ORION FOUNDER TALKS ABOUT HIS HUMBLE BEGINNINGS, AND HOW HE IS DISRUPTING THE TURNSTILE INDUSTRY
Updated 11:39 AM CDT, Tue May 3, 2022
LACONIA, N.H.—Security Systems News caught up with Steve Caroselli, CEO & Founder of Orion Entrance Control, Inc., who drew upon the years of experience he gained in the turnstile and security industry to open Orion Entrance Control, Inc., in 2009, in a small office in his father-in-law’s garage. Since that time, Orion Entrance Control has tripled its workforce, expanded sales to 11 countries, and provided turnstile and entrance control solutions for some of the biggest names in business. Orion Entrance Control manufactures its products in the USA, in Caroselli’s home state of New Hampshire, where the company has also adopted a “green initiative” by using recycled steel and other raw materials whenever possible.
The following is an exclusive Q&A with Caroselli:
SSN: I was able to see many of your products on display in the Johnson Controls Innovation Room at ISC West in March. How did that come about and what are some of your takeaways from the show?
CAROSELLI: Our involvement in the Innovation Room with JCI came from an interview that we had six weeks prior. So the fact that we were able to pull that together, do the integration with the Johnson Controls C-CURE system from scratch was amazing. We integrated Turnstiles, DoorGuard and Constellation into C-CURE and then added the triggering of the Ava Robot, which is really cool what the entire Orion team was able to do in such a short period of time.
The amount of interest this year in Orion products was just huge, and I don’t think I have ever been this busy at ISC West. I was 85 percent booked before even going, which is a first for me in 25 years of doing this. I had breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, dinner meetings, in-between meetings, my team was booking meetings for me, to the point where I only spent about 10 percent of my time actually on the trade show floor. Overall, it felt good at ISC to get back to doing a full-on trade show for the first time in several years. The relationships that we have been developing have all come to fruition this year, and the response to DoorGuard has been tremendous.
DoorGuard is a product I launched five years ago, won some awards for, realized it was miscounting and pulled it off the shelf. And then through COVID we rebuilt it from the ground up, so it is not DoorGuard 2.0, but rather a whole new derivative, and it has been proven out and it works really well. We are getting our first orders now, which are going out.
We certainly had some supply chain issues around all of our products, and that definitely delayed some of our rollout this year, but I feel like we are past that now and we are getting the parts in that we need to deliver.
SSN: Can you talk more about how you reimagined DoorGuard, as it has some pretty cool technology like cloud data tailgaiting and counting, machine vision imaging system and built-in Inference engine?
CAROSELLI: The three takeaways include a smaller, sleeker form factor, which I think we accomplished beautifully, easy to install, and the point cloud data, where the sensor head has almost three meters of data at door height, which allows us to make and infer intelligent decisions.
Building in the inference engine really came about because whenever we released early versions, people would do things that were different and it was a real pain to go back and program in that new thing, so we said let’s just build something in that can teach itself. When we get a new scenario, for example, some kind of a specific cart that a distribution center is using because of their specifications, we need to identify that as a cart and not as a person. We have been asked to count dogs going into a building, bikes, things that we just typically would not think of when building a tailgaiting solution set. And these are the kinds of things that trip up our competition and cause false alarms.
The worst thing you can do when you present a new product is create something that causes a false-alarm condition, even if the product is technically functioning properly, if it’s delivering an alarm to the guards, eventually they ignore it and the cost of responding to a false alarm condition is astronomical, so that is something that we think we have solved.
We are giving you an extremely low false alarm rate, close to zero, and where we are not at zero, the inference engine allows us to program that piece out and share that with the entire ecosystem. So that is my goal, 100 percent. As one the guys on my team says, “How many unauthorized accesses are acceptable?” The answer is none.
In comparison, the doorframe unit that people are accustomed to buying for the last 30 years is flawed to allow for tailgaiting because the sensor can easily be blocked by one person standing in there while others walk through, which is why we’re going overhead and doing it in a way that is completely private, because there is no video component. With point cloud data, Lidar data provides phenomenal decision-making capability. We have solved tailgaiting with Orion DoorGuard.
