As a somewhat in-the-know tech insider, I’m generally aware of the big players in my city. However, following a recent interview with executives at Allegion and a visit to their Americas regional headquarters and new technology center, I discovered I was missing out on one of the coolest (and largest) tech companies in the area!
Allegion’s ties to our state date back to the early 1900s when a fire broke out in an Illinois theatre. A trio of inventors, one of whom was supposed to attend the theatre that day, created the first panic exit device and founded a company called Von Duprin in Indiana. Today that brand is still going strong alongside more than 25 total brands as part of the $2.2 billion global enterprise Allegion, which is a highly tech-enabled company still focused on safety and security in and around doors and doorways.
You’re probably familiar with Allegion products. Brands like LCN, Schlage, Steelcraft, Kryptonite, and of course, Von Duprin, are well-known around the world and sold in almost 130 countries. They surround you wherever you are — in homes, schools, businesses and other institutions — if there’s a doorway nearby, there’s a good chance that an Allegion product is helping to make it safe and secure.
Todd GravesSenior Vice President, Engineering & Technology
Todd leads the global engineering operation of more than 600 engineers from the Carmel-based office with senior leadership and a large portion of the engineering team. Allegion employs over 9,500 people worldwide with more than 1,200 in Indiana. The company was officially formed in 2013, when Ingersoll Rand spunoff its security hardware sector into the standalone business named Allegion.
“We have nearly every engineering skill-set that you could imagine — mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, firmware and software developers — everything you would need to develop a product that would mount physically on a door, but would also connect up to a mobile app in the cloud and do everything else you’d expect of an IoT-enabled device,” Todd said. “Especially when we’re talking about products connecting to the Internet of things, that architecture is really being driven out of Indiana and servicing the entire world.”
The internet of things is an exciting frontier for Todd and his team, but it’s not new. They’ve been experimenting with IoT for a decade and finding ways to incorporate enhanced safety and security features into products along with other new tech using both augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning, serverless architecture, biometrics, special surfaces and more.
As Todd explained, the first step in their innovation cycle typically involves a move from the mechanical to the electro-mechanical, followed by automation, and then connecting the electronics up to the outside world via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other wireless technologies. Once products make it to the cloud things really start to get interesting.
“So these products that used to act independently are starting to act as a system and interact with each other to create new and enhanced levels of safety and security,” Todd said. “And just like in every other industry, we’re starting to exploit those capabilities that the Internet of Things and other cutting edge technologies provide in ways no one has ever been able to before. Actually, it’s in ways no one has ever thought of before.”
The application of these new technologies being incorporated into doors and doorways can easily be understood when considering it’s now possible, for the simplest example, to lock or unlock a residential door remotely. Consider, however, the far-reaching and monumental impact on safety and security of being able to lock and unlock dozens or hundreds of doors from a central or remote location for a large building. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what Allegion’s engineers have been able to create deploying these new technologies.
Of course, like every tech-heavy enterprise, there’s a back-end that keeps it all running and enables the wizardry of IoT and the other cutting-edge tech that’s incorporated into Allegion products. That’s where Senior Vice President & CIO Tracy Kemp and her team come in.
Tracy KempSenior Vice President & CIO
“As we look at a lot of the emerging technologies and proof of concepts to bring them into our business and into our products in partnership with Todd and his engineering team, there’s just so much for us to really dig into around the digital transformation of our industry and around the experimentation with new and emerging technologies.”
At Allegion, the innovation Tracy described has been institutionalized through Innovation Fridays, Idea Rallys, and an annual “Shark Tank-style” global competition called Trailblazer that would sound more fun than serious if it hadn’t already resulted in disruptive new ideas found in Allegion products and processes.
In last year’s Trailblazers competition, more than 200 employees from all over the world formed over 75 cross-functional teams and pitched their ideas directly to senior leadership. Through Allegion’s various programs and independent research, employees spend up to 10 percent of their time on innovation projects.
“Trailblazers is a great example of Allegion’s pioneering spirit and core values in action — like being curious beyond the obvious — and it’s inspiring to see these diverse teams formed from employees in different global regions working together to come up with creative new ideas and really having an impact on products, on the company, the industry and each other,” Tracy said.
The focus on technology is also reflected through a large new capital investment located next door to Allegion’s regional headquarters building in its local Tech Center.
The experience of visiting the new tech center is like walking into a hip Valley scale-up complete with acoustic privacy pods, open environment with cozy corners, and every desk converts to a standing workstation at the touch of a button. It’s beautiful, and the teams of digital security pros, data scientists, software developers, UI/UX designers and other technologists I met on my recent tour confirmed that it’s just as functional and productive as it is pretty to look at. You might also bump into a remote employee on his or her way to a meeting via telepresence robot.
“The emerging technologies we’re working with in production or experimenting with in the lab, whether they’re on the product side or the security and infrastructure side, are quite literally changing the way people interact with their surroundings, keeping them safe, and disrupting an industry that impacts people all over the world through our 25 brands,” Tracy said. “I think that’s an exciting proposition for anybody, and the fact that Allegion is such a tech-focused company that values its employees and provides a place to work like the new tech center is a message we want to make sure gets out to the best tech talent in Indy and all over the world, really.”