Interview With David Carta – CEO & Co-founder of Telaeris by Shauli Zacks of SecurityDetectives

SafetyDetectives recently sat down with David Carta, CEO and Co-founder of Telaeris, a company that has been at the forefront of security solutions and RFID technology for nearly two decades. Under Carta’s leadership, Telaeris has evolved from an entrepreneurial start-up to a global leaderin handheld badge verification systems, demonstrating significant impact and innovation in the security and safety space. Throughout the interview, He shares insights into the origins and growth of Telaeris, the company’s flagship services, challenges of integrating technology with existing systems, the potential impact of AI on security, and how RFID technology extends beyond traditional security applications to enhance overall business operations and efficiency.

Can you introduce yourself and talk about your journey to becoming CEO of Telaeris?

Nearly two decades ago, Jose Flores and I founded Telaeris with the aim to innovate within the RFID space. I focused on the engineering, developing solutions, while Jose excelled in sales. Initially, a third partner was meant to handle business operations, but he soon realized the entrepreneurial lifestyle wasn’t for him.

In our early years, Jose and I tackled various RFID projects. One of our first significant projects was for British Petroleum’s Carson refinery, where we developed a system to track tools which proved highly successful and led to further projects. One of the follow-on projects addressed a challenge that involved managing over 500 contractors busing into the refinery from a remote parking lot. They faced delays because of the lengthy check-in process at the refinery gate. We created a mobile security badging cart, tied into their access control system, that streamlined this process.  This solution significantly improved time on tools for the contractors and resulted in saving the refinery close to two million dollars.

Encouraged by this success, we were asked to solve another problem involving a 13-story heat exchanger with multiple entry points. Maintenance crew personnel could enter on any level and leave on any level. Collating paper records of entries and exits at the end of each work shift to ensure the vessel was clear was both slow and inefficient.   Telaeris developed our first handheld badge reader which allowed workers to be scanned at each entry point.  This allowed for seamless tracking of personnel movement across different levels. This innovation not only enhanced safety but also recaptured 30 minutes for every worker for each shift that wasn’t needed collating entry and exit logs. For a month-long project with 100+ highly paid craftsmen, this resulted in a significant savings.

Our thought was that this same technology could be expanded to other refineries, but this proved challenging. However, the handheld badge reader concept attracted interest from security integrators for the purposes of emergency evacuation tracking and employee verification. This began our transition from an RFID company to a security solutions company.

Around the same time, Cubic Corporation approached us about being acquired. This led us to selling our RFID business to Cubic, with Telaeris remaining independent focusing on security solutions. It was at this point that I became the CEO of Telaeris. This pivot was the first step in Telaeris becoming the worldwide leader in handheld badge verification systems globally.

What are the flagship services offered by Telaeris and what sets it apart from other companies in the security and safety solutions sector?

Telaeris handhelds are generally an add-on to existing security systems. Typically, personnel have badges and door readers control every access points. Our key innovation was developing a handheld device that allows a badge to be presented and verified anywhere. Our system ties into the access control system, enabling a security guard to not only see if a badge’s permission show a red light or green light, but to also compare the enrolled photo with the person presenting the badge. This essentially introduces a two-factor validation system: the badge itself and visual confirmation of the holder’s identity.

The versatility of our device has led to applications in emergency mustering, event management, and controlling entry and exits on buses. It also allows for validation at various security checkpoints and additionally verifying biometrics through fingerprint or facial verification.

There are two things that differentiate Telaeris in the market. First is our ability to read any type of security badge, built on our extensive experience with RFID technology. Secondly, our systems are compatible with approximately 40 different access control systems, ranging from the largest players like Lenel and Honeywell to smaller systems.

Our responsiveness to the needs of the security integration channel has been a significant factor in our success. They often bring us new challenges and feature requests, based on their customer requirements.  Our ability to adapt and quickly add these features has made us a preferred partner in the industry.

How does Telaeris ensure the privacy and security of the data collected by your systems?

Primarily, our devices are used within the secure firewall of large corporations, where the backend database is managed and protected by the client’s own security infrastructure. This means Telaeris servers do not store customer data; it remains within the client’s controlled environment.

For our hardware and software, we make sure to enforce stringent security measures. Every handheld device we deploy has an encrypted database. The communication channel between the handheld and our middleware is encrypted end-to-end. We don’t rely solely on our assurances of security; we validate it through rigorous testing. We have engaged third-party security firms to penetration test our devices, software, and the integration with the access control systems. Additionally, end users such as ExxonMobil perform their own in-depth assessments.

