their security system. 

The airport installed an access control system with integrated video to secure its three buildings and 12 vehicle gates. The integration between the controllers and card readers provided a solution that reads the Federal Aviation Administration’s government issued ID cards. They needed to meet TSA requirements, and provide two levels of access for the terminal, remainder of the airfield, general aviation and cargo areas (SIDA and AOA). They needed to demonstrate to TSA who was in the building and when, and pull up that history when asked to meet compliance.

Anyone entering the vehicle gates must have an Airport Operations Area (AOA) badge to gain access. Cameras monitor transactions and an audit trail verifies who entered and when. Maintaining tight control of who is on the airfield is critical. If an unauthorized person tries to badge in, an alarm is sent to the access control system. An image appears on the monitor and the security staff decides how to proceed. Employees who work for the airlines, TSA and the airport work the Security Identification Display Area (SIDA) and must also have their badge displayed at all times.

Installing a unified security system allowed airport cameras to automatically record alarms driven by the access control system, providing tight security.  It also generated an audit trail to enforce audit and compliance requirements, saving the airport money.

Mr. Kurt Takahashi
AMAG Technology

Updated January 3, 2018

AMAG Technology Releases New Symmetry Video Hardware

New NVR Appliances and Video Client Workstations Deliver Unmatched Scalability with Symmetry CompleteView Video Software

Updated November 7, 2017

How do you efficiently manage the way that physical identities are requesting approval, and ensure that it is carried out correctly

At first glance, access control systems may appear straightforward: built simply to lock and unlock a door. But delve deeper, and the administration of granting approval becomes extremely labor-intensive, and timely, in nature. Email traffic between security teams and site managers or business owners becomes overwhelming, as requests for approvals must be granted and access taken away manually, and precious time is wasted generating reports.While this in itself is problematic, it also leads to a rise in third-party compliance regulations. In the US, these can include everything from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act for the healthcare sector to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s Critical Infrastructure Protection standards for utilities. So, how do you efficiently manage the way that physical identities are requesting approval, and ensure that it is carried out correctly? More

Updated September 12, 2017

Amag Technology's Symmetryweb Delivers Mobile Access Control Management To Symmetry Access Control Customers

Updated August 14, 2017

AMAG Technology Welcomes Matica Technologies to the Symmetry Preferred Partner Program

Updated August 7, 2017

Telaeris Joins AMAG's Technology's Symmetry Preferred Partner Program

Updated June 20, 2017

Nortech Joins AMAG's Technology's Symmetry Preferred Partner Program

Updated May 16, 2017

AMAG recently announced:

AMAG Technology Welcomes Key Tracer to Symmetry Preferred Partner Program

RightCrowd® Joins Symmetry™ Preferred Partner Program

Arecont Vision® Technology Partner Program Welcomes AMAG 

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: Thank you for joining us today.  Before discussing AMAG Solutions in greater detail, please tell  us about your background?

Kurt Takahashi:  Thank you for having me. I am President at AMAG Technology, and lead AMAG’s sales force to implement new strategies to drive growth and extend exceptional customer service.

I began my security career at Sensormatic Corporation before moving to ADT Security Services where I worked my way up for 17 years to Group Director, Integrated Solutions Sales. As Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing at Quantum Secure, I reorganized Sales, Business Development and Marketing teams which helped increased global pipeline, sales and year over year revenue growth.

My expertise in PSIM/PIAM enterprise software and IP based security solutions such as access control, video and intrusion, make a good fit here at AMAG. I enjoy improving processes and strategizing sales and marketing initiatives to achieve results by understanding the customer and how solutions and services can benefit their organization.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: Can you give us an update on AMAG Technology?

Kurt Takahashi: It’s been an exciting 12 months at AMAG.  We launched our Symmetry GUEST Visitor Management web-based solution early last year and it won New Product of the Year from Security Products magazine. Symmetry GUEST improves the visitor experience, streamlines operations while improving processes.  In many cases we provide smarter ways to ensure pre-registration of visitors and optimize how lobbies are both manned and managed. Organizations will know who is entering their building, properly vet them and ensure all compliance requirements are met. Visitors can check in using their smartphone or self-service kiosk, allowing organizations to be smarter about headcount  and provide a much improved visitor experience.

AMAG Technology has a rich history of 40+ years in the access control industry. Our goal is to extend the value of our access control platform by adding new solutions such as  Symmetry GUEST and soon to be released Symmetry CONNECT, our policy-based identity management system. AMAG Technology provides access control, video management, intrusion alarm, visitor management, identity management and incident management all by a single provider. Our policy-based platform and automation engine helps companies operationalize their electronic security ecosystem.  Our highly flexible open platform enables us to add new innovative technology built by our business partners easily and timely. This helps companies simplify their operations by allowing them to utilize AMAG’s user interface to manage their complex environments.

Security technology must work together in harmony to deliver a total security solution.   It needs to reach beyond and deliver greater operational value to the business. Selecting the right technology can completely impact an overall business. It can reduce risk, ensure compliance and save money by improving the overall process. It is our goal to deliver superior outcomes with both a technological and operational focus. AMAG’s solutions will help companies mitigate risk, streamline internal processes to ensure compliance and save money.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com:  What other new products have you brought to market this year and how are they helping organizations?

Kurt Takahashi: Our Symmetry CONNECT hosted solution helps automate all the back office management of visitors, contractors and employees.  It provides an automated way to on-board, manage requests, re-certify access, off-board and audit restricted doors and / or areas. It provides a single operational window to ensure the right people are in the right places with the right approval and quickly report on the outcomes.

At AMAG, we listen to our customers and bring technology solutions to market that help end users perform their jobs better. For example, our new Symmetry Control Desk delivers unrivaled unified security in one place. It fuses what historically takes multiple screens and operating windows into one by fusing together both access control events, live and recorded video, control over surrounding devices and automated workflow to help manage the incident and post orders.

We also just launched the Symmetry Bluetooth reader range. The Symmetry Blue reader range is used with Android or iOS Smart Phones alongside or in place of traditional cards.  Users download a free app and start using it.  The free app does not require a license, separate portal or a third party subscription to operate.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: AMAG offers a unified security solution to the market, but values and promotes integrations with different technologies.  What is your stance on third party integrations and why do you think they are important?

Kurt Takahashi: AMAG continuously examines new and different technologies in the market.  If there is a need for an integration, we will fill that need.  Our brand new integration with the RISK360 Incident and Case Management solution is a good example. Alarms in the Symmetry Access Control software communicate with RISK360, creating an incident, which could lead to a computer aided dispatch and provide critical information, producing a case management report for investigative purposes. We found a need for this integration in the market, listened to our customers and delivered it.
Our successful Symmetry Preferred Partner Program has been in operation for many years.  Every month we are jointly certifying integrations with technologies inside and outside the security industry. We are excited so many companies want to integrate with our Symmetry solution and are thrilled there are so many end users demanding these integrations.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: Congratulations on the Federal Trade Commission project. Can you tell us more about the Symmetry solution they are using?

Kurt Takahashi: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has selected AMAG Technology and its Symmetry Homeland Access Control System to secure its headquarter building, Office of the Executive Director. Symmetry helps the FTC meet HSPD-12 which calls for a mandatory, government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification issued by the federal government, and the Federal Information Processing Standard Publication 201 (FIPS 201) which specifies PIV requirements for Federal employees and contractors. The FTC plans to install Symmetry Homeland in all 13 offices throughout Washington DC and surrounding area.

SecuritySolutionsWatch.com: Thank you for joining us today, Kurt.