The Big interview – TDSi managing director, John Davies


Established in 1982, TDSi has been at the forefront of the Access Control and integrated security management market for over 40 years. In this special interview we speak to managing director, John Davies about the brand and its innovative upcoming developments, including an innovation that is designed to disrupt the whole access control industry…

Could you explain what TDSi does – what you sell and what you make?

JD: “TDSi is a manufacturer of access control equipment and integrated security management systems. We’re one of the biggest exporters in this industry, in the UK.

“The company was previously owned by Norbain, and was bought out by myself in 2005, and then became part of the Vitaprotech Group in June 2019, which comprises 14 companies including TDSi. It covers three areas – access control, intrusion detection, and intelligent monitoring software.

“The access control arm of the group is the largest, representing 60% of the of the turnover. There’s close to 500 people in the group now. Turnover when I joined was £40 million, and we’re looking at doing £90m this year (2023). So, we’ve more than more than doubled in four years. We are on a mission to do that again, and more, over the next over the next four to five years.

“In terms of the culture, despite being part of a big group, we at TDSi are all still very entrepreneurial in our outlook, which is necessary for innovation. We try very, very hard to preserve the identity of the brands that become part of the group.

“And, when we’re looking at acquisitions, we’re looking at synergies. It’s never just acquisition for an acquisition’s sake. It’s about how we improve our footprint and our capabilities in the areas in which we work, so those are the things that are the driving the business and that’s who we are.

“Additionally, across the whole group, we hold the philosophy that is about creating safer places and delivering peace of mind.

“To our employees this means we have no office politics and no sacred cows, and we’re always looking for ways to develop, improve and become more efficient. In terms of the solutions we provide, and the end user, simplicity and ease-of-use are absolutely critical.

“We believe that any function should take no more than two or three clicks. If it doesn’t offer that level of simplicity and user-friendliness, it goes back to the developers. Additionally, we want to create solutions that are as seamless and unobtrusive as possible. We always start from the end user’s perspective.”

What do you offer that your competitors do not?

JD: “I think one way that we differ from our competitors is that we really strive to make integration with other systems as easy as possible. Our software is built on a REST API with a user interface authored on top so when we license that same REST API our integration partners can do as much or as little as they want with the access control system. It’s up to them to decide what kind of utility they want to offer. Some of our integration partners want to do the whole thing and they want to take access control into their world.

“Companies like Milestone, Video Insight from i-Pro, Digifort and Hanwha – they can completely take control of our access control system. Other video manufacturers might just want to pop a video on an alarm. So, you can either do simple or you can do complex.

“Also, what we’re doing now is looking at the data that we have, and asking how can that be used by other systems within the building? So, we’re looking how else we can maximise value for our customers.”

How do your customers benefit from having the integrated access control system that TDSi offers?

JD: “It’s not just about letting people in through the door or keeping the bad people out, it’s about the whole user experience. Should we use key cards or would a phone be better? How can our solutions improve the user experience of getting into a building? How can we better manage access for a more seamless experience for everyone? And, finally, how can we maximise the value we get from the data?

“We’ve got some customers that just want to control the door, but we’ve got others who want to harness the data offered by access control to help inform change in other operational processes. For example, they may want to reduce electricity costs, and they might want to use their security system to deliver other benefits in reducing costs, improve the environment, etc.. So, we’ve got lots of customers that do that.  There’s an awful lot that customers can do by looking at monitoring how people are interacting with their building in real time.

“Another solution we developed during COVID was a Track and Trace module. That allowed organisations to keep a track on who had come into the building with COVID and when, and allow them to more effectively manage employees. It took our developers five weeks to come up with and we gave it to our customers for free. And we still have people downloading that module now. Even though it’s apparently over, it is still an issue.”

Are there any launches or developments that you’re particularly proud of this year, and is there anything in the pipeline you’d like to tell us about?

JD: “This year we’ve been doing a lot of work adding more integrations onto our GARDiS software – “under the hood”.  So, for example, our software platform, is written in Dotnet but we’re moving it to Dotnet Core. That means that we can deploy that in a Linux environment, which is more secure.

“We’re also doing an awful lot of work with other companies in the group that have got cloud-based video products. We’re putting cloud-based video together with our cloud-based access control system to offer customers either cloud access or video or the two things together. That’s something that’s going to be launched in 2024.

“Finally, we’re working on a way of disrupting the access control industry.

“So, all access control systems have got a reader next to a door and someone has a card or credential that they present to the reader and then the reader talks to the controller. And the controller has card information that says yes, that card/credential is allowed through that door at this particular time – the credential and the reader are two separate components.

“What we’re looking at doing is totally getting rid of that reader. Instead of using a reader using a phone as a credential to interact with an NFC tile, which is by a door and is not wired back to the controller.

“This phone would talk to an application in the cloud. The cloud application talks to our access control application, which talks to the controller, which opens the door. That’s something that is being finalised. And that will be launched in 2024. If everything goes according to plan, at The Security Event (Stand: 5/G60) in Birmingham at the end of April, is where you will see this for the first time.

“There are cost implications to this, as lots of money is spent on these cards, that often need replacing. And there is an environmental aspect which is huge – there are more than a billion access control cards out there and about 10% are lost every year.

“You will hear a lot more about this over the next three to four months, so watch this space!”

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