Executive security - overplayed or genuinely required?

December 2002 News & Events

Nedcor, National Intelligence, South African Secret service, Airports company, Rustenburg Platinum, Natal University, Guardforce and many other companies who are serious about top notch security all chose Cynaps as their technology provider ... let us find out why.

Building the foundation

Cynaps, today one of the dominant access control solutions providers for large enterprises, could be accused of having little visibility in the general market place. This has, however, been a deliberate strategy while the company has proved its systems and technology with several large customers who are amongst the most security-conscious in South Africa. Now the business, under the leadership of Hedley Davidson, one of the founders, is set to expand its activities both nationally and internationally. As part of its promotional activities a CD on Cynaps has been included with this issue of Hi-Tech Security Systems. This provides, through audio and visual aids, a comprehensive background to the company and its products.

The origins of Cynaps, and the in-depth knowledge and technology it possesses, can be traced back many years to the De Beers Debex Systems Division, where the development group was working on an integrated access control, CCTV and building management system which could be used to secure the varied and highly valuable assets of De Beers and Anglo American. Debex had spent more than R2 million developing a suitable system, but a new management strategy in 1994 saw the decision taken that it was not core to the De Beers/Anglo business, and the opportunity was seized by Davidson and his hardware and software colleagues for a management buyout.

Cynaps as a company was thus up and running from the word go, with a world-class system thanks to the substantial prior investment, and a number of test sites that allowed the company to iron out any development problems.

Nedcor and Cynaps lead the way in smartcard access control systems

Its major move forward as a private company came through the establishment of a solid relationship with Nedcor, a group which is at the forefront when it comes to IT systems and access control.

Cynaps became involved with Nedcor in terms of that company's advanced 'Project single token' scheme. The banking group's objective was to do away with multiple access control devices and cards and consolidate on a single system, which would provide both physical and logical access control across multiple sites.

The Shepherd System from Cynaps was initially installed in the Sandton IT centre of Nedcor (their highest security facility) using contact smartcards, which has been rolled out to cover another seven buildings. The smartcard itself contains the data on the holder's security clearance and access profiles, which allows the local controller at a remote site to make the decision regarding access.

The system made use of the existing Nedcor IT infrastructure and changes now being made, which include upgrading to contactless smartcards, require only conversion of the readers and tokens. Everything else in the proven system, including software and field controllers, remains unchanged. What this meant to Nedcor was seamless integration with their existing infrastructure and protection of their long term investment, whilst ensuring that they stayed ahead of the market by using Cynaps technology.

The success with Nedcor saw Cynaps establish itself with several other major local customers, including the South African Secret Service and National Intelligence. In both these government bodies the security of access and information was once again paramount. It is noteworthy that every system installed by Cynaps since the company was formed is still operational, and in most cases is still being upgraded and expanded.

The biggest and the best

A major opportunity came to Cynaps through the Airports Company (ACSA). An airport is another major security and access control nightmare, with strict differentiation in access to land and air sites, and specifically areas such as immigration, departures and the high security goods (including gold and diamonds) warehouse. ACSA issued a tender for their requirements some five years ago and some 12 companies, representing the best of both local and international solutions, responded. In a major vote of confidence to local capability this tender, after rigorous investigation, was awarded to Cynaps. Now fully implemented at Johannesburg International it is the largest integrated access control system on the African continent with 600 card readers and 35 000 active card holders, who in an average month make more than two million secure transactions.

The system is linked into the airport's existing Ethernet network, so that apart from its core access control function it is also used to monitor the status of the entire infrastructure used to move people and their baggage. This includes all of the conveyor belts, escalators, moving walkways and elevators. All of the transactions which take place are logged on ACSA's Shepherd system, and an added benefit to the company is that it can now monitor the performance of the subcontractors responsible for the maintenance and repair of the movement systems. The records of when a system goes down and comes back up are automatically time and date stamped and response and repair time, critical for an operation which moves more than 11 million people per year, can be monitored.

