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Turnstiles are often a component of any comprehensive physical security strategy. Technology has played an integral part in advancing the turnstile from its humble beginnings in the early 20th century into a multi-function security component, monitoring populations, ensuring proper authorization of those who enter and exit the facility, and enhancing life safety practices.

To know where we’re going with the future of physical security, it helps to also understand where we’ve been in terms of turnstile evolution.

The Early Days of Turnstiles
The original purpose behind the creation of turnstiles can be traced back to the agriculture industry where the need existed to allow people to pass from field to field while also keeping livestock penned in. Fast forward to more modern times, Clarence Saunders, the founder of Piggly Wiggly supermarkets, installed turnstiles for the first time to control the masses of crowds who were eager to visit the world’s first supermarket.

From that point forward, turnstiles quickly gained popularity as a method to limit and control entry and exit of a variety of different facilities like office lobbies, stadiums, amusement parks, airports, residences, and casinos.  The older tripod-style revolving turnstile was used extensively in subways and sports stadiums but are now being gradually phased out because they have no sensors or safety features of any kind, and they proved to be very dangerous for children.

Using Turnstiles as Advanced Entrance Control
While the underlying purpose for turnstile functionality is crowd control, the advancement in technology has allowed their use to significantly expand and cover a greater spectrum of security needs. Turnstiles have become much safer and more intelligent, thanks in part to the inclusion of sensor technology and microprocessor arrays for highly accurate analysis of what is happening in the lane. The ability to embed other intelligence tools within them such as access cards, biometric scanners, and facial recognition software extends their functionality even further for security applications.

But what does this embedded intelligence mean for an entrance control strategy? Entrance control policies from the most basic to the highly sophisticated are intended to do one thing: allow the right people access while effectively stopping those who don’t have access authority. Embedded intelligence allows facilities to take an all-encompassing approach to entrance control rather than settling for one or two key objectives. Let’s explore some of the intelligent technology offerings that truly make a turnstile “smart”:

Infrared Matrix
Through the use of infrared sensors that crisscross the lanes, turnstiles can now detect when anyone, or a group of beams, is broken. Originally, this beam-break detection was the only information that the lane control microprocessor had to work with to determine if something was passing through the lane and in what direction.  Older technology systems often couldn’t understand exactly what was happening in the lane, resulting in barriers closing on pushed or pulled bags, carts, or baby strollers. They could also only handle one authorized user passing through the lane at a time, so others would have to wait until the person before them has completely passed through.

It’s interesting to note that some of these older beam-break technology turnstiles are still on the market today, although some of their outer body styles have been changed to conceal this dated technology. These are easily identified in their own specification sheets with safety warnings about the use of their turnstiles by children, or very low user throughput volumes, often less than 30 persons per minute.

Neural Networks
Smart turnstiles, such as Fastlane® turnstiles by Smarter Security have up to nine microprocessors in every lane that work together in a neural network configuration to dramatically improve processing power. Each of these individual microprocessors make thousands of calculations per second, but the multiplier effect achieved by having them work together enables them to accurately model every object in the lane. For example, pushed or pulled bags are seen as part of the authorized user, and if a second authorized user steps into the lane they are modeled separately without generating any false alarms or having barriers close on them. This level of intelligence also adds to the effectiveness of tailgate detection in the lane, with less than ¼” accuracy being easily achievable.

Emergency Egress
Secure entry points have to consider emergency situations where people on the secure side of the turnstiles have to get out. In the case of a fire alarm, every modern turnstile has to open in the exit direction to allow people to leave. They should never generate alarms in these circumstances and they should never return to normal operation until after the fire alarm has been turned off.

But there is another situation that some manufacturers fail to account for: emergency egress in a non-fire emergency. For example, in the case of an active shooter, there may not be a fire alarm activated but people on the secure side of the barriers should be able to escape without having to present a valid identity card to the turnstile for it to open. Smarter Security turnstiles have the intelligence to release their locking brakes and allow users to push through the barriers with fingertip pressure as soon as they step into the lane on the secure side. Alarms will sound as they push through the barriers, but safety is ensured with the ability to exit. This capability is becoming increasingly mandatory in building and fire codes throughout the country.

Biometric security technology is continuing to evolve but many facilities are looking to enhance the user experience without them having to physically touch anything or produce credentials. Fastlane turnstile and Door Detective products can integrate with a wide range of biometric products including the most advanced touchless systems from multiple vendors. Facial recognition, fingerprint, iris, vascular, and dual biometric solutions have all been integrated with these products, and many of them are completely touchless.

IP Communication
A turnstile can only be as effective as the settings it enforces. With IP-enabled turnstiles, critical settings can be adjusted in the field rather than requiring settings to be updated physically on the device. The ability to update settings in real-time results in maximum uptime and improved performance to ensure continued robust security policies.

IP communications within a set of turnstiles, whether from a dedicated remote control device, from a web browser, or using available CGI/XML command sequences, can let security teams remotely close certain exits after hours, or switch from card-in/free-exit during working hours to card-in/card-out in the evening for increased security when there is less staff on hand to monitor people’s activity.

Begin Your Smarter Security Strategy Today
Whether you’re looking to install new turnstiles or upgrade your existing products, ensuring that you’re meeting the security needs of your facility is a top priority. Contact a Smarter Security sales manager today or call +1 (512) 328-7277, extension 1233 to schedule a call and assess your entrance control needs