Scanned and tagged

RFID and biometrics are just two of the technologies making an impact in the field of physical security for enterprises. NME examines just how much traction they are gaining among Middle East organisations.

  • E-Mail
By  Sean Robson Published  January 5, 2009

Staking a claim

According to vendors, adoption of their products has gradually become more widespread and they are seeing a real move towards the technologies.

Systems integrators, like Depco Systems, are especially seeing increasing traction. Depco claims it is involved in a number of RFID implementations, deploying solutions across various verticals.

The solution we have developed is open architecture based and because of that we have been able to develop very simple functions that would retag, close the door, set the time or protect the location. We can service a number of different verticals because of our open service architecture," says Edwin Chikhani, chief operating officer of Depco Systems.

"While we are still not where we would like to be we have definitely begun to see more and more people approach us and it's a case of things picking up month after month," says Al Amri.

Al Amri has seen the number of implementations his company is involved in increasing over the last four years. "In the first year of operations, we implemented one project; the second year that number increased to three, and the third year we completed 20 implementations, while in 2008 we closed 50 deals," he says.

"I would say that adoption is accelerating, and there is clearly momentum behind this for a couple of reasons. Over the past three years more vendors have emerged, which has presented users with more options. This has improved the offerings as well as the ability for the customer to put together a low cost and effective solution," says Meranda.

"Secondly, within the Middle East there is a lot of infrastructure-building going on and RFID is great for infrastructure if you can implement it during the building process. These two factors are big drivers in the adoption cycle" states Tagstone's Meranda.

Users, like Nagarajan, are expanding their usage of RFID based on initial success. Nagarajan, who used the technology for over two years to manage his staff's attendance as well as access to critical areas, has branched out with the technology to monitor the firm's assets.

"Our ongoing project is a yard management system that will allow us to monitor the vehicles entering and leaving the premises. This means increased efficiency, increased security and ultimately better customer service," says Nagarajan.

"While we currently use RFID and biometrics on a limited scale we plan on increasing the deployment. We have seen a lot of applications that could help us particularly in terms of the creation of a smart building to house our headquarters," says Indranil Guha, manager of IT infrastructure management at Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

To derive a quantifiable return on the investment has proved difficult for end-users, but they are unequivocal in their opinion that the technologies have proved a worthwhile investment.

Aboukhater states, "You can't really put a number on the value. What price tag would you put on securing a confidentiality agreement with a big client?"

"There are tangible and intangible benefits. Like getting the staff in on time, being able to keep a record of our inventory and securing our critical IT environments," says Nagarajan.

"Since implementing the RFID solution at the beginning of the year, there have been no internal thefts; this is the best return on investment imaginable. Business functions are better as we can now track which pieces are proving most popular," says Jade Jewellery's Mackie.

Connecting the dots

While these two niche technologies are finding their way into mainstream physical security and access layers there remains some scepticism as to their ability to be integrated into the existing security systems.

Meranda disagrees with this negativity arguing for the viability of a greater tie-in. "An RFID tag can serve as a basis to understand all types of conditions that exist in a datacentre."

"Our solutions have been designed with the ability to work inside any background or system. We believe that the beauty of RFID is that it can work in any situation or environment," says Al Amri.

Meanwhile, enterprises continue to face challenges internally, especially with the amalgamation of the two technologies into the overall security environment.

"In my opinion, the best combination for a truly secure environment is achieved by a mix of the IT team and security team. The security team is in charge of security, so in many ways the IT team reports to them, but I see it as a collaboration in which they look after the human element while IT takes care of the technology," notes Nagarajan.

RFID and biometrics offer enterprises unique and innovative options to assist them in physically securing their environments. It appears that while they are progressively finding a wider audience only time will tell if they will find themselves joining mainstream security technologies or remain niche solutions for specific industries.

Jade Jewellery: A brief case study in RFID technology

Jade Jewellery is a Saudi Arabia-based jewellery company that operates four stores across the Kingdom, specialising in European jewellery and also trading in diamonds.

In the past, Jade Jewellery experienced substantial financial losses as a result of missing jewellery attributed to internal theft. Close to a million Saudi Arabian Riyals (approximately US$267,000) worth of jewellery had been written off.

Following the recent RFID implementation, each piece of jewellery in the shop is now fixed with a passive tag before being placed on display. The RFID tags carry stored data and use radio waves to automatically identify items.

RFID readers are installed within the shelves, at the entry and exit points of the shop, and in front of the safe door. A complete system including the hardware, the asset trail application and integration with existing proprietary ERP software, was customised to monitor, track and control all items within the store based on company policies. The system reacts and responds to the behaviour of employees, and alerts the manager if company policies in handling goods are not met.

To further improve security measures, each employee is issued with an RFID badge, which is used to log their activities on the main server and enables them to access the jewellery without setting off any alarms.

The system is programmed to give Jade Jewellery employees one minute to transfer an item of jewellery from its case to the customer display tray or any other display. When a mobile display tray is put on the viewing table, it is monitored by an antenna installed in its mid-section until it is returned back to the shelf or display case. Any abnormal behaviour in handling the goods while executing operations such as sales, transfers, consignments or safe replenishment will set off an alarm.

"The RFID implementation has made Jade Jewellery the first and only ‘intelligent store' of its kind in Saudi Arabia. The RFID system monitors our daily operations in real time and allows us to apply company policies in handling goods, which has greatly improved our operational efficiency. We are looking to implement this system in all our stores following the successful pilot project," says Jade Jewellery owner Sukaina Mackie.

As a result of the successful implementation, Jade Jewellery is now looking at additional ways to improve the systems as well as to deploy it across all four stores. It is investigating solutions to make the current RFID tags more resilient and create a mobile solution for road shows.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code