Saturday, April 9, 2011

SA stifles cash heists with hi-tech foam

Through a series of triggers polyurethane foam can be dispensed in less than a minute that then hardens within another minute

Published: 2011/04/05 06:37:07 AM

HOMEGROWN technology, which among other things gave the world razor wire and security gates, is being adapted to combat another crime — ATM bombing.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed a polyurethane foam-dispensing unit which it has dubbed Pudu.

The Pudu technology is also housed in the back of cash-in-transit vehicles, where the money is kept. Through a series of triggers and mechanisms, polyurethane foam can be dispensed in less than a minute. Within another minute, the foam hardens.

It has been partially responsible for the decline in cash-in- transit heists in SA and is now being marketed internationally.

The CSIR does research and development for socioeconomic growth in SA. Crime is a big deterrent to doing business in SA, and technology has a huge role in staying a step ahead of criminals.

"The technology has spinoffs," CSIR research and development outcomes manager Delon Mudaly says. "(For) ATM robberies … and cross-pavement carriers, we have developed a Pudu solution." Some of these products will be on the market within the next year, Mr Mudaly says.

"Around 1999-2000, SBV (a cash-in-transit company owned by SA’s four big banks) approached the CSIR for a solution regarding cash-in-transit heists, so the CSIR developed technology to solve the problem," he says.

"SBV is (now) the lowest-risk cash-in-transit company in the world, and this is partially due to our technology."

It takes about two days to cut the money out of the concrete-like substance, immobilising the area and ensuring that the valuables can be retrieved. "It also saves the lives of guards," Mr Mudaly says.

"Cash-in-transit heists are about intelligence and inside information. Robbers find out that vehicles are protected by technology (that) cannot be attacked, so there has been a drop in (cash-in- transit heist) events.

"They don’t understand the technology, but they know they can’t undo it."

The technology is exclusively owned by the CSIR, which has appointed the security equipment company QD Group as manufacturer and marketer of Pudu.

"There is one user in SA at the moment, SBV — they use it extensively," Graeme King, CEO of Midrand-based QD Group, said yesterday.

"At the moment, we’re manufacturing about 150 units a year. We’re marketing it to other companies in SA and elsewhere in the world, and we’ve had quite a bit of interest from the cash-in-transit industry worldwide."

There were other applications for the technology, Mr King said, which could be of interest to "anyone who has a safe or a vault". He said: "We’ve spoken to a few of the banks and there is some interest in the banking world in SA."

The interest in Pudu is not confined to SA.

"It is now marketed internationally," Mr Mudaly said.

He cited interest from European and Latin American countries. "And it’s been demonstrated in the UK and Brazil."

A unit can cost tens of thousands of rand but when millions are at stake, it is an investment many companies are willing to make to keep a step ahead of determined criminals.