Fired up security at MTN

October 2004 Access Control & Identity Management

Project scope

The MTN project currently comprises an access control system with a central server, controlling approximately 20 buildings across the country. There are in excess of 60 controllers, with over 550 card readers and a contact database of approximately 5000 users.

And the system is still growing.

The history

Security & Fire Projects has been operational as a security systems integrator in the banking, telecommunications, commercial, warehousing and distribution, office parks and other sectors since 1997 (with most of the key personnel being in the industry in excess of 10 years).

In the access control environment, a stable product ideally suited for the medium to larger enterprises was required, with a solid backing in terms of support. It was also imperative that the product would continue to grow and evolve, as the market needs change. At the outset, the company saw this as an opportunity.

"As a company, we look for a product that will work the first time, and continue to work under the sometimes harsh (South) African conditions, like lightning strikes, power failures, lack of quality communication infrastructures, low level of operator capabilities etc," says Ferdi Jansen.

The previous products we used each had their niche features. The biggest problem, however, was that they did not grow with the times and as technology evolved. Customer demands also changed, requiring a product in line with world trends. The change in our offerings was brought about by a combination of factors, ranging from the lack of existing products not catering for the demand in a suitable fashion to the specific marketing efforts to the end-users of a variety of products that do meet the requirements, albeit relatively unknown in SA at the time.

The goal

The company started using the Cardax product in 1997 as a first roll-out for MTN on a few key sites. It used the then available platform called CC50, which is ideal for the small/medium-sized systems.

As the third-generation platform (CCFT) became available, the installation of new sites were started with the FT range of equipment, initially as standalone sites, with the intention to integrate it later to a central server. The existing CC50 sites were maintained as is, with the intention to later upgrade/integrate it to the central server.

The main goal was to eventually provide the customer with a single point of control for all their buildings in the country. This would standardise their security control and also reduce the overhead costs to manage the security.

The benefits

Benefits include single point of management with distributed levels of responsibility and accountability. Interfacing to other information management systems (ex Payroll and HR databases) are localised to controlled environments.

Obstacles en route to a final solution?

Having to grow with a product and develop your technical abilities as its capabilities expand (through new technologies and R&D) and having the responsibility to also keep the system functional at all times, did prove challenging at times. This was especially true when encountering obstacles the manufacturers and designers had not encountered before.

Tenders and implementation

Initially all work was done through tenders. Fortunately, MTN had a clear vision of where it wanted to go in terms of security (long term). It was a matter of choosing the correct product initially and using its growth and development to integrate it to that vision.

Measuring progress

In the beginning, progress was measured against short-term goals (successful completion of a single building). Now progress is measured on the successful implementation of integration of older systems or upgrades (whether it is functional system upgrades, software upgrades or individual building system upgrades onto the main system server).

The result

"We have successfully established ourselves as one of the largest installers of the Cardax system in Africa," says Jansen. "This portrays a positive image to the industry of our position in the market as an integrator.

"A company's success is directly related to how a situation and/or problem is approached and resolved. The key is to stay focused on the problem at hand and working towards solutions. Having to identify recurring trends and faults also help towards setting up procedures to eliminate future occurrences."

In summary

Vision leads to concept design, which leads to specification, which leads to detailed system design and implementation. The successful roll-out of this product is dependent on how well your planning and design is done up-front. Lack of initial careful planning/designing leads to disaster later on.

"You are best remembered on the performance of your last project. One single mistake eradicates years of doing everything correctly. You can only stay in the business by trying your utmost to do your best at all times, especially when the project is defined not by a definite end, but by the continuance of set milestones," Jansen concludes.

Fact file

Key service providers, products and solutions:

Access control system used: Cardax FT system.

Consultants: Claassen Auret.

Integrator: Security & Fire Projects, Ferdi Jansen, 011 496 1701, ferdijansen@global.co.za


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