How to activate a cash degradation system?

All over the world, the number of explosive attacks on ATMs is increasing. The need for a solution is urgent. We are convinced that the gas attack Modus Operandi can only be eradicated if we remove the criminal’s motivation to rob an ATM; the availability of cash money inside an ATM. We need to degrade the cash; unambiguously and irreversibly.

Banknotes immediately lose their value, if you can’t pay with them. In previous articles, we wrote about the two available types of cash degradation and compared them according to two important critical success factors: ambiguity and reversibility. In this article, we zoom in on the need for an effective activation mechanism and the differences in the available options today.

Three types of activation mechanism

The effectivity of a cash degradation system (a.k.a. IBNS; Intelligent Banknote Neutralisation System), depends not only on the type of degradation, but also on the type of activation mechanism. There are some significant differences between the available systems. Activation-wise, there are three different concepts:

  1. Passive
  2. Active, stand-alone
  3. Active with controller

Passive activation

With this type of cash degradation systems, the pressure wave from an explosion activates the degradation module. The system does not contain any electronics or sensors. The power of the explosion ruptures the ink or glue module, allowing for the liquid to flow over the banknotes. This type of solution is relatively cheap. The disadvantage is that the system only works if the attacks are accompanied by an explosion of a certain magnitude. If the pressure wave is too weak, the degradation module will remain intact. On the other hand, if the pressure wave is too powerful, there’s a risk of the degradation liquid to be blown into the air; leaving the liquid everywhere but on the banknotes… In other words: for this system to function properly, you are dependent on the choices that the criminal makes.

Active activation, stand-alone

Many of the available solutions work autonomously (stand-alone) and have one or more sensors inside the cash cassette itself. The onboard sensors detect sabotage (removing the cassette’s cover or smashing the cassette), tilting and removing the cassette from the ATM without authorisation. After detection, these sensors send a signal to the degradation module to activate it. This form of active activation is fine for some of the attacks. However, as soon as the criminals use solid explosives, these solutions are useless. The sensors will only react after the explosion and by then it will be too late. An explosion is so fast and powerful, that the entire ATM will explode before the degradation module can even be activated. Again, the degradation liquid will end up everywhere, except on the banknotes.

Active activation, with controller

Finally, there are cash degradation solutions that are equipped with a controller. This allows for the solution to be connected to early warning systems that detect anomalies or suspicious behaviour near the ATM as soon as it occurs. A camera system with Intelligent Video Analytics (IVA) can detect suspicious behaviour near an ATM, like situations where motion is detected but there is no transaction within a certain time frame. If this is the case, a notification is sent to the control room. The operator checks the notification and if necessary, he can activate the cash degradation system – immediately and remotely. The cash inside the cassettes will be degraded before the explosion even takes place. The degradation module will have done its job and the criminals will be out of luck – they’re going home empty handed. If they still continue the attack, all they will find are worthless, degraded banknotes.

Choosing a cash degradation solution

If you want to deploy cash degradation in your ATMs, you will need to choose from these types of activation mechanism. If your country/territory has many attacks with solid explosives, a solution that has active activation with a controller (connected to early warning systems) is preferable.

But there are more choices to make – and not the easiest ones. The available solutions are quite different from each other. You should at least consider the following critical success factors:

  1. Cash degradation: unambiguous and irreversible
  2. Health & Safety
  3. Activation mechanisms (passive/active)
  4. Consequences of an activation for the ATM
  5. Certification and local legislation
  6. Pricing
  7. Position of the degradation module in the cash cassette