These tests are invaluable not just for proving security claims but also for identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities. For example, through our own initiated tests, we’ve discovered and remediated security issues that even end user or professional tests did not detect. This proactive approach ensures continuous improvement in our security measures.

Moreover, the security of the data on our devices is tightly linked to the device itself. Even if someone were to access the database, they wouldn’t have the necessary device-specific information to decrypt it.

Could you explain how Telaeris addresses the challenge of integrating its technology with existing security systems?

Integrating our technology with diverse security systems presents a variety of challenges. At Telaeris, we’ve developed a robust framework to address these effectively. Firstly, handling the variety of secure RFID cards in the market is a significant challenge. We maintain strong relationships with security card providers, like HID, to ensure our devices can encrypt and decrypt badge IDs from a wide range of cards. This requires a deep understanding of the security protocols used by these cards.

Another aspect is the trend towards companies wanting to control their own security keys. We support this by allowing clients to program the handheld readers on-site with their own encryption keys. This customization ensures that the keys are embedded in the firmware of the device, making them inaccessible to outsiders and ensuring the keys never leave the end customer’s control.

On the technical side, the diversity in access control systems requires our backend platform, especially our XPressEntry product, to be highly adaptable. Our clients use a variety of interfaces, from RESTful and SOAP APIs to older methods like COM objects and even CSV file transfers. We’ve engineered our data import layer to be flexible and quick to configure. This is crucial because accessing the access control data is often the biggest hurdle.

Finally, we address each client’s specific security requirements. This involves not only ensuring our devices are PEN-tested but also meet their broader security protocols, like having an escrow for our source code and certifications for network compatibility. Understanding and aligning with our clients’ IT infrastructure is vital, as well as addressing any vulnerability that could compromise the entire security chain.

These efforts are central to our commitment to help our clients succeed and ensure that our solutions are not just compatible, but also enhance the security and functionality of their existing systems.

What impact do you believe AI and machine learning could have on physical security and safety systems?

AI and machine learning hold tremendous potential for enhancing physical security and safety systems, yet they also present significant challenges and liabilities. For instance, while AI can streamline many processes, its current limitations, such as generating inaccurate data or references, could lead to severe consequences in a security context. Imagine an AI system erroneously implicating someone in a security breach because of a fabricated or misidentified event—this could lead to legal issues and questions about liability.

Moreover, the reliability of AI in critical safety scenarios remains questionable. For example, if an AI system tasked with monitoring building occupancy fails to account for all individuals during an emergency, the outcomes could be disastrous. This risk of such errors makes it crucial to maintain human oversight. Despite the sophistication of AI technologies, such as LLM, RAG, or other neural network models, their internal operations are opaque and can result in unexpected or erroneous outputs.

In the near future, I envision AI primarily as a tool to augment the capabilities of security personnel rather than replace them. It can significantly increase the efficiency of security operations, but we must keep a human in the loop to critically assess AI-generated data and ensure it is accurate and sensible. The combination of AI’s computational power and human judgment will be essential to truly enhance security and safety systems without compromising reliability and accountability.

Looking beyond security, how can RFID technology contribute to other aspects of business operations and efficiency?

RFID technology extends far beyond just security; it significantly enhances operational efficiency and safety within businesses. A prime example is the use of long-range RFID for real-time location tracking. We’ve implemented systems for clients that use BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) beacons to monitor when individuals enter or leave a building. This capability not only boosts daily operational awareness but also proves invaluable during emergencies by providing an instant, accurate headcount.

Additionally, we’re integrating more advanced RFID solutions into our offerings to include asset tracking. For instance, one of our systems enables automatic tracking of equipment as it moves in and out of a facility. If equipment is taken out without proper checkout, the system triggers an alarm. This seamless integration of RFID with security systems allows businesses to manage both security and asset inventory simultaneously.

The evolution of RFID technology in the last two decades has also been influenced by the ubiquity of smartphones. Modern smartphones, much like RFID tags, can identify us and be read from a distance, thanks to their Wi-Fi and BLE capabilities. This similarity has paved the way for the use of mobile credentials, which are increasingly replacing traditional badges. With mobile credentials, an employee’s phone can act as a security badge to authenticate access at door readers. We’ve adapted our technology to support these changes, allowing event attendees, for example, to use their smartphones to validate entry through mobile badge readers.

This shift signifies how RFID has transitioned from standalone tags to a technology embedded in devices we carry daily, transforming how we interact with various business operations and enhancing both safety and security measures.

About the Author

Shauli Zacks is a tech enthusiast who has reviewed and compared hundreds of programs in multiple niches, including cybersecurity, office and productivity tools, and parental control apps. He enjoys researching and understanding what features are important to the people using these tools.

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