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October 29, 2021 Small Biz Spotlight

Oxford turnstile manufacturer Aeroturn innovates with facial recognition technology

PHOTO | COURTESY Aeroturn is adding biometrics including facial recognition and a 3D fingerprint reading shield (shown above) to its turnstiles at locations in the U.S. and in France.

An innovative Oxford manufacturer has one mission behind its work: to keep people and property safe and secure.

Aeroturn LLC designs, manufactures, tests, delivers and installs various types of turnstiles to prevent unwanted individuals from entering areas where they are not permitted.

The company’s latest innovation is adding biometrics including facial recognition and a 3D fingerprint reading shield to its turnstiles at locations in the U.S. and in France.

Aeroturn worked with its security integrator partner, Siemens, and a French-based facial recognition and biometric identification company to create the product.

For military base clients, Aeroturn also recently developed a hybrid touchless system. Another new product is an 82-inch barrier to prevent climb-over security threats at turnstiles.

“It is extremely important for the turnstile manufacturers to be able to integrate to new security technology and be just as reliable if not more than the traditional physical access-control expectations,” said Mike Stoll, Aeroturn’s vice president of technical sales and marketing.

Competitive advantage

Aeroturn was founded in 2001 by Stoll and Robert Hellman, after they worked for years at other turnstile industry companies.

Their first customer came in 2003: the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division, which purchased a set of turnstiles to protect against security breaches.

“Our second customer was Harvard University. They needed turnstiles that were similar to what we provided to the U.S. Secret Service down in D.C.,” Stoll said.

Aeroturn co-founder Mike Stoll.

With that, they became a design manufacturing firm that focused on turnstile product development and installation. Unusual in the industry, every lane that Aeroturn has developed since 2003 is still in service, and has required little to no maintenance, according to Stoll.

That’s why the company describes its products as “zero-maintenance” turnstiles. Aeroturn guarantees 10 million passages and 20-year minimum service life.

“That is completely unheard of,” Stoll said. “Our industry has a four- to seven-year replacement cycle. Ours is around 20 years and counting.”

Other customers have included the White House and U.S. Treasury Department.

Aeroturn’s turnstiles are 100% made in the U.S., another factor the company says differentiates its products from the competition.

The company operates with 12 employees out of three buildings at an industrial park in Oxford, serving customers in government, education, industrial, commercial and private markets. Around 90% of its units are specifically designed for the space they will be installed.

“We are successful because we do something that no one else does because in our industry, there is a very low bar for quality, meaning there are replacement costs and a high service rate,” Stoll said. “So we came at it from the other way: How do we make this a permanent solution?”

They did that by leveraging the engineering and manufacturing experience of the top four people in the company under Hellman’s leadership as Aeroturn’s lead engineer.

“We created a mechanism, which is in all five of our [turnstile] products and what’s different is that it’s a permanent solution,” he said.

Stoll handles sales and business development and Hellman heads design engineering.

Post-pandemic lull

Deemed a necessary manufacturer during the height of the pandemic, Aeroturn stayed open and the company had its top year in sales in 2020 due to a full pipeline of projects. In fact, business was so good Aeroturn had to rent extra space for fabrication.

However, the downside to making a permanent, no-maintenance product is the cost – and post-pandemic, when potential customers are struggling with budgets and empty office buildings, a high-end turnstile unit is a harder sell.

As a result, for the first time in 15 years, Aeroturn will not see revenue growth in 2021, Stoll said.

Bottom line aside, COVID dramatically affected Aeroturn’s operations. With the lack of ability to fly, the company’s design and installation crews loaded trucks and traveled to installation sites – in some cases, clear across the country.

In July, Aeroturn’s installation crew drove 26,000 miles to install two new employee entrances at the Resorts World Las Vegas hotel. Stoll tagged along, he said, “to ensure a successful deployment of six lanes of turnstiles ... installed with a custom stainless-steel finish all within two-and-a-half days.”

“It slowed things down, made operations less efficient and cost a lot more money. You couldn't get extra money to do the extra work, but we survived,” Stoll said.

Companies are still focused on security, Stoll said, but they're looking for lower-cost options, especially if their properties are less full with more people working remotely.

The cost of an Aeroturn turnstile system depends on the scope of the project, the company said. It declined to elaborate further.

In the meantime, Stoll said he and his team are hoping for an economic turnaround and they will continue to appeal to schools, corporations and other large building owners to grow their business.

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