Alcatraz Access Control Review, Pricing and Comparison

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About Alcatraz AI 

Alcatraz AI Access Control is a Redwood California based startup founded in 2016. Earlier this year, Alcatraz introduced its “Rock” artificial intelligence based face authentication system. The system is designed to replace badging with face only authentication as a method of office entry. The aim is to improve the flow of traffic through a busy entry while ensuring high security.

Product Overview of Alcatraz Face Recognition

Alcatraz is not a full on access control system, but just a face reader that can sit alongside a proximity reader to provide additional face recognition access. It requires setting up a completely different access control system and overlaying the Alcatraz hardware on it. 

Alcatraz AI’s face identification is based on deep neural networks that train automatically on badges and switch to facial authentication when ready. The Rock contains a PoE camera, a built-in GPU and badge reader. It can be installed at the entry and connects with automatic door locks like a reader.

Most of the processing and face recognition computation is done inside the Rock. The video is sent to a VMS via local or cloud-based network. Alcatraz Rock is a PoE system that installs on existing Weigand or OSDP wiring and does not require new cabling. Alcatraz face recognition can only work with legacy entry methods such as cards and badges.

Features of Alcatraz AI 

  • 3D facial recognition
  • PoE powered camera with built-in GPU
  • Outputs video to a VMS via local network or cloud
  • Multiple faces in-the-flow identification
  • Tailgating detection and email alerts (for an additional license)
  • Instant email alerts based on the access control policy
  • Long scanning range and wide field of view
  • One factor face only mode for smooth flow of employees
  • Users can enroll with their current badges
  • Works as a reader with any access control system
  • Dual factor face and badge mode is available
  • Works indoor and outdoor


According to IPVM, the Rock costs between $2,000 and $2,500 for the hardware. Add-on software features like Tailgate detection cost $500 per year. Mask detection is available for around $200 per year per device.

Pros of Alcatraz AI

  • Compatibility with Legacy Methods: Rock can retrofit with badge or card readers and fingerprint scanners. The system can install on existing wiring.
  • Multi Face Identification: Multi-face in-the-flow identification saves entry time by accelerating the flow of employees. It’s a passive identification method that can provide uninterrupted frictionless access by eliminating the need to punch cards or scan badges.
  • Automatic Enrollment: Employees can just keep using their badges or cards. Rock automatically learns who is who and activates face recognition access the moment it’s ready.
  • Touchless Access: Alcatraz Rock can be integrated with electric locks and automatic door operators to implement touchless access.
  • Foolproof Time Management: Employee time management is based on facial identification. No chance of proxy entries.
  • Tailgating Detection: Face recognition technology can detect when more than one person enters the door on one authentication. Rock sends instant automatic email alerts to managers when it detects tailgating and also stores a photo of the entry.

Cons of Alcatraz AI

User Registration: User registration requires standing in front of the reader and then tapping your badge. This means you have to line up people in front of every door they need to get access to. This is a major operational burden. 

Needs A Host System to Work: You would still require purchasing a separate access control system that works with Alcatraz. 

Not ADA Compliant: The recommended mounting height of Rock is 5 feet, which exceeds the ADA compliant height of 4 feet.

No Video Intercom Feature: Video intercom has become an essential part of a modern access control system. Rock does not have a built-in video intercom and we don’t know if can work with other video intercom systems like 2N.

No Mobile App or Bluetooth Based Access: Smartphone access is a popular method of entry these days. Rock doesn’t include mobile based access and the Company doesn’t say if it can work with mobile phones. There’s no mobile app available.

No COVID Safety Features: Alcatraz does not offer remote health checking, temperature scanning, or capacity planning tools, which are badly needed in a contemporary access control system.

No Night Vision Capability: Rock needs an illumination of at least 1 lux to read faces.

Product Infancy: Alcatraz seems very much under development and might face teething problems.

Very Expensive System: A Rock device can cost up to 5 times the price of a traditional badge reader, card or fingerprint scanner.

Is Alcatraz AI Right for Your Needs?

Alcatraz Rock facial recognition is suitable for big offices, factories, healthcare facilities and government buildings that use badges, fingerprint scanners or keycards as entry methods. The system can save employees the trouble of having to line up for identification first thing in the morning, but only after they have already lined up at every door they’d need to access. 

Comparison of Alcatraz AI with Swiftlane Touchless Access Controltoc-header

Swiftlane offers face recognition and mobile access control systems that also work on PoE and provide touchless access to employees and visitors. Swiftlane is a cloud-based system that offers many advantages over Alcatraz Rock. The following table compares the two systems and highlights the differentiators.

FeaturesSwiftlaneAlcatraz Rock
2D/3D Face recognitionYesYes
Integration with cards and badgesYesYes
Multi-face identificationNoYes
User enrollmentOne time, through the mobile appAt every door
Instant alertsYesYes
Tailgating controlYesYes
Centralized permission management through mobileYesNo
Cloud based access controlYesNo
Mobile access optionYesNo
Built-in video intercomYesNo
Scalability for multiple locationsYesNo
Single dashboard multisite managementYesNo
Remote health checking toolsYesNo
Workplace capacity planning toolsYesNo
Integration with G Suite, OKTA, Envoy VMS, Azure AD and other security appsYesNo


Alcatraz Rock is a face recognition module that needs another access control system to work. When deployed at high traffic entries, Rock can streamline and accelerate the flow and prevent queues from forming. It is a good choice if you are looking to complement your legacy access control method with facial recognition.

With that said, Alcatraz is missing critical access control features such as video intercom, mobile based access, cloud management, instant authorization or revocation, remote unlock and more. When compared to Swiftlane, the latter appears to be a better option for more modernistic and forward-looking enterprises.

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