Most Needed Improvement: Access Control Software

By Brian Rhodes, Published Feb 16, 2015, 12:00am EST

100 integrators answered IPVM's question:

"Which aspect/element of access control system technology (ie: credentials, locks, controllers, management software, system openness, etc) most needs to improve? Why?"

Software and openness were the clear top 2 responses.

Here's an overview of their answers:


In this note, we break down each of these themes, sharing detailed commentary from integrators about these problems.

Key Themes

The replies grouped into four general categories

  • Software: Responses in this category centered around the appearance, features and usability of the primary user interface.
  • Openness & Integration: These answers mentioned the difficulty or impossibility of tying together access systems with others.
  • Locks: Many integrators mentioned the needless complexity of specifying, installing, and operating electric locksets.
  • Others: This category represented answers, that while not commonly cited still expressed frustration and aggravation with components like credentials, missing features, or companion devices.

We examine each of these elements bundled with survey comments in the sections that follow.

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With more than 40% of the votes, the strongest sentiment was that access control software needs to improve.  Responses repeatedly mentioned the dated appearance, awkward controls, and limited features of mainstay access systems:

  • "Management software for end user. In a nutshell all they require is to be able to view audit trail, add and delete users. From our experience they get overwhelmed by options."
  • "Software seems to be behind times not catching up to todays trends (mobile apps, ease of use etc)."
  • "Software. The two main software packages we use are still driven by what the manufacture believes the user wants and/or needs. The manufacturers need to really listen and take on board with an open mind of the requests of end-users and installers."
  • "Enterprise Access Control software, (i.e., Pro-Watch, On-Guard, etc.) still looks like Windows 95."
  • "I suggest to improve the Management Software, the reason is to improve credential management & report generation which is still challenging in the most of the available access control system manufacturer's. Also, system openness, the reason is to support integration to any available security system."
  • "There is little innovation on access control software. Commoditization is occurring because of lack of innovation."
  • "Larger platforms are not kept up to date and look old and cumbersome. It takes years to get new features. Graphical layouts are poorly designed and supported compared with BMS platforms."
  • "Hands down, its management software. The biggest failure in access control is user error. When software is unintuitive, cumbersome and overly complicated, the chance for problems increases dramatically."

Regardless of how prominent or small an access brand may be, criticism about the head end software was consistently strong.  

Openness & Integration

Another strong sentiment: Tying other systems together with access is miserable or impossible. Answers generally lamented the fact interoperability between different systems and devices is no closer now than it ever has been:

  • "System openness. There are clients with existing access control projects. While we try to expand the compatibility between the old and new system puts a big challenge in implementation. There must be some open standard so that we can combine and use multiple vendors."
  • "Integration with ONVIF and VMS. The VMS suppliers (such as DvTel) and the camera suppliers (such as Panasonic)want the other party to solve the issues. Neither party will take responsibility."
  • "The management system should include advanced T/A (Time and Attendance) / payroll system or integration to SAP/other 3rd party payroll systems. Customers want to use the access control system to minimize their work with working hours / payment based on working hours calculations."
  • "Siemens. lacks integration with third party systems. Need to be more open rather than using it's own protocol."
  • "System openness is still a concern, many systems use customised firmware and comms protocols."
  • "An open software language similar to something they are trying to do with ONVIF would help these systems share information but that would require those other systems to follow suit as well. So that might be nice but I don't see that happening anytime soon."
  • "System openness and management software making better integrations with working hours, project management plans and some other marketing tools."

Indeed, we noted the pitiful state of access openness efforts in our Access Interoperability: Going Nowhere note. 


Surprisingly, lock hardware dissatisfaction was a 'Top 3' complaint. Common feedback mentioned the difficulty in getting the right lock installed in the correct way, and that seemingly endless variations of doors and openings to secure make locks a major painpoint

  • "Without question it's the door hardware, especially in construction projects. Most of the problems we encounter have to do with the lock hardware and its installation."
  • "I would like to see more standardization in locking hardware. Every architectural door selection should be able to fall back on a commonly accepted, high security standard that is minimally intrusive, to prevent aesthetic objections. Whether that would be some kind of vertically inserted miniature version of a rod, or some variation on existing strike designs, we need to get away from locks that require battery backups."
  • "We are still looking for a lock that allows full monitoring. In our experience, the electronics of the access control system are very reliable and problems originate 95% of the time within the mechanics of the door or lock. but to be sure we need more feedback form the lock."
  • "Door hardware continues to be the most complex and difficult issue we encounter with ACS deployments. You can design a rock solid system but everything goes to hell if the door doesn't operate smoothly or latch properly. I'm not sure how that can be improved from an industry perspective."
  • "Locks: They take a lot of abuse in everyday use. I'm referring specifically to add on locks i.e. strikes, mag-locks and similar. If a door doesn't fit well then the lock doesn't do its job well. My experience with mortise electrified locks has been much better."
  • "Locking hardware and wiring door frames continue to be the highest cost item with the most variability. Industry needs to continue to push for more standardization in function and operation."

While the range of lock options and problems is huge, IPVM has a number of resources that could help take the edge off lock specification. Catch these updates for more:


This 'catch-all' category didn't not share common sentiment, but in many cases voiced strong dissatisfaction nonetheless.  From credentials and card printers, to the quagmire of mobile-based credentials, several feel the need for vendors to improve in fringe but important areas:

  • "Card printers. We have installed multiple brands and find that card printers are temperamental, require frequent service and supplies are expensive."
  • "Credentials and user training actually. Most of the hardware is pretty good, but the users are the issue most of the time."
  • "True knowledge of the door status such as DPS form factors, Rex sensors to reduce false door forced events."
  • "Electrified Panics, very expensive."
  • "I'm going to say remote access from a smartphone. I know EAC systems can send text messages and email notifications but everyone wants an app. You do have to worry about the security being compromised if someone's phone is stolen."
  • "I would like to see a bigger or faster push for mobile phone credentials. Right now HID Seos is the only technology I'm aware of and the licensing fees and hoops to set it up is mind numbing. I'm sure it will improve but with with apple's release of NFC but this should have been going years ago When android released NFC."
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