Once again the system is fully distributed with decision taking being made at the card reader/controller level. The sub-net linking all the readers uses Lonworks and from here all data is transferred via the JIA Ethernet system to the Shepherd system where it is stored on a database with hot standby and replication. Historical and realtime information can be accessed remotely from any PC where the user has a valid password.

One important function of the system for ACSA is to ensure that doors are not only closed but also secured, and the access cards can be retrieved by the authorised user on either side of an entry point only after the portal is secured. Cynaps designed a patented chute mechanism to fulfill this requirement.

Distribution channels

As is normal in this industry, Cynaps works through systems integrators who undergo rigorous training to achieve authorisation status. The certified systems integrator would then be responsible for the installation, commissioning (usually with the assistance of Cynaps), and ongoing maintenance and upgrade of the installation. Like all cyclical businesses systems integrators come and go, and where Cynaps differentiates itself from its competition is that it will, if necessary, pick up responsibility for the maintenance itself. This is essential added value for the company's large clients where the investment amounts to tens of millions of rands. ACSA was one example where this strategy was implemented and Cynaps now has a dedicated team looking after the Johannesburg International Airport installation. As the system is rolled out to the other major ACSA airports (Durban and Cape Town are planned), the installation will be sub-contracted out, but if ACSA is not happy with the level of service and support they know that Cynaps will be there to pick up the ball.

The technology

As far back as 1993 Cynaps' Shepherd system was selected as one of the top 10 products at the IFSEC show in London. Rather than rest on their laurels, the company ensured that products are continually re-engineered to provide expansion capability and to stay abreast of enabling technological developments without compromising reliability.

The Cynaps philosophy is that new generation products must still be functionally equivalent to the ones they replace so that device exchange is seamless and invisible to the user. Cynaps 'readers' are not like those of other companies, in that they provide a platform for direct connection to an Ethernet, proximity smartcard operation with both HiTag and Mifare cards, full portal control, LCD display and keypad for PIN verification, encryption of datalink and the integration of video cameras and audio inputs and outputs, so now a single device can handle all these functions plus the ability to use biometric identification, again using data stored on the smartcard.

The Shepherd system is entirely a local development with both the hardware and software having been designed by the Cynaps team. Even the housings for the card readers are designed and client-customised using state-of-the-art solid modelling CAD software, and to ensure the highest quality, the injection moulding of the enclosures, and manufacture of the PCBs is done in Taiwan.

The future

As for the future, Cynaps are excited about the reception they received during recent overseas visits to establish strategic alliances with major European and Asian players. The expansion programme, possibly financed through a listing of the company, will initially target the UK, followed by the Singapore and the USA. The Shepherd system itself is known to be internationally competitive, but from Cynaps' own experience it has been critical to have an in-house design and manufacturing capability. Rather than just being distributors the overseas subsidiaries of Cynaps will be able to develop and tailor the product themselves so as to meet the specific need of their customer base.

While Cynaps has a world-class product in the Shepherd system, Davidson is the first to admit that their success has in no small way been a result of the confidence shown in local technology by companies such as Nedcor and ACSA. The world-class and often demanding requirements from these customers have forced Cynaps to up the ante both in product design, training, infrastructure and general business process development. To provide the required systems and service Cynaps has invested heavily in ERP systems, design and manufacturing software and most importantly the employment and training of additional staff which is crucial to the future of the South African electronics manufacturing industry. He believes that ACSA in particular, through the sheer size and complexity of their project, has given Cynaps the opportunity to show that it is a world-leader which has spent the last six years building a solid foundation to support rapid growth.

"Our goal is to continue to build strong relationships with our customers and suppliers, select and develop the best people, and provide above market related returns to providers of capital. This has been, and will continue to be achieved by providing products and systems which are easy to install and maintain, relevent in solving customers' business problems in the most cost effective manner and are available on time in the right location through authorised systems integrators." - Hedley Davidson

For further details contact Hedley Davidson, tel: 083 625 0970, e-mail: Hedlet@iafrica.com

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