IrisGuard used to be the best kept secret and so throughout 2021, we’ve made a conscious effort to speak to a number of our colleagues from different areas of the business. We kicked it off with R&D focusing on our award-winning iris scanning equipment, we spoke to the team who lead our software development, next stop was a catch up with sales.
The latest instalment in our Look Inside IrisGuard series is perhaps one of those least talked about. Our folks in Operations work tirelessly in very challenging environments, making sure our systems function 24/7.
Today we spoke to our Technical Support Manager Mohammed Al Khamaiseh based at our Jordan office, who has installed more than 850 of our iris cameras.
Mohammed, could you briefly talk through your role at IrisGuard?
I am Mohammed Al Khamaiseh, the Technical Support Manager for IrisGuard. It’s been eight years since I joined the technical support team and since then I’ve been involved in a number of projects across the MENA region, including the Public Security Directorate (PSD), Civil Status and Passport Department, National Aid Fund (NAF), UNHCR and World Food Programme (WFP), as well as Switch E-Gate in Iraq. The key task for us is to make sure that all IrisGuard components implemented in the field are functioning smoothly and that there are no disruptions to our customers' operations.
What attracted you to IrisGuard?
After graduating from Jadara University, a friend of mine who worked here at the time mentioned that there was an opportunity and I went for it. I wanted to join a team that creates a very special IT solution with such a positive impact on so many, particularly here in Jordan. I get to work with a diverse group of organisations like supermarkets, the PSD and security as well as banks and post offices, each of those settings have different challenges that we solve.
Specifically on the supermarkets, how easy is it to carry out the work in the WFP run supermarkets located in the refugee camps?
Being inside the camp is tough on many levels. Poor communication capabilities and getting tools inside the camps can be challenging but the refugees are living in tough conditions and the food and cash delivered through our systems are the lifeline that they all depend on. That’s what is always at the back of our minds and we work around it. Just in the last 12 months, we’ve processed almost 2.7 million transactions through the supermarkets in the camps alone. We plan in advance, prepare well to make sure we have everything with us and with a maintenance check every couple of weeks, we make sure our systems are robust and running efficiently.
What if something goes wrong, how quickly are you able to respond?
Some issues are obviously time critical and need to be solved immediately and as a technical support team, we are available 24/7. Then there are things like hardware and software updates, that part of the service happens outside of the trading hours to minimise service interruptions as much as possible.
We take a similar approach when it comes to training customer staff on how to use our systems. We provide different levels of training and typically, we would run training on-site so that we are in the real environment, using the equipment we’ve installed in order to replicate the day-to-day scenarios as closely as possible. We spend as much time as is needed and until we feel that the operators are confident in running it smoothly.
From all my experience in the field, they actually find it quite easy as it takes a push of a button by the operator for both the iris scan and the authorisation to go through. In the last 18 months in particular, it has been crucial that no physical contact is required from the beneficiaries, who don’t need to remove their face masks to be able to use it.
You’ve put in place the system in Iraq for pension payments, how easy was it to implement?
I worked as part of the team who did the integration with the company that provided the solution to Switch E-gate, a financial services company working with Al Rashid Bank that won a tender from the Government to settle pensions. We hosted the servers in Switch E-gate, installed the equipment in Al Rashid Bank and the integration was done with a third party based in Jordan.
You could say that it’s certainly been one of the more challenging integration projects I’ve worked on. Combination of poor and unreliable mobile coverage, Iraq being a country considered unsafe by many and movement being sometimes risky plus the fact we were working across Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. Despite all this, we delivered a great solution regardless which processes in excess of USD $550 million per year, to over 308,000 pensioners in Iraq every month.
Moving across to the work in Jordan with the PSD, what does that involve?
Well, this is one of the closest projects to my heart. I’ve been part of it since the very start eight years ago including the planning, integration, installation and now on-going support. I visit locations across Jordan on a weekly basis to check the system functionality and performance and I’ve seen first-hand how important and beneficial our system is when it comes to identity fraud.
They are also keen to explore other potential uses of the system, whether that’s on the database side of things or upgrades to different operating software and so we regularly brainstorm to get the best value and best use out of the platform. It is a good partnership and we work together well.
What would be the main factors you consider before you start the installation process?
As you know, we have installed at thousands of locations and accumulated a great deal of experience in deployments and training. The process always starts with site surveys, in which we check the location itself in terms of the environment, the hardware that we need to connect with as well as the software, existing Windows policies, firewalls and antivirus protection levels.
The architecture of the solution we put in place depends on many elements including the number of stations, the distance and the output of the site survey. That enables us to decide the requirements at each location, particularly in remote areas. I’d echo what my colleagues have said, the talent and dedication within the team is fantastic and great to be part of. Seeing the impact we have on the millions of vulnerable people makes us get up every morning.