Leveraging turnstile access control systems to manage security and crowds

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Turnstile and access gate overview

When it comes to methods of access control, a turnstile security gate (also referred to as “turnstyle”) is perhaps one of the most flexible options to manage access, regulate crowds, and strengthen the security of an organization. What makes turnstile access control systems so versatile is the wide range of turnstile gates in the market. But what exactly is a turnstile, does your business need to install a turnstile access control system, and what type of turnstile gate is right for your establishment? There are many considerations when looking for turnstile access control systems, such as turnstile gate price, how it fits into your budget, and the process of turnstile installation. This guide helps answer the questions of what turnstiles are, the benefits of installing an access control turnstile, the different types of turnstiles, the establishments that typically use them, and how to integrate turnstiles with other access control gate security systems.

What are turnstiles?

Turnstiles are common but sophisticated methods of access control security that are often utilized in public spaces and commercial buildings. The main function of security turnstiles is to track access activity and keep unauthorized visitors out of particular public locations, like a government facility or an office building. A turnstile commonly takes the form of a gate that lets a single person pass through a security checkpoint at a time, making it ideal for controlling access for big crowds. Typically, a turnstile gate immediately locks after one person is admitted to an area, ensuring that every person entering has the proper access authorization. In the case of public transit stations, this mechanism ensures that every individual passing through has paid their way into the station. The most common examples of access gates are the turnstiles seen in subway stations, revolving turnstiles seen in office entrances, pedestrian security gates, and gates used as a part of parking access control systems. Keep in mind that different types of turnstiles will vary in turnstile gate price and turnstile installation.

Benefits of turnstile access control systems

Visual deterrent to intruders

One of the main benefits of turnstile entry systems is its imposing appearance. A turnstile is a form of physical access control and a visual impediment to potential trespassers. For bigger office buildings with more advanced security systems, turnstile access control can be integrated with security and video surveillance, allowing operators to monitor activities in real-time and respond quickly to suspicious activities. 

Immediate response to potential issues

It is almost impossible for security teams to manually oversee every activity that takes place in a building, however large the team might be. Turnstile entry control helps detect an attempt in unauthorized access the minute it happens, immediately notifying security admins of any potential issues that arise. 

Can be integrated with other systems

Leading access turnstiles, such as Automatic Systems and Gunnebo, are versatile enough to support integrations with other access control systems. They are also able to support a wide variety of access methods such as a turnstile gate with a card reader, fob system, mobile ID badge, and in some cases, facial ID. Turnstile gate systems can be customized to meet specific security demands. Adding on other systems and features to access control turnstiles can further enhance the security of your building. 

Flexibility in controlling access 

Unlike regular doors, security turnstiles can function bi-directionally, allowing one-way access or in-and-out access. This gives the system increased flexibility and enables operators to track the flow of visitors by observing the individuals who enter and exit a building. This gives organizations greater control over security, as well as allowing data and insights to be collected from a visitor management system that might be integrated with turnstile gate access control systems. 

Enhance physical security

Turnstiles and access control barriers have a practical purpose of blocking a person from physically entering a building. Installing a turnstile security gate provides a property with additional physical security and helps security teams oversee activities without being physically present at entry points. 

Help control crowds

Some security turnstile gates are designed to control access for large crowds at events like concerts, regulate visitors and tenants in large high-rise buildings, and ensure that commuters at public transportation facilities have purchased tickets to their destinations. Having turnstile  access systems can help keep crowds in order, as well as improve crowd management and safety.

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Types of turnstiles and access gates and use cases

There is a wide variety of turnstiles, and each is designed to serve the specific security needs of a particular type of establishment. For example, a turnstile entrance or electronic turnstile that is ideal for a commercial office building is not going to work for large venues that use turnstile entrance gates to control access for a large number of people. Before choosing a turnstile system, it is recommended to find security turnstile manufacturers with a wide selection of devices to choose from. Here are the different types of entrance turnstiles and the spaces they are best for:

Tripod or waist-high turnstiles 

Ideal for: public spaces, academic facilities, office buildings

As the name suggests, a tripod turnstile uses three bars to regulate the pace and volume of people entering an establishment. A tripod turnstile is often called a waist-high turnstile or outdoor turnstile, and is usually installed around 40 inches from the ground to be versatile enough to accommodate different heights. Its durability and reliability make the low-maintenance turnstile security system a popular choice for outdoor use. They come in different versions, from manual coin-operated turnstiles to automated or motorized versions, and are available from most turnstile manufacturers. This type of turnstile entry system is commonly used for subway stations, universities, and office buildings, but is unlikely to be useful for small businesses.

Full-height turnstiles

Ideal for: amusement parks, concert halls, sports stadiums

Standing at 7 feet tall, a full-height turnstile gate looks similar to the revolving door seen in hotels and some office buildings. However, this turnstile typically has a more industrial construction and design, depending on different full-height turnstile manufacturers. The taller type of turnstile prevents people from jumping over shorter, waist-high access control barriers, and is better suited for establishments that require a higher level of security compared to public spaces. The two variations for this type of turnstile include an exit-only turnstile and a high entrance/exit turnstile (HEET). The first rotates in a single direction to ensure that traffic goes in a specific direction and is never blocked, while the latter rotates bi-directionally. Also referred to as a pedestrian security gate or pedestrian turnstile, the main function of this device is to control and regulate foot traffic, mainly for public transit stations.

