9 Best Access Control Systems in 2021

9 Best Access Control Systems in 2021
December 14, 2020 Levi Olmstead

Multifamily properties have specific criteria to address when implementing an access control system. The approach you take can make a big difference in how your building operates, how secure your community is, and how much value residents take from it.

What Is an Access Control System?

An access control system is an automated entry system into a building or community. Access control systems grant access to an area or building for those who are authorized to enter, and deny entrance to those who are not. While all access control systems achieve the same goal, there are many different approaches and options to choose from including keycards, fobs, mobile devices, and biometrics. Similar to access control systems are video intercom systems for apartment communities.

What Are the Common Types of Access Control Systems?

  • Locally-Hosted Access Control
  • Cloud-Based Access Control (also known as Smart Access Control)
  • Smartphone Access Control
  • Biometric Access Control

Locally-Hosted Access Control

Locally-hosted (or on-premise) access control systems were the norm in access control for a long time. They allow your property to be fully centralized and controlled from your own on-site facilities. This will require an entire infrastructure to operate, including a server running the access control software, computers running the software, readers, door locks, and a master control panel. 

While this infrastructure means there is a high initial expense, it doesn’t have the typical monthly fees associated with other access control solutions. This has its pros and cons, as it can be cheaper in the long run, but it could take up to three years to break even. By that time, upgrades could be needed. Maintenance and support will also be an expense, as it’s important to make sure the software is up to date.

There are some clear benefits to locally-hosted systems, particularly internet independence and security. When the software is run through an on-site network, it doesn’t require an internet connection to work, so if the internet goes down, it will still be available. Additionally, if you’re especially worried about the security of sensitive data, you can set up your network to be entirely isolated from the internet.

Cloud-Based Access Control

Cloud-based access control systems (or software-as-a-service platforms) are becoming more and more common for properties. Many property managers prefer them to on-premises systems because they don’t require a server on-site. There are two different kinds of cloud-based access control. 

The first is hosted systems involves having a computer on-site that runs the access control software, but the server is in a remote location where it supports multiple users. 

The second kind of cloud-based access control is called web-based, which has neither the server nor the computer on-site. Both are located at a remote location where the software can be accessed through a web browser or app. 

The benefits are that there is a smaller initial cost because there’s no need for a server or (with web-based systems) a computer on-site running the software. The cost can add up over time as these systems are typically based on a monthly or yearly subscription. There is also no need for maintenance as all upgrades and maintenance is performed at the center, out of your hands. Because cloud-based systems are exactly that, there is always the risk that if an internet outage occurs, the software and applications will be out of service, either on your site or theirs.

Smartphone-Based Access Control

Smartphone-based access control systems are typically paired in combination with cloud-based systems. They feature an application that can be accessed by user’s personal devices which once credentialed, allow them access to buildings. These apps often utilize bluetooth technology. 

This eliminates the need for RFID cards and allows for connections from a few feet away, as opposed to RFID’s read distance of only an inch. Smartphone-based access control can also feature biometric authentication by using the built in biometric systems that are present in many smartphones.

Biometrics Access Control

Biometrics access control systems use biomarkers like eyes, face, fingerprints, and even voice to grant or deny property access. This technology is remarkably accurate and is a growing industry. Perhaps the most futuristic sounding option on this list, biometrics are the ultimate convenience for residents, as they can never lose their key, and there’s no need for any software or applications on their part. 

Because entrance is customized so specifically to people in the network, this makes things take a little bit longer for staff that need entry to units. It’s not too complicated though. Some systems that utilize voice biometrics will speak to the staff member and authorize their entry upon the resident’s confirmation. 

The same can be said for delivery persons and visitors when requesting access to the building. The resident can deny, approve, talk to the person, or forward them to a remote monitoring system where a building’s representative can speak to them. This is where real savings can occur due to the ability to have just one remote representative monitoring multiple buildings, rather than employing a doorman for each building.

5 Benefits of Smart Access Control Systems for Apartment Communities

Updating a community’s access control provides benefits for everyone entering the building – from residents, guests, maintenance, to staff. Here are the most obvious benefits:

1. Better Security

Smart access control is far more secure than traditional keys. It allows for better tracking of who comes and goes in the building, as well as better security against physical data breaches. 

Gated access at every door, video surveillance, and resident’s access to in-app monitoring of who gains entrance to their units all result in an extremely safe environment for residents and staff alike.

2. No Need for Physical Keys

Alternative keys like mobile apps, bluetooth, and biometrics provide more convenience for residents, no more lock outs, no need for turning keys in at end of lease, no need for management to spend money to make new keys. They also provide easier access for maintenance staff to move freely around the building, saving time and money.

3. Easier Access for In-Home Services & Deliveries

With smart access control, service and delivery people can more quickly perform their duties without complicated, time-consuming trips to and from management for keys and authorization. 

Credentials can be verified and access granted remotely from a central location, sometimes from one remote location for multiple buildings. Service providers can even be given a one-time access code that grants entry for a limited time-period. This can cut down on the amount of staff required to manage one or many multifamily buildings.

4. Better Visitor & Guest Management Experience

When a visitor arrives at a multifamily property, residents can grant them entry remotely, often from their own phone. In some cases, residents can even see who is there to visit them without having to interact with them. 

Access control systems can be set up to require visitors, upon their arrival, to enter their contact information, who they are visiting, the reason for their visit, and the amount of time they’ll be staying into an application on devices like iPads. The system will then notify the resident on their mobile device and they can grant entry. This streamlines the process of documentation for the guests, as well as security personnel and management.

