Gulf security trade rising
From traffic cameras that spot speeders to high-tech tools around office and residential towers that allow the right people in - and keep the wrong people out - security in the Gulf is paramount.
The region is one of the security industry's most lucrative, companies in the field say, but they have of late been updating their strategies to gain larger slices of the business.
They are investing more in training and integrating technologies at the construction stage, rather than only pitching products that can be fitted to existing buildings. And the technology is not only being used to heighten security but also to help retailers understand consumer traffic patterns.
Efforts to combat criminal activity such as theft and terrorism are projected to boost spending on security in the Emirates, from Dh20.2 billion (US$5.49bn) to Dh36.7bn over the next decade, according to a study by the US market research consultancy Homeland Security Research Corporation.
The market for IP-based surveillance systems, which generate digital video feeds that can be easily shared, is estimated to be worth about $100 million within the Gulf, according to Axis Communications, one of the providers in the market.
The industry's growth has in part been due to the growing prominence of digital technology. Some models employ "intelligent video" or "digital fencing", that start recording only when there's movement within a certain zone. Others may use facial or even licence plate recognition software. Certain shops and retailers are also using a "people counting" feature that lets them monitor floorspace and calculate exactly which parts of the day are busiest and require the most employees on hand.
Many of the new buildings in the region, whether they be office or residential towers, are also being outfitted with closed-circuit cameras and smartcard readers that help ensure only authorised people can enter.
Gallagher, a company based in New Zealand, is shipping more than 100 smartcard readers for the Nation Towers in Abu Dhabi. It has also been tapping the growing aviation industry by installing hundreds of special security doors at airports in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
When Gallagher first entered the Emirates in 2003, its approach was to appoint a partner who would be the local distributor and find dealers within the region. Over time, however, Gallagher executives felt they could operate more effectively without the middle man. By staffing a regional office under the company's brand, it was able to more easily build relationships with clients.
"As our business grew, it became more important to establish our company brand," said Erin Rangi-Watt, the corporate communications manager for Gallagher. "Companies prefer to deal with the manufacturer rather than just a distributor."
One recent benefit has been the ability to tie-up with developers when buildings are in the planning stages, rather than after the fact.
Axis Communications similarly shifted its strategy five years ago, setting up a regional office to oversee the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region.
The office, which expanded to a bigger space this year as more employees were brought on, now links to more than 900 partners who provide up to 80 per cent of the company's business, said Gilles Ortega, the regional director for MEA at Axis.
Properly managing those partners, though, requires a concerted effort. That's why Axis rolled out local training programmes in 2007 to help its partners keep up with its new offerings, which now include more than 65 camera systems plus other products.
Similarly, Gallagher Middle East now trains its channel partners in the region, providing them with formal certifications endorsed by the home office in New Zealand. Part of their partners' goal also includes finding new growth areas for Gallagher within the region.
"It is very important to have pro-active channel partners who have security as their core focus, actively seek new business and have a good growth strategy," said Ms Rangi-Watt.
Updated: July 6, 2011 04:00 AM