INTERVIEW: John Che, President and CEO, ZKTeco

Recently, Peter O’Neill, president of FindBiomterics, interviewed John Che, president and CEO of ZKTeco, a global provider of biometric access control and time & attendance solutions. The conversation begins with talk of how well the company performed in 2015 and the launch of its new division, ZKAccess. It goes on to detail the global markets, ZKTeco’s latest biometric products, and how the company is educating its clients and partners through ZKCEP, ZK’s accredited continuing education program.

ZK will be at the upcoming ISC West conference and exhibition in Las Vegas, April 6-8, showcasing its biometrics solutions.

Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiomterics (FB): Has this been a good year for ZK?

John Che, President and CEO, ZKTeco: 2015 has been another fantastic year for ZK as the world’s adoption rate for biometrics continues growing exponentially it seems. Every day, more and more 3rd party business applications are being developed that depend upon the security and convenience, which only biometrics can provide. As such, ZK recently brought online yet another factory to help keep up with the growing demand for our biometric stand-alone readers, which are now also integrated into our turnstile product line. 2015 also marked the beginning of our company’s transformation from a products manufacturer into a total security platform provider. Our latest offering, called ZKBioSecurity, is the ultimate “all in one” web-based security platform, which contains four integrated modules including access control, video linkage, elevator control and visitor management.

To help keep up with the growing demand, particularly in the US market, in 2015 we actually had to split our US operation into two distinct business divisions so we could maintain focus on two very distinct markets, each having their own unique needs. While our one division continues supporting the needs of our time clock customers, our new division, called ZKAccess, focuses strictly on addressing the needs of our physical security customers. ZK resources that were once shared are now completely focused on supporting these two distinct markets. This separation has resulted in our customers greatly benefiting since they now can enjoy having dedicated resources who are also expert in their respective industries. So 2015 has been a very challenging yet tremendously rewarding year for us. And with each passing year our future only gets bigger and brighter for ZK.

FB: You have many offices globally. Where are you seeing the greatest growth?

ZK: We have over 14 global offices. From a revenue perspective, in 2015 our Europe operation experienced the greatest amount of growth. I was especially impressed with this considering their challenge with currency devaluation and the overall slowdown in the European economy. Our fastest growing operations were in South Africa and Argentina where their revenues more than doubled last year. There’s significant growth in most all our global operations. Much of this growth can be attributed to the widespread concern for often-publicized worldwide security breaches, active shooters and illegal immigration. Also contributing is the growing acceptance of biometrics, much of which is fueled by the popularity of integrated fingerprint sensors now used in mobile devices and computers.

FB: Can you please tell us about some of the new products in your lineup?

ZK: Our development strategies are: Enterprise level biometric authentic entrance control and security management, biometric authentic parking safety management, and biometric authentic passenger and luggage inspection.

Starting with our fingerprint readers, we’re very excited to have launched our new SilkID fingerprint sensor. This next generation fingerprint sensor’s accuracy and fake finger detection is absolutely phenomenal and will rival any other vendor’s sensor. SilkID will first be incorporated into our new OP200 fingerprint reader. OP200 is the first biometric door controller integrated with Lenel OnGuard and Amag Symmetry software. What makes OP200 truly unique is that it requires no middleware. Our ZK firmware communicates directly to the OnGuard and Symmetry databases. Having no middleware means ZK can uniquely offer Lenel and Amag customers the absolute fastest, easiest, least expensive way to upgrade to biometric security. Other new hardware offerings include our turnstiles (tripod series, flap gates, swing gates, parking gates, etc.). We’re quite proud to say we’re actually China’s largest exporter of tripod turnstiles.

Our most recent hardware release is our new low cost license plate recognition (LPR) access control camera called SmartLPR which is designed for residential gated-communities and small business parks. SmartLPR will open the gate/barrier only upon positive recognition of a driver’s license plate. To enroll license plates all you need do is create a simple CSV file containing only the driver’s ID# and plate#. You then upload the CSV file to the SmartLPR via the web browser of any computer. It’s that easy. SmartLPR eliminates the need for paying a security guard or managing fobs/cards which trigger the gate.

And beyond hardware as I mentioned, we also have our new security platform called ZKBioSecurity which ties together much of this amazing technology we’ve brought to the market.

FB: Will you be at ISC West this April in Las Vegas?

ZK: As with every year, ZK will be proudly exhibiting at ISC West 2016. Be sure to add us to your event planner. We’ll be at booth# 6077.

