Connected ATM Innovation, a first in South Africa


ATMs in South Africa are facing a crisis—a look into local news reveals that many of these machines are being bombed or broken into with the intent of stealing cash.

In an effort to solve this regional problem, Cisco teams in South Africa worked to create a revolutionary solution for the financial industry—the Connected ATM.

Underground innovation

This innovative project began simply with Edward Agostinho, a Cisco systems engineer based in South Africa, and his interaction with a local bank.

“It all started with me presenting to a bank on the Internet of Things,” says Agostinho, “The bank said, ‘Would IoT be applicable to my environment? If you could help us save a couple of ATMs from being blown up, then we’d be very impressed”.

Agostinho was stumped. He researched and watched video upon video of dynamite igniting and breaking open ATMs.

“Maybe I can’t stop someone from bombing an ATM, but perhaps I can create early detection of somebody wanting to bomb an ATM,” says Agostinho.

South African banks were challenged with a specific set of problems—a lack of early detection of ATM bombings, no deterrents, and no positive identification of the attacks. These ATMs were unmanned and for some—ripe for pillaging.

Agostinho’s solution for this ever-growing issue was birthed through a concept known as underground innovation—one employee seeing a possible fix to an industry’s challenges, and moving from there.

Bits and pieces

And Agostinho moved quickly with the next step of  his idea.

The engineer constructed the Connected ATM through linking many bits and pieces of different Cisco solutions.

“We took a product called Cisco Asset Manager—that’s the brains and the background of the Connected ATM,” says Agostinho. “We also took Cisco’s video surveillance solution, which provides video feeds and recording devices, and also has intelligence around audio analytics. The last product that I used was Cisco Instant Connect, which is all about integration of two-way radios.”

With the Connected ATM, vibration will be noted any time someone tries to bash the machine. This information then goes into Cisco Asset Manager (a place to manage all collected assets) that then brings up a video feed of an ATM’s camera. This feed would then be immediately sent to screens at the bank.

Simultaneously, an automated message would go out on a two-way radio. This message could go out to security or onto a police channel.

“All of this kicks off at the same time, immediately, just by someone banging the ATM,” says Agostinho, “People can become aware of that. In some cases, people ask me if we can incorporate tear gas, or smoke or something to deter them, and the answer is yes. We can essentially do everything.”

Audio and video data in the Connected ATM aids in crime scene detection, and analysis of this data can help recognize crimes in advance.

The Connected ATM includes facial recognition features, for identifying black listed individuals, and the solution can also identify sound anomalies and violent movements.

Capturing innovation where it lives

Garsen Naidu, a Regional Sales Manager with Cisco Southern Africa, truly believes in bringing business value to customers.

Naidu says that the regional team was especially inspired by Cisco SVP and Chief Strategy Officer, who also heads up innovation, Hilton Romanski.

“The Connected ATM is a homegrown innovation that solves real life challenges,” says Naidu, “Hilton Romanski is the country executive sponsor for South Africa, and he always encourages us to capture innovation where it lives. This is an example of where we have captured innovation where it lives.”

And there is much more innovation coming on the way from the Connected ATM.

“The ATM is just a remote asset,” says Agostinho, “We see a similar case being used by unmanned cell towers—the same kind of implementation could be used there.”

Other plans from the team include the recognition of human emotions to determine a humans’ expression. Other technology will be able to similarly discern impulsive sounds like screams, gunshots, and glass breaking.

The future of the bionic bank is closer than we think with the innovation coming from Agostinho and the Connected ATM team. With the ability to bring different Cisco programs together, the Cisco South Africa team created a brand new security solution to the financial industry.

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