Innovation and service, 37 years and counting

Issue 1 2023 Access Control & Identity Management, Integrated Solutions

Impro Technologies was founded in Durban in 1986 and quickly became a standard in the access control industry in South Africa. Driven by innovation and meeting the needs of its customers, the company soon expanded beyond the borders of South Africa into Africa and the rest of the world.

Ten years after its founding, Impro released one of the first RFID access solutions in the world and in 2000, its IXP range of access control products was released. Arguably, it was the IXP solutions that made Impro a standard in the access control industry as many of these products are still in use globally, continuing to provide the service clients require.

Making sure it was not left behind as the world moved into the cloud era, 2013 saw the company released its web-based Access Portal Range, another set of solutions still in use in many installations around the world. All of these products were and still are developed, designed and manufactured in KZN, using Impro’s in-house intellectual property (IP).

The impact of Impro globally became evident in 2016 when ASSA ABLOY, the global access control giant acquired the company. ASSA ABLOY has a number of business models it uses when acquiring companies and given the reach and strength of the Impro brand, the company was left as an independent entity operating under its own brand.

Giles Calenborne.

Impro’s CEO, Giles Calenborne says this model is still in effect and while there were some changes in terms of reporting and personnel over the years, the Impro brand is as strong as ever and the company is gearing up for some major announcements over the course of 2023. He adds that the products and services the company is able to offer will only improve as it not only has its own IP to drive it forward, but also access to ASSA ABLOY’s global resources and technologies.

Integration is one of the benefits of the ASSA ABLOY link, as Impro’s parent company has a vast range of products, from door handles to larger solutions, which Impro can integrate its solutions with, expanding the scope of its market. Of course, openness and the ability to integrate with third party solutions is still par for the course for Impro in the diverse access control market.

The Impro difference

There are innumerable companies operating in the access control market around the world, so what makes Impro so successful? Calenborne says the company has and will continue to lead as the emerging market leader for complete access control solutions. Moreover, he says the Impro brand was, is and will remain grounded in three key concepts:

1. Innovation: This is how Impro made its name in the industry and its innovative flare will continue and expand in future.

2. Simplicity: Impro’s products are known for their simplicity. The company’s designers and engineers are completely focused on taking complex technologies and making them simple for partners and end users to install and use.

3. Trust: Impro would not have a track record of nearly 40 years of success if it was not driven to be a trusted partner and supplier, meeting and exceeding expectations as the norm.

While many manufacturers have left South Africa for foreign shores, where products are supposedly made at a lower cost, Impro is committed to its manufacturing plant in Durban. Calenborne notes, “We will continue to manufacture in Durban and have no intension of changing anything at present. We see tremendous value in having our manufacturing facility together with our R&D; teams. This allows us to manage the SMD prototypes and pilot runs more effectively, and continuously improves our manufacturing processes.”

Despite the tremendous exodus of talent from South African shores over the past few years, Impro’s skills are still leading the pack. The company has hardware, software and firmware teams with years of experience, and which are currently growing. “We have a very clear product roadmap that will keep them busy for the next three years, at least,” states Calenborne. “We have new versions of our software and significant enhancements to our hardware range all in various phases of the development process. Customers will start to see these products from Q2 of 2023.”

The CEO’s future focus

When asked what his challenges are for the next one to three years, Calenborne has his work cut out for him. “Impro is first and foremost a technology business. We need to take advantage of the tremendous pool of technology and resources ASSA ABLOY has to offer and combine it with ours to delivery best-in-class access control solutions.”

In addition, the company will be using the worldwide ASSA ABLOY footprint to grow our international sales in new markets, while maintaining and increasing our relevance in the local and existing international markets.

Another focus for the company is its training programmes. Ensuring installers and integrators are up to speed on the latest products and solutions from Impro is critical to ensuring successful installations and satisfied customers. As new products hit the market in 2023 and beyond, the company’s training programmes will also be updated and improved to ensure customers are able to make the most of the Impro range.

As noted above, Calenborne will ensure the foundations of innovation, simplicity and trust are part of everything the company does going forward.


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