SSN: Let’s look at the software side of the house with your Infinity software. That is your control center I would imagine?
CAROSELLI: Infinity started as our guard facing and technician facing software. So when you think about a guard desk that’s letting visitors in or seeing what type of alarms are coming in, whether it is a turnstile or a doorguard, in a two person pass situation you need to understand if it is the first or second person that is passing, so Infinity allows you to see that and hear it as a different tone. What is interesting is it literally started as a replacement for a push button at a desk, where a guard would push a button to let someone in or acknowledge an alarm, and we thought we could do that much smarter with software.
We built the program, which was originally called the Orion Remote Lane Control Software. But as it grew, we realized there was nothing it couldn’t do, so we rebranded it Infinity because every problem you throw at us, we can solve with our core software and firmware set. Infinity is the interface to the SpeedLanes, Mechanical Turnstiles, DoorGuard and Constellation.
We talk about the single pane of glass concept because Infinity’s restful API can push any of that data to the end user’s single pane of glass, whether that is a Lenel OnGuard system, or a Genetec, or Digital Watchdog or JCI/Software House (C-CURE), whoever it is, in the command center. Sure, you can use Infinity, but many times they are already have something they are using, so Infinity often ends up at the guard desk and then we push the data to the command center. It is amazing to me all of the stuff that we have built in there. We actually have a oscilloscope in our software we use to test boards with at the component level and at full keyboard, so if you wanted to create your own custom sounds you can create something. We pull sounds, do lighting configurations, everything in there.
SSN: I understand that your SpeedLane is essentially three times faster than the competition. How did you achieve this?
CAROSELLI: That really is a new innovation that we came up with working with the JCI Innovations team, specifically on the Software House side. Their new G2 board gave us the ability to get a trigger time of 300 milliseconds. Part of the challenge with just about any access control system, when you go in and program a strike time, or an unlock time, it is a one-second minimum, so we are three times faster. It reminds me of that classic scene from Spinal Tap, “This one goes to 11”
When you think about it, that is great, but can people really walk through a turnstile in a third of a second? Not necessarily, but if you have a card-stacking scenario where people are doing that, and we get asked about that all the time, especially with our customers overseas, in Europe in the big factories where people are hustling to work. What we do is organically do the card stacking. So, what that means is when you badge a credential, the barrier opens but it does not need to close again before the next person passes because the sensor is doing the detection, so you can get a very fast and comfortable through-put that way. And when you think about what we are doing with facial recognition and biometrics now, Bluetooth, NFT, etc., you can get that flow with that trigger time that you can’t get by having to wait for that barrier to close and open again. That was an impediment. That technology is a distinct advantage.
We work with a lot of biometrics companies and we have recently formed a partnership with TBS, and we are working on a new look and feel with them, along with our partner Tansa Global. We like to partner with all of the newest technology that we feel has real merit and that is where the TBS partnership started. The unit we were showing at ISC West last month is the first of five ever built In the world, so that is how close to the edge we live. At ISC, I had meetings with new retinal and facial recognition companies that have not even been on the trade show floor yet, so we are always trying to innovate and are always investing in R&D.
We have been talking about frictionless access for a long time now and when you approach a turnstile, it should feel organic and frictionless; you shouldn’t have to fight your way through the building and speed lane. We think it is important to team up with biometric companies.
SSN: Can you talk more about the recent partnership with Tansa Global?
CAROSELLI: About five or six years ago we started talking at a trade show about bringing mechanical turnstiles into the U.S. and bringing our technology into Tansa. The timing wasn’t right, but we stayed in contact.
About three years ago we moved into our current space, which is 40,000 square feet, and I started looking at full height mechanical turnstiles again, and thought if we are going to get involved with them we need to build something that is better than what is out there. We tried out different products and then in December of last year Tansa called me and said we are ready to move forward and they sent me some demo units. Low and behold, they built in their new version what I would build and it is very robust.
