Identification Systems Group

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January 16, 2017 Issue



Access Control, Metal Tags, Visitor Management, Identification, Security and Card Personalization Solutions for Organizations, Government Agencies and Facilities across the US and Canada


Tom Stiles

Executive Director


Identification Systems Group


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – January 16, 2017


CEOCFO: Mr. Stiles, what is the focus of Identification Systems?

Mr. Stiles: We are an association of elite identification and security integrators that serve the US and Canada. Our group of dealers sell systems to organizations to help them improve security such as ID card systems, visitor management systems, and card access control systems.


CEOCFO: Who is turning to your members for services? Is there a common thread?

Mr. Stiles: I think there is not a common thread because we serve virtually every vertical market. That could be identification for students, employees, customers, members, patients, visitors, and citizens. Some of our big vertical markets are corporate and education, like higher education and K-12.


CEOCFO: What are some of the challenges in ID cards today?

Mr. Stiles: To produce an ID card and get a system to produce an ID card is fairly easy. The challenge is integrating the card with the other systems that need to have the data. If you want to use the ID card to open a door or purchase your lunch and check out books in a library, those systems have to be integrated so when the card is issued it needs to communicate or connect somehow with the systems to know that is an active card. 


CEOCFO: Is that something where you can help a company or is that challenge on their end?

Mr. Stiles: A strength of ISG dealers is to be able to make the data connection or the integration happen. Otherwise a customer that purchases a commodity ID card system ends up having to have manual processes to update the other systems.


CEOCFO: Do most companies think it through as to what they might be using the card for down the road or do people come back and say they are using the card and it has worked well but now they would like to add something?

Mr. Stiles: It is half and half. Many people have the mindset that they need to issue ID cards, but want to buy the cheapest system they can find. On the other hand, others do think it through and have a committee and the various stakeholders involved, so we see both ends of the spectrum.


CEOCFO: Are you most of the time able to help someone that comes back for a second round?

Mr. Stiles: We are able to help all of our customers from the original sale moving forward and we tend to keep our customers for a long time. Part of the reason is the expandability of our systems, and our top notch support.

CEOCFO: What is new in the identification technology industry?

Mr. Stiles: The use of contactless cards has grown a lot and the movement to contactless smartcards. Those are the ones where you just wave or tap your card to be able to read the card and that makes things more convenient and there is less wear and tear on the card. A big advantage is it is highly secure so the cards cannot be duplicated or cloned. Another trend is use of a smartphone, so a smart code phone can be your credential and can act and talk like a credential and can be used for payment or opening doors or some of the traditional card based activities. A third one might be biometrics so adding a biometric fingerprint or an eye or facial recognition. Adding that, is an additional factor to a secure area, so you may walk up to a research lab that is highly secure and tap your card but also put your finger on the reader to the second factor which is authentication.


CEOCFO: How will the use of smartphones affect your business?

Mr. Stiles: It is unknown. My personal belief is that the phone supplements the ID card or augments the ID card and there is another option of convenience or whatever, but it will not replace the ID card any time soon. It is additional security.  One of the big things that security experts say is that everyone that is on your premise needs to be identified to show that they are authorized to be there. If we take a high school for example you will have faculty, staff and students and visitors all wearing a badge so you know if there is a stranger wandering around without identification. That visual security is one of the compelling reasons to maintain ID cards.


CEOCFO: Are there different systems that work better in different industries?

Mr. Stiles: By and large the systems work in various markets. They may be packaged differently based on the market. One example is in the higher education market where the student has the card for four to six years, and they issue a more durable card product than someone who issues a card only for a year.


CEOCFO: Do people care what the cards look like?

Mr. Stiles: Yes. Most organizations look at the ID card as an extension of their brand and image. A great deal of thought is given to the design of the card.


CEOCFO: How do you help people if they find it is important?

Mr. Stiles: By and large it is a branding thing. This is an identification of their company and their image. Marketing is involved, so the logo has to be perfect, the colors have to be perfect and it has to have a great looking background. They all get pretty worked up about the look of the card. It has to be prestigious looking. So that is the one that wins out.


CEOCFO: How does ISG work with the member companies?

Mr. Stiles: These 32 member dealer companies are regionalized so each one has their own area. They have brick and mortar, sales people, service techs and office staff. What ISG brings to them is buying power. We are able to talk to manufacturers and to offer the products to all of the ISG dealers, so that gives the dealer a good price that they might not be able to get if they were on their own. We do the education and training components on a broad way to keep them up to date. They might not be able to do that on their own. We have the website and the marketing activities to help generate awareness and leads. The consolidation makes us a pretty big powerhouse organization.


CEOCFO: Are you looking to add members?

Mr. Stiles: We are not looking to add members because each member has a territory, meaning that if a lead comes into Kansas City Missouri, then it goes to that one local dealer. They are not really competing at least in their geographic areas. Where we add from time to time is our manufacturing partners. If new technology comes around that we think we would be successful with then we will talk to that manufacturer.


CEOCFO: Would you tell us about identifying equipment as opposed to people?

Mr. Stiles: One area is identifying products in a harsh environment and that could be things like automobiles, trailers, boats, utility lines, steel, tanks, pipes and hoses and on and on. It is a huge market for us with a metal tag. Typically, it is an embossed metal tag of some kind, whether it is steel, copper or aluminum, because it needs to hold up in the environment. It also needs to be the raised letters because it may be dirty or be painted. That part of identification is a big area for us. The other one would be inventory or asset tagging that would be more of a bar-coded label which would be the most typical one where you need to put a permanent label on something and be able to scan it when you are taking inventory or keeping track. It could be asset tracking also. Those all fall under the identification market applications.


CEOCFO: When ID cards are needed for a one-time event, how do you work with organizations in need of those types of services?

Mr. Stiles: If you go to a tradeshow or something like that, it may not be a plastic card, it may just be a paper tag stuck into a pouch. We provide systems or rentals for these short-term events and sometimes our dealers will provide the equipment and the staffing as well on the smaller regional tradeshows. The last piece of that is the oversized credential. There are a couple of plastic card printers that have emerged that we sell.


CEOCFO: Is there more focused on the ID card or are people looking at other ways not just the basic ID card system?

Mr. Stiles: I do not see that being overlooked. It is just something that people know is needed. The overlooked part might be thinking of it as a commodity and going on the internet and buying the cheapest thing they can.


CEOCFO: Why pay attention to ISG?

Mr. Stiles: You pay attention to ISG because of our expertise and independence because we can offer a variety of solutions and options. We are not just a manufacturer selling only our manufacturer products; you get better independent advice from us.



“We are an association of elite identification and security integrators that serve the US and Canada. Our group of dealers sell systems to organizations to help them improve security such as ID card systems, visitor management systems, and card access control systems.”- Tom Stiles


Identification Systems Group



Tom Stiles








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