5. Contact Tracing

With the pandemic showing little to no end in sight, contact tracing is a responsible course of action for any multifamily setting. This is how visitor management allows properties to contact trace if a COVID-19 breakout happens by the data it has on guests entering the building. 

When a resident tests positive for COVID-19, management will have easy access to detailed records of every person that came into contact with said resident.

9 Best Access Control Systems for Multifamily Properties in 2021


1. Kastle

Price: N/A – Available on request

Key Features:

  • Fully managed access control
  • Single database
  • AI-assisted video surveillance

Kastle is a managed cloud-based system that promotes its smartphone-enabled features. Much of its focus is on managing security and access control so that property managers don’t have to. 

Kastle offers keyless entry that unlocks doors upon proximity of credentialed devices, AI-assisted video-surveillance services, and a database system that allows managers to onboard new residents, modify access rights, manage visitors, issue temporary day passes, remotely unlock doors for residents, and run audit reports. Its database software is robust enough that it may actually veer into territory often handled by property management software.

When a resident tests positive for COVID-19, management will have easy access to detailed records of every person that came into contact with said resident.


2. Openpath

Price: N/A – Available on request

Key Features:

  • Implementation with replacement
  • Garage & elevator access control
  • Video management integrations

Openpath multifamily access control is a popular cloud-based option with a variety of features. It offers a “Triple-Unlock” technology that allows tenants to use either in-app unlocking, hands-free bluetooth entry, or encrypted key cards and fobs. 

Openpath could be especially enticing to property managers that don’t want to replace their entire existing legacy access control systems, as Openpath’s solutions are backwards compatible.


3. Homebase.ai

Price: $9 monthly/per door OR $350 one-time/per door + $3 monthly/per door

Key Features:

  • Remotely managed mobile and/or FOB access
  • Amenity access control
  • Many integration options

Homebase is, unlike some other options, built specifically with multifamily properties in mind. It’s a cloud and mobile-based access control option that provides digital keys for users, door access audits, credential enrollment, and remote access management, among other features. 

For premium users, it enables resident guest/visitor management, remote vendor access management, mobile self-guided tours, and a host of partnership integrations including Brivo, ButterflyMX, and an array of property management software solutions.


4. ButterflyMX

Price: N/A – Available on request

Key Features:

  • Smart video intercom system
  • Intercom phones for audit trails
  • No wiring or hardware

ButterflyMX is a cloud-based access control solution that puts their biggest focus on their smart video intercom systems. Its system requires no in-unit wiring or hardware, as all calls are forwarded directly to the resident’s phones. Additionally, all door releases come with time and date-stamped photos for guest tracking and visitor management. 

Voice/digital assistant controls like Alexa and Siri allow residents to open doors with only their voice, and residents can send virtual keys to guests and couriers to allow managed access. ButterflyMX also has an open API for property management software integrations


5. Kisi

Price: N/A – Available on request

Key Features:

  • Easy installation
  • IP-connected IOT devices
  • Many of integration options 

Kisi is a popular cloud-based access control system with a wide variety of customization options. Through its mobile app, web application, NFC cards, key fobs, or even facial recognition, Kisi offers many access methods to choose from. 

The Kisi Dashboard includes management features like 24/7 health monitoring, geofencing, primary device restrictions, time-based access controls, and adding new members through email. It also have an open API with a long list of possible integrations.


6. Nexkey

Price: N/A – Available on request

Key Features:

  • Fast installation
  • Sleek hardware
  • Smartphone based

Nexkey is a smartphone-based access control solution with a focus on simplicity and design. Its system is made to be as unobtrusive as possible in every way. 

Everything on the user side takes place on the mobile app, while managers have a dedicated portal where they can manage users, message the community, and analyze access data. Even the door locks and readers almost seamlessly blend in with door handles. Multifamily properties aren’t one of its primary customers at the moment, but they can be reached on their website to discuss specifics.


7. Keri Systems

Price: N/A – Available on request

Key Features:

  • Plug-in-play
  • Automatic system updates
  • Fast-paced product updates

Keri Systems offers a huge variety of services, but their cloud and web-based access control solution called Borealis is the real star. It allows smartphone unlocks, remote card management, setting access time schedules, incident reports, and more all in one bespoke web interface.

It uses Amazon Web Services to house your database where you can find your analytics. It also has a limited list of integration partners but is working on adding more.


8. Brivo

Price: N/A – Available on request

Key Features:

  • Environmental controlls
  • Integrated platforms
  • Video monitoring

Brivo is a bit more than just smart access control. It also offers smart-apartment technology like temperature and light controls, a rent payment and work order portal, and energy-efficiency controls. 

Its resident access controls allow entry solutions for doors, units, elevators, and garages. For management, Brivo provides an integrated platform that can assign and revoke mobile credentials, monitor common area usage, control environmental features in vacant units, and create reports with analytic data.


9. IDenticard

Price: N/A – Available on request

Key Features:

  • Single network database
  • One-time expense
  • Hardware and software solutions

IDenticard offers a wide variety of products, but their mobile resident management software is called PremiSys. It is not a SaaS product, meaning there is only one initial upfront expense, rather than ongoing operations fees. The system can be used for perimeter access control, unit access, common area access, and more. 

IDenticard offers video integration services and a single all-in-one database for managing locks on units, garages, amenities, and generating reports. Using its Premisys Resident Manager application can reduce installation expenses by eliminating the setup of network infrastructure.

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