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Integration & Convergence

Access Control

Emerging Trends in Turnstile Security

Broadened awareness of security after 9/11 fuels the demand for and acceptance of entrance control equipment.

As awareness of facility security needs increases, new markets emerge for turnstile security. Responding to self-assessed requirements and forced mandates, image-conscious end users demand that integrators and manufacturers work together to provide solutions that are secure and stylish.

By Jonathan D. Watson


Photo 1.  Supervisor 3000 Drop Arm Optical Turnstile provided with custom wood cabinetry to match an existing security desk in a corporate lobby.  (Photo by Alvarado)




While the demand for security continues to increase in the wake of tragic current events and tense local and global situations, the preferred means and methods of securing properties and facilities are changing rapidly.  As external forces (new laws, industry regulations and government mandates) and broadened client awareness continue to fuel the demand for and acceptance of entrance control equipment, turnstiles, previously an often neglected and overlooked part of a facility’s overall security plan, are now being pushed to the forefront.  As demand for turnstiles increases, integrators and manufacturers both step up with advanced innovation and improved designs to ensure that this vital component of a property’s access and protection system is more than just a ‘necessary evil’   As turnstile manufacturers and security integrators continue to supply systems that enhance the safety and value of a building, the perception of turnstiles changes as well.  While the need for traditional applications, such as perimeter fence line control or access to amusement venues and sports stadiums, continues to remain strong, emerging markets are growing at an even greater rate.




Historically, upscale buildings and corporate lobbies have been reluctant to implement turnstiles into their facilities, however, increased awareness of need has coincided with the advent of newer, more pleasing designs to make security upgrades with turnstiles a natural decision.  In the past, traditional welded steel or three-arm ‘tripod’ turnstiles were typically seen by architects and building owners as an affront to their artistic sensibilities, and in selling such a proposition, many security consultants and integrators were seen as asking a facility to swallow its pride and mar a once lovely foyer or reception area.  A rapid shift in perception, however, occurred in the months and years following the events of September 11, 2001.  Facility owners and security directors began readily admitting that such equipment was needed, but demanded that the industry provide something beautiful as well as practical.  Turnstile manufacturers responded by offering barrier-free optical turnstiles, drop-arm optical turnstiles, retractable wing optical turnstiles, and full panel optical turnstiles.  Optical turnstiles, while different in appearance and operation, provide the same functionality as traditional turnstiles.  And when used with an access control system, they can eliminate or detect tailgating, and ensure that only one person per activation passes through the lane.  As turnstile manufacturers began providing more creative and attractive designs, it opened up the possibility for end users to customize many of the features.  This type of equipment was quickly adopted by property owners and facility managers as the preferred means of interior building access.  In addition to stainless steel and powder coated finishes, facilities can select turnstiles with wooden cabinets or brass finish (See Photo 1).

Additionally, the lids are available in a myriad of materials to match the existing decor.  Longtime turnstile manufacturer Alvarado has cooperated with some of its clientele to have lid material cut from the same stone as the facilities’sexisting counter tops or floor tile.  These areas of customization are not only valuable to a client’s satisfaction, they are sometimes critical to the job.  Jerry Lasecki, who has worked as a sales manager and representative for various U.S. turnstile manufacturers for over 20 years, observes that, “In many cities, such as New York or Washington D.C., there are several historical buildings that are registered landmarks.  To add to or modify their lobbies and entry areas requires acceptance not only from the property managers and security directors but sometimes involves committees to approve such changes.  For these clients, design and appearance is paramount.”  While rising demand and aesthetically improved designs come together to make turnstiles an easier choice, Lasecki notes, “It is no longer an uphill battle to sell turnstiles to corporate lobbies and multi-tenant facilities.  With the advent of attractive solutions, we are finally seen as the good guys.”

These same trends have been realized outside of the United States as well.  Christo Tng, Manager of BoRn Pte in Singapore, has provided local turnstile solutions since the early 1990s.  Early projects included full height turnstiles at GlaxoSmithKline and Costa Sand Resort and waist-high tripod turnstiles at Reuters Singapore, Sumitomo Chemical, and Singapore Zoological garden.  Tng has also observed the same trends in Singapore as in other countries.  “Turnstile systems became more popular and accepted only after the 9/11 attack.  Developers and building owners became more willing to consider physical barriers for security.  He notes, however, that the rush to place product in open areas should also be tempered with careful consideration of the layout.  “For areas with some sort of supervision such as guards or receptionists, waist high turnstiles are acceptable.”  Tng continues, “If it is a remote or unsupervised area, a full-height turnstile should be installed.  It is important to consider the staffing of an area and the layout of the facility when selecting the right turnstile solution.  Optical turnstiles are excellent choices, as they can notify security personnel upon invalid entry attempts.   However, an alarm is only as good as its ability to be heard and responded to.”  Optical turnstiles, especially for downtown high rise buildings are becoming the preferred choice in Singapore as well.  Owners and property developers are willing to pay a premium for aesthetically appealing, fully automatic solutions.  “Having a unique, high-class turnstile system,” observes Tng, “allows a building to maintain its prestigious image while also demonstrating that the security needs are met.”

