Minding employees in an increasingly hostile world
Minder platform keeps staff safe and in touch while working outside of comfort zones
A woman is being evacuated from the Bataclan theater after a shooting in Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Keeping track of staff can be a big challenge when companies have people dotted all over the world – travelling in hostile territories, operating alone in the field, working in high-risk sectors.
“The threat level in the corporate environment has increased, and recent events such as the terrorist attacks in Europe as well as growing hostility toward western companies in parts of north Africa and the Middle East have underlined how important it is for companies to know where their staff are and that they are safe,” says David King, co-founder of Cruatech.
The Irish software company has developed the Minder Global Safety Platform, to help protect employees through better management of personal safety issues and security-related operational risks.
Examples of potential Minder clients are firms with technicians working alone in mission-critical laboratories; maintenance personnel in remote or hostile areas; and employees working antisocial hours.
Solo workers can be hooked up to a dashboard that provides those back at base with real-time information measuring variables such as movement, velocity and heart rate. If anything unusual is detected, alerts are sent to the Minder platform. Employees can also notify headquarters of potential dangers or threats.
“I know of one organisation that can have up to 300 employees travelling at any one time,” King says.“When they needed to make contact with this group in the aftermath of a major security alert in Europe earlier this year, it took a full weekend and a lot of overtime costs to track everyone down. They could have saved themselves a lot of time and money with Minder.”
Cruatech was set up in late 2010 as a hardware and software integration business, with a particular focus on physical security and safety: from CCTV installations to fire warning systems. It has since built an international reputation as an innovative entrant in a highly conservative (and somewhat secretive) sector through its relationship with companies leading major projects for organisations such as the BBC and Bank of America – not to mention a long list of US federal institutions that can’t be named for security reasons.
“We’re typically brought in to do the customisation and integration of system components. In other words, to handle some aspect of bespoke development that the main contractor can’t do themselves,” King says. “To date, we’ve built around 120 integration modules into physical systems across multiple industry verticals and would be considered one of the most experienced specialist software integration teams in Europe.”
It was while working on these projects that the Cruatech team first noticed a gap in the market.
“We found that companies’ systems didn’t go far enough in terms of integrating offsite personnel and lone workers in the field,” he says. “Many organisations also had multiple types of systems with very little communication between them.
“Security systems are also building-centric, which is fine as long as people remain in them. However, with over 60 per cent of employees in the UK and Ireland alone regularly travelling for work, we saw the need for a more far-reaching solution that could be easily integrated into an organisation’s existing security system.”
Networking mobile devices
The Minder Global Safety Platform is built on cloud technology and combines the Internet of Things with web and mobile technologies. This means that all mobile devices, from cell phones to wearables, can be networked.
Minder provides two-way communications so security departments back home can be proactive in the safe management of those working remotely.
“Minder technology does not stick to one device or one feature list,” King says. “Any supported technologies can be connected to the platform and can easily be integrated into other control room solutions via our applications programming interface.
“Minder is also provisioned in the cloud, so the customer doesn’t face a bill for additional server hardware. And the setup can be done within a matter of hours, which is crucial for active security solutions.”
Cruatech employs eight people and is based at Invent, the Innovation and Enterprise Centre at Dublin City University. The company has three directors: co-founder and finance director Liz Sherlock, and tech gurus King and Derek Cassidy. They have backgrounds in software development and systems integrations, as well as robotics and computer vision design.
The self-funded cost of developing the Minder platform, which was launched at the end of June, was in the order of €200,000. The revenue model is subscription-based.
Cruatech is still heavily involved in its core business of systems integration, but the brisk interest in the Minder platform has opened up a completely new growth opportunity for the company.
“Getting a foothold in the traditional security industry is a long, slow process of building trust,” King says. “It’s very conservative and based around a tight network of people who have known each other and done business with each other for a very long time. “Minder, by contrast, is a stand-alone product that we have complete control over and can market and sell directly ourselves as fast as we want.
“Our aim now is to spin Minder off as a separate brand and possibly even a separate company, and for it to become the go-to holistic global safety system for travelling employees.”