lobby security

Turnstiles can’t be coerced or make exceptions, like security guards might, and they can process people faster so lines are minimal. This and other trends are improving security in modern high-rises.

The opening of One World Trade Center this year is a tangible and celebrated reminder of the day security in America changed. After 9/11, high-rise buildings had no choice but to take visible security steps to protect tenants. While the expense of security has limited movement by some, many buildings have made security a priority. CCTV cameras and security officers are commonly seen, and new buildings are designed with security in mind to reduce vulnerability.

Controlling the Lobby Entrance
An important element of high-rise security involves controlling who comes into the building. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, and automating this secure entry process with optical turnstiles is a highly effective and financially rewarding approach.

Turnstiles can be superior to the manual control offered by security personnel because they remove the element of human error: They don’t get distracted or “miss” people, they can’t be coerced or make exceptions, and they can process people faster so lines are minimal. Compared to the operational cost of security officers who could attempt to control a lobby entry as effectively, the cost is often much lower with optical turnstiles after two to three years.

The combination of tighter security and financial rewards has resulted in an ever-increasing number of buildings adding optical turnstiles in their lobbies. With this growth in the market over the last 10 years, and the nature and number of threats changing, trends are pointing to what lies ahead. Building owners and property managers considering this next step in security should keep the following turnstile trends in mind.

Trend #1: Moving to IP
Surveillance cameras have been the public face of security devices moving onto the network, but they are not alone. Given the benefits of an IP connection, IP turnstiles are a natural development. The benefits can include easier and more powerful local management, the ability for security staff to control the turnstiles from mobile devices, remote diagnosis to reduce service costs, and easy firmware updates to keep the systems operating well. Not all turnstile suppliers offer IP systems, and there are marked differences among those that do. But one thing is sure: In the near future, IP will be required.

Trend #2: Enhanced Security
In the years before 9/11, turnstiles in Class-A buildings were often barrier-free. Optical technology was relied upon to simply alarm an intruder. Metal barrier arms later emerged, and glass barriers followed soon after – both of which deter intruders and appear more secure. Growing in demand now are models with tall glass barriers that can’t be vaulted over; even more recently, they include a locking barrier that prevents unauthorized entry. The bar for high security from optical turnstiles will continue to be raised.

Trend #3: Advances in Aesthetics
Many lobby turnstiles evolved from subway station designs, and this heritage led to bulky and “clunky” models at the outset. About eight years ago, a slender form factor with a swinging glass barrier was introduced, which set the direction for the changes since. Now, barrier turnstile pedestals may be less than six inches at their widest, and made mostly of glass. A few suppliers also customize turnstiles – adding stone tops, cladding the bodies in a custom finish, designing unique pedestals for a building, etc. – so that security lanes complement the lobby architecture. Look for beauty to advance as security steps up.

Trend #4: Lift Display Integration
High-rise buildings benefit in many ways from elevator destination dispatch. Typically, a tenant types in a floor or presents a credential and then is directed to the optimal elevator. This “stop” to find out which elevator to ride is now embedded in the turnstile. A tenant presents a credential to get through the turnstile and a display in the top of the turnstile quickly indicates which elevator to take. This sophisticated integration is more efficient and elegant, and is a trend that will pick up steam.

Trend #5: Multitude of Reader Options
For years, magnetic stripe or proximity card readers were the primary access control technologies used with turnstiles. With advances in security, biometric readers of all types are now integrated in lanes. In multi-tenant buildings, multiple readers may be added for different sets of tenants. Increasingly common is the inclusion of a secondary reader for visitors, which reads a printed barcode badge or even a smartphone. As pedestals get smaller, it becomes more challenging, but turnstiles will adapt to accommodate all readers’ needed.

Trend #6: Turnstiles Getting Smarter
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) were the prevailing technology in the early days, and their limits led to many false and nuisance alarms. PLCs have given way to powerful microprocessors that can quickly analyze more data points from optical sensors. And the number of beams crossing the lanes has increased to provide more data and understanding about what’s passing through the lane. Technologies and algorithms vary greatly among suppliers, but the intelligence in some models today is far superior at detecting tailgaters and helping stop intruders. Innovation is accelerating, and turnstiles will continue to get smarter.

Security threats are more numerous than they were a decade ago. A good example is the highly publicized spate of cyberattacks, and even these have been partially attributed to a lack of strong physical security. As a result, more high-rise buildings have been forced to take action. The evolution of turnstiles has made them a compelling security choice and a smart financial investment for forward-thinking building managers. The case for optical turnstiles should grow even stronger as these six trends continue to unfold.

Byron Marsales

Byron Marsales is director of marketing for Smarter Security Inc.