Accessibility concerns too, are met head-on with new turnstile advancements.  There tractable barrier types of optical turnstiles or barrier-free turnstiles allow for pathways that, when activated, are completely free of any obstacle.  This means that ambulatory and wheelchair-bound patrons can use the same devices.  No longer is it necessary to route people with special access needs through a separate entrance or bypass gate.  This allows for uniformity of lobby design and improved satisfaction of its users.




It is not only the proactive security measures taken voluntarily by the end user that are directing the current growth of turnstile usage.  In fact, in many countries, companies and governments both are implementing mandates that are affecting a surge as well.  Recently, a law in Norway decreed that building sites must have fully-secured fenced perimeters and be able to properly account for all occupants.  This was what prompted Product Manager, Agsbord Hegsted and his associates at Foraas to provide this year a turnstile-based solution for the construction site of St. Olav’s Hospital. 

This project in Trondheim was the largest land-based building project ever in Norway.  Using perimeter fencing, full-height turnstiles, and a card reader access control system, project supervisors and managers now have a real-time reporting of all the occupants’ locations.  Increased focus on potential threats to public safety in many countries have directly and indirectly caused either strict mandates or suggestions for industries as varied as public utilities, transportation stations, large multi-office buildings, and food production facilities.  It is getting increasingly difficult to find an industry that isn’t affected by the increased awareness of security.  Whether by choice or force, security and subsequently turnstiles are becoming part of the public consciousness.




Although not government mandated, it is a similar awareness and concern for employee safety that led to make the decision to use full-height turnstiles in their distribution centers.  Dividing the offices from the production floor at every distribution center and controlling access to the warehouse/production area through proximity cards and full-height turnstiles they are now able to limit access to only those associates who have received the appropriate safety training.  Ed Bacco, Senior Manager of Worldwide Security Operations for notes that, in addition, “turnstiles serve as a physical reminder to our employees that they are entering an area where safety is paramount and they need to be alert.”  Bacco continues, “By using the turnstiles in tandem with card readers, we are able to track which employees have entered or exited the production floor, which is a key piece of information in the unlikely event that we ever have the need to evacuate one of our distribution centers.”  




When JP Morgan needed better accounting of their personnel for their call center in the Philippines, local security provider, Main Hardware addressed their needs by installing turnstiles for employee access.  Robert Tan, General Manager of Main Hardware, explained that by using Alvarado drop-arm optical turnstiles in conjunction with an Ingersoll Rand access control reader system, they were able to provide the client with a solution that effectively limits access to only authorized personnel and reports if any unauthorized entries are attempted.  They were able to increase security, decrease required staff for monitoring, and increase the speed at which people could be processed.  In these applications, the advantage of utilizing turnstiles with an access control system versus merely a traditional guard desk check-in is twofold -- it increases the accuracy and efficiency of the system and allows the guard staff to be more effective in situational responses.  By eliminating the human and emotional aspect of security check-in and replacing it with a cold and unfeeling machine which cannot be distracted or influenced, this allows the security force to be more effective as they are available to respond to situations as necessary instead of having to read and validate each and every ID card.  A machine now makes the decision whether or not a situation needs closer attention (invalid ID, expired badge, non-current employee, etc.) instead of a person; therefore, no bias, prejudice, or distractions can hinder the effectiveness of the check-in process




With new product innovations and technological advancements, turnstiles now offer more possibilities than ever for customizing style and functionality.  Recently, Alvarado Turnstiles debuted the Supervisor 4000, a retracting full-panel optical turnstile. 

This unit allows for flexibility never available before on a turnstile.  Notably, the unique usage of TFT screens and audio alarms allows end users to customize the screen images and audio outputs.  The client has the power to easily load any image displays, video greetings, or sounds they desire to make the turnstile project their own corporate image.  The unit can be configured to not only give building occupants proper instruction on how to use the system but can automatically convey other information as well, such as reminders of upcoming plant closures, or recognition of employees-of-the-month.  These units can also be set up to send an email notification when an alarm situation occurs or when a maintenance check is required.  Alvarado President Bret Armatas explains, “As more upscale facilities require entrance control, Alvarado can meet their functional requirements and increase the overall aesthetic value.  This new unit is an example of how we continue to address timeless security challenges using the latest technology.”

The future prospects for turnstiles continue to be promising.  Not only are turnstiles increasing in style and capability, but business-savvy integrators are expanding their vision with respect to the possibilities that turnstiles offer.  “The exciting thing about current facility access control trends,” according to 15-year security veteran Doug Carner of California-based Superior Alarm Systems, “is the endless possibility for synergy with other security technologies.  For instance, if using a turnstile that has output signals for violation detection, it is possible to tie in the camera system to take a picture of the area every time an alarm is triggered.  Or, a facial recognition system could be tied in with a facility’s check-in system to ensure that only the proper authorized individuals may use the access cards to gain entry.”  Other examples of innovations by forward-thinking integrators have included using alarm outputs from the turnstiles to lock down interior access doors or disable elevator access, or tying the turnstiles in with an article surveillance system to automatically lock the turnstiles when a potential thief tries to leave a library or retail establishment with a tagged item.  The possibilities are endless and consultants and security integrators are both thinking outside the box to continue to push the boundaries of what a turnstile can do and how it ties into a facility’s security system.


Jonathan D. Watson is  Director of International Sales for Alvarado Mfg. Co., Inc. (


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