On display will be our ZKBioSecurity software along with all our access control models. We’re especially honored having a few of our software partners helping manning our booth including representatives from Schneider-Electric, Imron and RS2. These are all major players in the Physical Access Control (PAC) industry who’ve chosen to have their software integrated with ZK readers. While at our booth, customers will see first-hand how nicely the seamless integration between their software and our biometric readers works.

I mentioned how popular our turnstiles have become. So at opposite ends of our booth we’ll have working turnstiles (2 sets) with integrated biometric access control. Lastly on the hardware side, we’ll also have our SmartLPR license plate recognition access control camera available for demos. All the while we’ll have hourly 20-minute business & technology seminars being conducted in our booth’s comfortable seated presentation area. We promise customers an eye-opening informative and especially fun experience while visiting our booth. We never disappoint. Here’s a 15-minute video walkthrough tour of our booth last year in 2015:

FB: Which vertical markets are you focusing on for your growth? It seems like almost every industry is now looking to biometrics for Access Control, Time and Attendance and Mobility.

ZK: The public awareness and prevention of terrorism, violence and child safety is getting critical at all levels. More and more enterprises pay attention to security management including employees and non-employees, students, vehicles, products and goods. ZK is dedicated to be a total solution supplier providing complete authentic biometric surveillance system for small and medium size enterprises.

We focus primarily on markets which yield the highest ROI for our customers. A market we continue dominating globally is the time & attendance (T&A) industry. Considering that payroll often contributes to 10 percent of a company’s overall operating budget, few will argue that “buddy punching” is very costly. Buddy punching occurs when an hourly-wage employee who is presently absent from work asks his “buddy” to fraudulently punch in for him so the absentee employee can receive pay. Of course the use of biometric clocks makes buddy punching near impossible since the employee actually has to be present when punching in. So ZK continues focusing in the T&A market.

Other less obvious ROIs are derived when retailers use biometric door controllers to reduce retail shrink (theft by their own employees). Prior to biometrics, store employees gained unauthorized access to cash rooms and warehouses by simply obtaining the store’s security key/badge or pass code. However, by using biometric door controllers, only authorized employees can gain access to these high-value rooms. Just a malicious employee seeing a biometric reader securing a door is a great deterrent to prevent theft.

Other markets we do well in include healthcare, in which safety and convenience is paramount. Medical facilities often need to safeguard visitors from rooms containing either patient records or hazardous materials (i.e. bio waste, radiation, etc.). Medical staff also need access to doors at times their hands are gloved or occupied carrying trays, making the use of card-based (or fingerprint) door access impractical. To address security and convenience in medical facilities, we’ve found hands-free face recognition access control technology is highly effective. There are many other markets and applications in which ZK’s technology is a perfect fit and provides either ROI or needed safety and convenience which contributes to higher employee productivity levels.

FB: Education is still a need identified by our industry. I know that ZK provides its customers with regular opportunities to learn more about issues, challenges and opportunities related to your products. When did you as a company start this and what has been the feedback?

ZK: Education is at the heart of every sale we make at ZK. Although we’re often told by our customers how easy our products are to install and operate, we take great strides in ensuring our customers not only know how our products work, but also how to grow their respective businesses by effectively leveraging our products. For example, ZKCEP (ZK Continue Education Programme) will be the platform to continue and enhance our supports via internet videos. We offer a free 3-credit CEU course called Advanced Biometric Access Control. This course is accredited by both the ESA (course ID# 14-4156) and by BICSI (course ID OV-ZKA-NJ-0415-1). In addition to explaining how access control technology works and how to incorporate biometrics into your security project-plan, the course also helps teach students how to leverage biometrics in order to grow their business and gain differentiation over their competitors. We also hold a free weekly technical webinar. A willingness to provide free education is what separates manufacturers from true business partners and the primary reason why our customers come back to us for assistance with their next security project.

FB: What can we expect to see from ZK during the coming months?

ZK: One of our target developments is aiming on the Time Attendance Mobile Service.

With all our new product releases its hard to say which products will catch on faster than the others. But I can tell you each one was designed specifically to address the needs of our customers. Necessity is the mother of all invention. We listen carefully to what our customers need, and then we create and/or innovate, accordingly. We’ve built an amazing global organization which I could not be more proud of. And with all our past success and global dominance in many markets, we still treat each day as a new beginning with a new opportunity to help a customer. And I think that’s what keeps us all going. If customers need us, we’ll be there for them.

FB: John, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.

ZK: Thank you, Peter. I appreciate the opportunity to share our 2015 story with your readers.