Revolving turnstiles

Ideal for: data centers, office entrances, and many more

This type of turnstile is constructed similarly to full-height turnstiles. The only difference is that instead of horizontal steel bars typically seen in full-height turnstiles, revolving access gates often use transparent polycarbonate sheets or dividers. While a revolving door has a freely rotating mechanism, revolving turnstiles lock after each authorized entry. Establishments that are looking for a more aesthetically pleasing design often opt for revolving turnstiles for their sophisticated appearance. Extending from floor to ceiling and providing a more robust security, this type of turnstile is versatile and fits a wide range of uses, and is commonly utilized as office turnstiles.

Speed gates or optical turnstiles

Ideal for: buildings with medium to high traffic like museums

This type of turnstile barrier gate eliminates the need for security teams to be present at entry points by using infrared sensors to automatically identify people passing through. A speed gate turnstile allows entry for authorized users, but in the case where an individual attempts access  without the proper authorization, the gate remains locked while flashing lights and alarms notify security teams of the attempt. There is a variety of speed gates available, such glass swing turnstiles, slim speed gate turnstiles, and sliding turnstile barrier gates. Another version, a barrier-free speed gate, is a popular choice for corporate lobbies. However, the lack of physical barrier in this type of turnstile makes it a less secure option, and often requires security teams to be present to observe access activities.

Turnstile doors

Ideal for: high-security establishments like government facilities

Also known as a type of commercial security door, a turnstile door is an enhanced version of a full-height turnstile and provides the most secure form of access control. Door turnstiles are constructed to grant access to one person at a time and function as a type of cell that prevents access for unauthorized users. Because of their reliability, establishments that use turnstile door access control systems often find that they do not require additional security supervision. This form of controlled access turnstile is typically seen in newer office buildings that use advanced access control technologies. Although turnstile doors are reliable and secure, they can be expensive to install, and it is important to find contractors with extensive knowledge of the different types of turnstile door hardware. This turnstile may not be ideal for small businesses that might prefer a more cost-effective option.

Access gates

Ideal for: construction sites, schools, ADA facilities

Perhaps the most flexible type of turnstile, access gates or turnstile gates are designed to be highly versatile. They feature a wide pathway that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to allow people in wheelchairs to easily and quickly pass through security checkpoints. Security turnstile gates, also known as ADA gates, are flexible enough to also accommodate people with large luggages in an airport or construction workers moving pieces of equipment throughout a site. Turnstile security gates come in waist-high and full-height options. The shorter waist-high variation is more versatile, as it can provide alternate routes throughout a facility, while the full-height version offers a more enhanced security and often features advanced technologies like locking mechanisms. Access gates can be customized according to an organization’s specific security needs. This type of turnstile is often customized to be a turnstile gate with a card reader for high-security sites.

What to consider when looking for access gate systems

With a wide variety of turnstile gates, it is important to choose one that is designed for the specific use of your business, as access control turnstiles are not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are important factors to consider, such as turnstile gate price, turnstile installation, and turnstile suppliers. These questions will help determine which access control turnstiles are right for your establishment:

What am I protecting?

The first step to choosing a security turnstile is to look at the security of an establishment in a broader context. Figuring out what you are protecting and building a security solution around it can maximize your security while helping you narrow down options for the right turnstile security gates for your business. If the nature of your work is sensitive, like a new technology or intellectual property, investing in a security turnstile that provides a higher level of security can prevent breaches. In this case, making sure that only authorized users have access to your organization can not only strengthen security, it might also fulfill a regulatory compliance requirement for your industry. 

How big is my building and how many employees do I have?

A large multi-level commercial building with thousands of employees needs an entirely different security solution and different type of turnstile gate from smaller establishments. Whichever turnstile fits your security needs, make sure that the turnstile access control system is easy to use, allows employees quick access, and does not interfere with their tasks. This is crucial, as getting a more complex access control turnstile with a higher access gate price than your business requires might lead to disruptions in business operations.

What type of environment is the turnstile going to be exposed to?

Where and what type of business the turnstile will be incorporated into plays a significant role in making a decision for which type of turnstile you should choose. If your establishment is an office building, an indoor waist-high turnstile might be ideal for your business. Outdoor or semi-outdoor venues like concert halls, amusement parks, and public transit stations will need a more robust turnstile that is designed to be used outdoors and can withstand harsh weather conditions. 

Is there a need for handicap access?

If your building is a public facility like a hospital or school, an access gate may help your facility comply with the ADA to provide wheelchair accessible features. When choosing access control turnstile readers for these facilities, make sure the devices are mounted between 27 to 48 inches from the ground to make them accessible to users in wheelchairs. An access gate reader that supports a hands-free access method, like the Openpath Mullion Smart Reader and Embedded USB Smart Reader, is recommended for these facilities for its ease and convenience, as other access options might not work for users with disabilities.

Will the turnstile be equipped with readers and additional access control devices?

It is not uncommon for establishments to use various security tools, such as security cameras and readers, as a means to strengthen safety. If your establishment is currently using different commercial building security systems, opt for a flexible turnstile system that can easily be integrated to other security tools to assemble a comprehensive system and provide the complete visibility you need for your business.

Integrating turnstiles with other access control systems

Combining access control turnstiles with other access features can create an even more effective security system and provide a customized approach to access control. Integrating commercial access control and security systems gives operators the ability to more seamlessly manage users, sync access credentials, strengthen security with visuals, and log access events, as well as assist security teams with their tasks without the need to be physically on-site. For example, integrating a turnstile access control system with a device like the Openpath Video Reader Pro can enhance visual verification with a photograph and live video of every access event. For a facility that receives a large number of visitors, using the Openpath Video Intercom Reader Pro can help directly confirm visitors’ authorization via the smart commercial intercom system. The important feature to look for in any system you’d like to add on to your turnstile access control is an open architecture. An open API allows a seamless integration with third-party platforms, hardware, and software, making it easy to create a complete security system that works with your turnstiles.