There is a new standard coming out of Germany, and they are the only company that we are aware of that has built to be in compliance with this new standard. Much better quality than the competition in terms of weight and grade of the material. The Tansa background, they come from a clock-making perspective, as that is what the founder started with. So they build things from scratch and the head mechanism reflects that quality and innovation.
What they don’t do is a high-technology product, which is our strength. We are able to leverage some of that and ship in container loads of full height turnstiles, tripods and mechanical turnstiles, Orionize them with our electronics, which means we put our boards in them so they can connect to Infinity. Now we are pushing account data out to the perimeter instead of inside the building, and we can still offer a three year warranty at a competitive price that I just can’t build in America. I am learning that with the global economy you have to go to specific parts of the world to compete with our global competitors, who are building in China, for example, and importing at a heavy cost. We are always going to do as much we can here in America, but where we can’t we are going to partner, and Tansa Global became a great partner, one that we are very aligned in terms of being a family-orientated company with strong company values.
What is great is Tansa can ship to anywhere within a week, just like we can ship to any state here in the U.S. within a week, so we cover North America, Canada, Mexico and South America, and they cover the rest of the world for us in both production and service with our electronics and our designs. Plus, we have the ability to sell their designs where appropriate. Really helps to overcome supply chain issues.
SSN: Looking at the early days, did Orion start there in your father-in-law’s garage?
CAROSELLI: In May 2009 we had our first customer place an order, someone I had worked with for many years; he sent us a deposit check and we found a desk on the side of the road, put it in the garage, got a cell phone and a laptop and we were off and running. Our first project was in midtown New York and then we got another one in New York and then another in D.C. at the U.S. Attorney’s office, so we started off in 2009 with three great projects. And then in 2010 we picked up Facebook and Dolby Stereo and some others, so we were only in that garage for a few months before we moved into some borrowed space and then to Laconia where we are now.
SSN: Let’s talk about the entrepreneurial spirit running through your family. Your father started a painting business originally, right?
CAROSELLI: Yes, Caroselli Painting is a 40-plus year old business and still going strong! My older sister owns a local gym, and my younger sister owns a beauty salon, and my brother owns two companies in Nashville. This is my fourth company.
SSN: How about on the growth side, as I know you are growing fast and anticipate a great year.
CAROSELLI: This year we are looking at doing two-and-a-half times 2019 numbers. Due to COVID 2020 and 2021 were down years, but we have a wish list of about 40 new team members that we would like to add that we determined we are going to need to help us meet the numbers we project for this year. We are at about 40 employees now, so we are looking to double in size and add about 40 new positions, mostly in sales and marketing, but also regional technicians across the country. One of our core values is we want people home with their families, so we do travel a lot to support our customers and in the areas where we have the most demand, such as Chicago and in California, we are adding technical support and possibly a new office on the West coast to support our team out there.
SSN: I see that you are working with Pierre Bourgeix of consulting firm Butchko-ESI. How did that come about?
CAROSELLI: For Pierre it is about moving the industry, and he had been looking at what we were doing, and said I think you are doing the things that I have been trying to find a partner in this space to move the needle in this area, in terms of how we move through a building space.
I flew him out and he looked under the hood and saw that we are a natively connected device and have the Infinity software and said, “no one is doing this.”
A week or two later we were working on a large 4,000-lane RFP and I hired him to help me write the RFP and then he stayed. So we are doing a lot of Six Sigma, internal operational documentation, building the backend with Six Sigma Processes.
Additional to that we did a big sales training for our sales team at the beginning of this year, a particular type of training that Pierre helped put together based on his experience doing that over the years and that has paid huge dividends. He has also helped us to put a big emphasis on, and reengage with the consultant and architecture communities, and he has been driving that and creating good results.
He also introduced me to Butchko-ESI consultant Jim Henry, who has also been advising us in New York with specific opportunities, and helping us find good people. So the Butchko-ESI relationship has been really good for us.
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