Providing safe and seamless entrances

12 May 2020

With a presence in 25 markets worldwide, SCC patron Gunnebo has grown from a local Swedish business into the second largest supplier of entrance control equipment in the world. In alignment with an increased global demand for effective mass transit solutions, Gunnebo’s entrance control system plays a fundamental role in developing safe and efficient transport solutions. The Link met with Robert Hermans, Executive Vice President and Deputy CEO of Gunnebo Group, to discuss the emergence of smart cities and how Gunnebo contributes to the development of Mobility as a Service.

Across all its operations, Gunnebo strives towards its vision of creating a safer world. “By providing products, software and services, we protect and create a better flow for people and valuables,” says Robert Hermans. This can be further examined in the light of three core businesses – safe storage, cash management and entrance controls. By for instance preventing robberies, shrinkage and creating efficiencies in the cash cycle, the separate business divisions jointly create a more secure society.

Entering the UK market
From Gunnebo’s point of view, the British market is most accurately described as a quite demanding, mature and transparent market. “The UK is a very important market to us. Most of all it is very attractive due to its size.” Moreover, there is a large extent of competition within the market, which gives customers a wide range of providers to choose from. “For us, this means that we must really be on our toes, to be able to be better than our competition, as well as to capture the market and grab market shares,” says Robert.

In 1996, the subdivision Gunnebo Entrance Control entered the UK market upon its acquisition of Mayor Turnstiles. Thereafter, Gunnebo Safe Storage entered the UK market in 2000, by acquiring the major British brand Chubb Safes – one of the world’s most recognised manufacturers of safe storages and vaults, which was founded in the 19th century in Wolverhampton. “One of the brothers that founded Rolls Royce once claimed in the late 19th century that ‘We wish that we could have built a brand name that is as strong as Chubb’. So at the time, it was a very strong brand name.”

A few examples of important British landmarks that are protected by Gunnebo’s entrance control solutions include the first turnstiles ever installed at Manchester United’s Arena Old Trafford and Brighton Pier. The latter turnstiles were installed in the 19th century to avoid overcrowding on the pier, in order to mitigate the risk of the bridge collapsing. In modern times, Gunnebo’s products are for instance present in a majority of entrances of banks, insurance companies and big office blocks in Canary Wharf – London’s modern financial epicentre.

Emergence of smart, connected cities
During the previous five years, society has witnessed the emergence of smart and connected cities. According to Robert, connectivity within smart cities can be rather diverse: “It could be various types of connectivity, where one system efficiently interacts with another. We define a smart city as an interconnected city, in which necessities such as emergency services and public transport are connected to the mobile network.” Also, recent technological developments have enabled smart cities to become increasingly connected and transparent. Robert believes that the development of smart cities has just begun and will be of great importance in the future. He explains: “We have definitely not reached any kind of maturity when it comes to smart cities or even the definition of what a smart city is. This will be a major focus moving forward.”

Mobility as a Service
In relation to smart cities, the newly emerged concept Mobility as a Service plays a vital role. Mobility as a Service signifies the shift from individual transport modes into an effective, convenient and accessible mass transit system. The idea is to enforce the incitements of commuting, in order to counteract environmental challenges due to pollution. In this transformation, Gunnebo contributes by making its entrance control solutions as seamless as possible. The corporation’s responsibility is broad, as the supplier of gates for the underground systems in metropolitans such as most large cities in China, Melbourne, Athens, the Italian Railways, Stockholm and Toronto. Although crowded places and large gatherings of people are inevitable, intuition and user-friendliness are key to effective flows of passengers. Robert explains: “The better and more seamless the mass transit solutions are, the more likely people will choose public transport. This is where our products can help, by either creating flow through barriers or rerouting or guiding passengers.” Another aspect of providing a user-friendly product is to simplify ticket payment processes in for instance the underground system. “The idea is to secure the revenue for the operator without making the process too cumbersome for people to comply.” In addition, the entrance control systems are essential in mitigating the risk of frauds: “Our products enable operators to continue to invest in the infrastructure and make sure that whoever deserves the revenue actually gets it.”

On a psychological level, Gunnebo contributes to a sense of safety among passengers in society. “One element is also about feeling safe and secure when you travel, which makes it important to control passenger flows. We want to contribute to a safe and controlled environment,” says Robert. Also, the entrance controls somehow work as barriers and authorisation tools: “By knowing that a certain screening of people has taken place, passengers feel safe. It may become even more a sense of safety and security, knowing that only people that are actually authorised can be there.” Moreover, the gates play a vital role in supervising the amount of people that have entered a building, metro station or an airport. As a result, evacuation processes can be facilitated in emergency situations.

Biometric solutions at airports
Moreover, an important business area for Gunnebo is providing entrance control solutions at airports. “Airports equal roughly 20% of our turnover, where we have the largest installations of One-ID gates in the world,” says Robert. A revolutionary innovation within the entrance control systems, is the introduction of biometrics face recognition, of which Gunnebo is the market leading integrator of these systems for automated boarding of planes. Instead of utilising traditional methods such as card readers or token acceptors, biometrics and facial recognitions are becoming increasingly more predominant. “The introduction of biometrics is becoming much more prevalent, when talking about the future and the developments.” For instance, this innovative solution is currently implemented on airports in Florida, Beijing and in Hong Kong. Looking forward, Gunnebo foresees a future in which the technology can be utilised across sectoral and geographical borders as well. Robert explains: “I am sure that the solution is suitable for gyms, membership clubs and offices as well. Instead of specific badges or membership cards that can be lost, your face can be the most optimal acceptance token.”

Developing markets
According to Robert, urban transportation systems have not yet reached the same degree of prevalence in developing markets as it has in for instance Europe and North America. For example, underground systems – which predominantly were built in Europe about a century ago – have not yet become a standardised type of transportation in South America. Robert describes: “In some developing markets it would be too disruptive and costly to start building an underground system. Instead, dedicated routes for buses have often been built up.” This is for instance the case in the Colombian capital of Bogotá, where Gunnebo’s gates are built inside the buses, rather than inside bus stations. “We have certain products that have been on vibrating buses in South America for ten years. Nobody has ever done any service on them but they are still working perfectly,” says Robert.

Swedish heritage
In spite of being a multinational corporation, Gunnebo preserves a strong connection to its Swedish heritage. This is for instance reflected in the corporate structure of the global organisation. “At Gunnebo worldwide, there are generally flat organisations with very open dialogues. Also, we focus a lot on the well-being of our people,” explains Robert. For instance, Gunnebo’s Swedish heritage is mirrored in its daily operations, such as monthly FIKA-meetings, in which staff from across the UK are gathered to discuss current topics, scrutinise the current performance of the company and to extend gratitude towards specific staff members. “I would say that it is probably quite Swedish to really listen to the employees and create a truly collaborative environment.” In addition, corporate guidelines and HR policies at Gunnebo are closely connected to Swedish values. “Gunnebo supports equal opportunities, by employing a broad capital of society and promoting diversity. That is not necessarily a purely Swedish thing, but it is for sure a Gunnebo thing,” concludes Robert.

Gunnebo’s innovative entrance control solutions ensure a safe and effective flow of people.
Photo: Gunnebo

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