Interview with James W. Jimmy Bianco, V.P. of Sales and Marketing, CMI Time management
fB: You just recently launched a new subsidiary focusing on time management called CMI Time Management. Can you please tell us about this?
CMI: Control Module as you know is a company that manufactures and has been around for about 40 years. 43 years to be exact. Control Module was building data collection terminals typically for manufacturing, access control, and work force management solutions. It has been very lucrative and has basically provided our 85 employees a more comfortable living. Control Module being a strong engineering company has gone off on a couple of different ventures one of which is electric vehicle charging and another is basically fleet management which is all of the data collection necessary on a non-revenue side for people like Avis, Budget, Hertz, National, Enterprise. So we divisionalized the EVSE which is the car charging… the rental agencies if you will and then time management which is the traditional Control Module. Because all of that is under the Control Module umbrella they had to differentiate the work force management division and so we created Time Management and our site is cmitime.com.
fB: Your company has pioneered many firsts in the workforce management area, including the first biometric terminal. Can you please review some of these for our readers?
CMI: Sure. One of the first that we started with was Continental Airlines and they have about 350 time clocks in 26 airports with 30,000 people using it on a daily basis. When we first started this roughly 10 years ago we were working with BII which is Bioscript which is L1 which is now MorphoTrust. Those very first sensors were Veridicom and we cut our teeth with Continental and it was a real challenge. We did stuff with software to get a larger percentage of the population being able to use the system. Since then we’ve made vast improvements on the software side of things, the sensor manufacturers, we’re using the UPEK now and has really done a wonderful job getting faster more reliable data using a hardened sensor and the algorithm company we are using is Suprema. But the very first implementation was difficult because biometrics was new to everyone and the three things we needed to overcome were: “Well I’m not going to touch that sensor because I know the person who touched it before me has a cold,” which is the same thing as a door handle or the vending knob button or whatever. And secondly they said: “Well I don’t want to give my pertinent information to big blue or to the government in the system”, and we’d have to explain that it’s not an AFIS style print it’s just a coefficient or a representation of your finger and the only things that moves in the system is a number ID associated with it. Some of those things and then training like people not knowing how to position their finger accurately. Today, fingerprint biometrics as you know and the audience knows is on everything, on cell phones, on laptops access controls systems and work force management systems.
fB: Can you tell us a bit about your product lineup? I understand you’ve launched a couple of new products as well.
CMI: Yes. Traditionally we’ve been a character based display just basically somewhere to present information back, a key pad for pinning if they are using a verification mode, and typically some sort of communication method. Today most of it is either ethernet or wireless. The industry, both end users and partners alike asked us for something that had a little bit more display so we have a version of our Java programmable Genus which has been around for close to 8-10 years that has a 4” display. That way in workforce management solutions people can use it for more than just a time clock and an associate or employee can go up to this time clock if you will and review a schedule or check vacation balances so it needed a larger screen. After that the industry asked for an even larger screen and more of a standard operating system. So we released a product about 6 years ago called Touchtime that was a touch screen kiosk running Windows in that day with an XP operating system. The problem with it was that it wasn’t very portable, it was large and expensive. So most recently we have just released a 10” tablet style data collection terminal for work force management. It runs a Windows 8 operating system which is the open architecture everybody is looking for it handles and supports all of the different card technologies as well as fingerprint in a very small rugged package for half the price for what Touchtime used to be.
Because we have the Touchtime as a controller we’ve released another product that works in conjunction with it that uses a near field communication, a Zigbee communication, it’s called Simple Time. It’s a low cost device with a display and keypad again and all the card readers and fingerprint reader but it wirelessly talks pier to pier or terminal to terminal to terminal and that’s with a controller. What that means is that these 98 low cost devices could be used in a classroom to take positive attendance of the students with no expensive wiring infrastructure it will talk to the next device to the next device and then to the TouchTime II controller which allows 98 of those devices to communicate through one IP address to a customer’s network.
fB: You mentioned the use in schools and with some of the unfortunate developments in this area this must be becoming an important marketplace. Are you seeing activity in that area?
CMI: Yes we are. Obviously on the top of people’s minds today, as a result of the tragedy we had here in Newton, CT, everybody is looking at school security. Well this system which is basically designed for attendance, making sure that the student is there because the state will pay for students to be in school. If they are not there for 300 minutes per day the school won’t realize, I believe, $40/day per student. But more importantly if there is an event we have the capability to hit a panic button on any one of the terminals. It tells all of the other 98 devices that are on the system that there is a situation. The controller dials a first responder and the terminal hits the option selected to lock all the doors. So it’s safety, it’s actually being saved by savings because the students are actually there even though in a negative attendance system the teacher takes attendance and if the teacher is not there because it’s a sub and he or she misses a student they don’t get paid for it. So there are benefits to the school, benefits to the teacher not having to take attendance and more importantly there is the security aspect of it where we can electronically lock down the school in an event and give confidence to the parents that anytime they know that these 26 students were in classroom 103 at 10:13 when things started happening.
fB: I’m sure this is being well received by parents across the country.
CMI: Correct. It is in its infancy right now but we have been manufacturing the line. We have 100’s of thousands of terminals in the field. Right now we are in the pre-production stages for SimpleTime and will probably be in full production by the May/June time frame.
fB: I know that when we have spoken in the past about some of the challenges that companies face when deploying biometrics, education has been one of the key components to ensuring a successful launch…you mentioned it in your opening comments. Do you still see this as an issue or is this starting to disappear?
CMI: Yes, this is starting to disappear. The algorithms are getting much better so that the finger placement is not as critical as it used to be. Also the fact that people are seeing biometrics in many areas now so it is much easier that when we started doing biometrics 10 years ago!
fB: Which vertical markets are you focusing on? You mentioned education and schools, what other areas are you seeing growth in?
CMI: We are seeing great growth in the entertainment industry, when it comes to our biometric line-up…like Disney and the Cruise ships. We have been very successful in the airline industry…United, US Airways, Continental. They seemed to embrace this technology in the early stages. A challenging industry for us is the hospitality market mainly because of the point of sale need. They are using legacy terminals for their workforce management…but this will change soon we think.
We are also looking to expand into the big box and grocery markets.
fB: Can you please review the key benefits of deploying your fingerprint time clock technology, specifically regarding ROI?
CMI: With regard to ROI, there have been studies that state that somewhere between 1% and 3% of an annual payroll is lost to time theft…for example your friend or buddy clocking you in with your credentials or PIN when in fact you are not there. So the use of biometrics can save an organization up to 3% of their annual payroll just by authentication the person!
Secondly, card credentials have come down in price a lot over the past few years from around $15.00 to around $5.00 now. But if you have a large employee base that is still a lot of expense that can be eliminated with biometrics.
fB: What can we expect to see next from CMI Time Management?
CMI: We are excited about our new low cost terminal that can support a number of biometric modalities. For example the new TouchTime has an 8 megapixel camera that we are looking at using for facial recognition. At the least it acts as a deterrent if the person knows that their picture is being captured at the transaction.
We are also exploring a newer, below the surface sensor, from Lumidigm. They have a very good sensor that is about 15% more forgiving and faster than the standard capacitive sensor.
fB: Thanks very much for the update and congratulations on your success.
CMI: always a pleasure to speak with you Peter.