Did anyone dogfood this experience? A bog standard gate experience gone bad.

I had a consulting job at a company that got new gates.  The new gates have a different experience between doors and based on whether you are going in or out.

Between 1000 and 4000 people use the gates per day. A back-of-the-napkin analysis says this interface costs the company $300/day or over $80,000 per year plus any frustration. They often pause at this gate system to deal with the interface inconsistencies. 

  • 3000 people * 5 seconds / 3600 sec/hr * $80/hour fully loaded * 5 d/w * 50 w/y

The gate system as a use case

They bought a combined entry/exit system. Looks good from here.

Here is a different set of gates by the same vendor in the same building.  I was going to say that these were on the way out but this picture is also on the way in.

Bi-directional gate control - flow optimization

The gates support traffic in both directions.  Each turnstile has two card readers, one for each direction through the gate. The card reader is "right-handed" on entry and "left-handed" on exit.  

Entry arrows show the way.

This shows the markings in the entry direction. The green arrows on the front try to show you which turnstyle is tied to a specific card reader. Pretty standard stuff.

There is one weird thing I didn't show here.   The green arrow on the card reader turns to a red X when it accepts your badge to tell the next person they can't use their badge yet.  So you use your badge and it changes to a symbol that means "no".  Why? You can see it below.

What is happening at this set of gates?

These gates are bi-directional with all of them marked the same.  The system is set up so people can exit using any lane.   Here, I'm trying to leave the building.  Why do these look different from the inbound direction?  I just realized that these same-style gates are marked differently at this entrance.

These gates all show red.

I walk up to the gates.  From 10 feet away all I see are red Xs on the front.  All the gates have a red "X" that seems to say there is no way out.   I can't see the top of the gate controllers so I can't see the green arrows buried in the top. The green arrows on the card reader are now on the left hand, the opposite side from where they were on the way in.  

Looking at the Xs.  I have no idea what they mean 😕  The X here may mean that the turnstile is locked.  🤷  Is this Hotel California where you can enter but never leave? I really have no idea why the front has a red X in this direction while showing green arrows on the way in. The red X seems to say don't go here but I want to leave the building.

I let muscle memory be my guide and got a bruise on my thigh

So I walked up, held out my key card to the card reader on the right and it unlocked a gate.  It unlocked the gate to my right, that you can't see in the picture. We know the gate to my right is unlocked because the light I can't see on the front turned green and because the key card light on the right turned to a red X. You would think that means rejected. Nope. In this case, the red X means "don't use the card reader until a person goes through the gate".

The card reader turned red when it accepted me?

I try again and use the card reader on the left.  The card reader symbol turns into a red X.  The lane symbol that I am probably directly next to, turns into a green arrow.   Now I can pass through the turn style and leave the building.

What were they thinking?

There are two major issues.
  1. The first is the change in experience between left-hand and right-hand controls. The customer is cheap. I'm sure someone got a bonus for saving a few bucks here. I suspect the vendor sells an extra card reader pod that can be configured so the controls are the same in both directions.  Either that or the vendor was lazy and didn't test their system with real humans.
  2. The weird differences between the two sets.  I don't know why the default lane light configurations are different.

An editorial comment

The experience reminded me that one cares about inefficiencies and incremental employee costs because they don't appear anywhere in a report or spreadsheet. The customer could have redone this system or demanded updates.  It doesn't appear that anyone cares other than the users.

Revision History

Created 2024 03


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