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Usability Key to Access Control Software Success
The Editorial Team 2008/10/14

Although the marketplace is replete with software providers, not all can offer user satisfaction. speaks to three Asian vendors and identifies how they embody the fundamental characteristics of effective access control management software.

Although the marketplace is replete with software providers, not all can offer user satisfaction. speaks to three Asian vendors and identifies how they embody the fundamental characteristics of effective access control management software.

For effective access control software, usability is the most important consideration.The right access control software should be easy to use, maintain and monitor. It should allow users to create and manage their own badging modules.

The key is the logical design of the software, said Kevin Wang, Manager of the Hardware Development Division at Taiwan-based GeoVision. The software should enable users to manage their access control program, such as user groups and entry search, in an intuitive and logical way.

"Letˇs say a company has three different shifts, each having different authorization levels at different time to different access," said Wang. "The software should allow the security operators to easily designate groups and arrange time at desired intervals."

For setting time zones, GeoVision provides a simple drag-and-drop interface for users to set cardholder time shifts. This allows 24 hours to be broken down into intervals as short as five minutes, with up to 256 configurable time zones and weekly schedules. Furthermore, four different authorization levels make it more flexible for security operators to manage shifts for all cardholders.

Vendors create tools to make their access control software more user-friendly. Korea-based IDTECK includes a step-by-step setup wizard and graphic diagrams. It offers extensive tool tips throughout the software.

"For further assistance with the software, we also have an online training center to provide our customers with up-to-date information and training for our products and systems," said Sea-Yong Um (Umsea), Regional Overseas Business Manager at IDTECK.

A colored interface makes IDTECK software more usable. "User interface can be adjusted on different themed colors and various reports can be created based on different needs," Um said.

RCG Holdings, a Hong Kong-based biometric manufacturer, makes facial recognition access control systems for areas without physical doors. RCG ensures its users can operate the software by using laymanˇs terms. "We design applications with extremely simple functions," said Deputy CEO Datoˇ Lee.

"For example, our friendly GUI allows the facial recognition result to pop up without users touching anything. To save users time, we configure today's date and time as one of the default values so thereˇs no need for the users to key in. Also, to make a friendly interface, we create pop-up messages in colors."

The ability to integrate with other security systems is essential for management software. "Integration can influence the purchase decision," Um said.

GeoVision offers access control software allowing integration with its DVR and IP products. The integration enables video and event-associated playback to be controlled from a single platform. "It allows security operators to immediately look at the live video images, cardholder's photo and information stored in the access control database when the cardholder swipes the card," said Sharon Yeh, Assistant Manager of the Sales Division.

IDTECKˇ s software can be connected to DVRs, surveillance devices and video servers for integrated monitoring. "When the video image is taken, it can be compared or matched with the photo that is already registered in the database," Um said.

Access control software must integrate functions such as time and attendance. "We are able to generate a report on a cardholderˇs time and attendance with both video images and snap shots," Wang said. "This helps payroll to ensure if the right cardholder is using the card to gain access."

IDTECK performs all basic time and attendance management, as well as elevator control, visitor management and personal tracking system. This solution maximizes user convenience, allows a single card to be used for time and attendance, debit meals, and vehicle control.

For managerial purposes, the access control software should support integration with the company ERP system.

Stability and Real-Time Monitoring
Having a stable database is key for successful access control management software."Many users overlook the important role that database plays in the access control system," Um said. The database should be more than storage. Instead, it should save all events, such as system information, exit history and other related data.

"Frequently used data should be saved as well to eliminate the need to create new data when needed," said Um, "Also, by saving all the data for system restoration, it helps to recover the system more promptly in the case of system failure."

Lee explained how RCG increases software stability, by separating front-end applications from back-end databases. "The front-end client site only captures images, encrypts data and conducts preliminary search. All the images are thrown back to the database for further processing."

"For example, the security operator can have top 10 VIP customers or
100 customers at the client side to do a quick search," Lee said. "To look for anything beyond the top 10 VIPs, an overall search is done at the main database at back-end server. "

Real-time monitoring is an essential feature of access control software. "The video snapshots must be delivered to the back-end and synchronized with access logs. Some network cameras can only send five frames per second, but our camera offers smooth delivery," Wang said.

Lee said the captured images will appear two seconds after individuals have their faces recognized. "The key lies in the hardware and the way application is written. The programmer has to write the software in the way that is able to communicate between the navigation interface and different algorithms."

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