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Ongoing Projects and Product Demands in the Middle East
Hayden Hsu 2008/3/19

This part of the report gives the reader an update of some of the high-profile projects currently taking place in the Gulf region and what product features are in demand. This part of the report gives the reader an update of some of the high-profile projects currently taking place in the Gulf region and what product features are in demand.

Like other developing regions of the world, IP and open standards are undoubtedly the most demanded product features in the Middle East as the locals move to adapt softwarecontrolled solutions, said Niek Bragt, Managing Director of Nedap Middle East. ¨All across the Middle East and North Africa, management software is being specified by more and more enterprise, hotel and airport projects, especially in the six GCC countries,〃 echoed Firas Jadalla, Regional Sales Manager, Genetec Middle East.

Video

With all the mega sites in the region, software control and compatibility are a must. Three years ago, Jadalla explained, a project might call for 100 to 300 cameras. ¨Now, growth is clearly palpable as we are getting inquiries for 500 to 2,000 cameras per site; as a result, demand for video management is unprecedentedly high.〃 This, of course, requires a solid IP backbone, which is readily available in the region. About 60 to 70 percent of the new projects, estimated Chetan Sathaye, Area Manager for Pelco UAE, are asking for IP-based transmissions and solutions.

In terms of installation base, IP is at least 40 percent, said Andries Nouwens , Export Marketing Manager for Bosch Security Systems, and it is estimated, by Roger Ghostine, Regional Business Development Manager for Harco Group Middle East and Africa, that the percentage will continue to increase and surpass the 50-percent landmark between 2008 and 2009. Video analytics and edge intelligence are two other highly demanded functions in this region, Nouwens added.

The same is also observed by Axis. ¨Demand for megapixel and video analytics technology is certainly on the rise,〃 said Gilles Ortega, Regional Manager, Axis Communications Middle East and North Africa. ¨A growing concern is that software that supports the Arabic language is a must, but there is still no local software development.〃

Nevertheless, users in this region are feature-savvy and know what is available on the market, said Anant Berde, Regional Manager for Pelco Middle East, who thinks a major challenge for manufacturers is to identify quality system integrators, establish rapport with them, and be confident in them in delivering the best.

Another challenge is the climate which is unique and rather demanding and requires the best possible product quality assurance. ¨High temperature endurance (rating of 70 degrees Celsius), electromagnetic interference immunity and dual redundancy are highly demanded features,〃 said Simon Oˇ Neill, International Sales Manager, AMG Systems Middle East.

In terms of regulation, the police have a strict set of rules for image capture, recording resolution, storage and privacy issues, said Magesh Srinivasan, Marketing Manager fo Sony Professional Solutions Middle East, and certificates from government consultants are required for annual business license renewals.

Access Control

Major vendors of access control and biometrics products in this region, said Teo Kim, Regional Manager, Overseas Business, IDTECK, HID, Sagem, Honeywell, Lenel, ZK Software, Keico, Union Community, Suprema and the company itself.

¨Access control is usually integrated with video,〃 added Michael Flink, General Manager, Honeywell Security Middle East, ¨as IP is not just talk in this neck of the woods.〃 In terms of biometrics, Flink thinks iris scanning is gaining traction.

Two years ago, biometrics had very low acceptance, said Danny Chew, Regional Director of RCG Middle East. ¨Now, the Middle East and North Africa is the fastest growing region for RCG, where annual growth easily surpasses 30 percent.〃 Government agencies, airports, schools and banks have been adopting this technology extensively, and it is estimated that RCGˇs regional sales figures reached approximately US$35 million in 2007.

Top five countries for use of biometric technology are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Qatar and the UAE. ¨Government and corporate users are brand-conscious; in other words, they look at quality first, not price,〃 said Chew. Countries like Syria and Jordan, on the other hand, are quite price-sensitive  that is, ideal places for mid- to low-end system makers to target. ¨Increasing demand can be seen from the usual suspects mentioned by the others,〃 continued Chew, ¨as well as the numerous currency exchange shops at tourist attractions and airports.〃

An obvious technological trend is to couple biometric devices with RFID, which are much sought-after at the moment, and facial recognition is predicted, by Chew, to be the next fingerprint. Kim of IDTECK, however, is not that optimistic as he thinks facial recognition may take a little longer due to clothing worn by the locals. ¨Fingerprint verification and iris scanning are still mainstream and will remain so for a long time,〃 said Kim.

Because of low crime rates in residential areas, said Flink of Honeywell, alarm sales can only be generated from banks, jewelry stores and monitoring stations.

Word of Advise

As many interviewees pointed out, consultants are key figures in project specifications, but some of them are not professionally trained and yet ¨mix and match〃 product specifications from various vendors, resulting in somewhat ¨laughable〃 systems that have the latest features but cannot function as a whole.

¨In the past, police and ex-military personnel meant everything,〃 said Jawad Ali, CEO of SecuTronic. ¨The trend, however, is shifting towards professionalism, where IP and IT experts will play a more important role in installing security systems.〃 Open architecture and plug-and-play end products, in Aliˇs opinion, will undoubtedly be adopted more.

Airports, government buildings, military compounds, petrochemical plants, transportation networks and shopping malls are the key spenders in the Middle East, said Ghostine of Harco. ¨A significant number of system integrators, however, still need extensive training and certification.〃

Other verticals were brought up by Abdo Melki, Vice President, Middle East, North Afirca, India and CIS, Lenel Systems (UTC Fire & Security): ¨Education cities and high-rise buildings are all in need of building management systems, and Lenel is helping its system integrators and users break out of the proprietary jail and embrace open architecture and standards.〃

Another issue to look out for is that ¨Western〃 companies often overlook or underestimate the importance of understanding local culture, be it dialects, business etiquettes or user preferences, said Bragt of Nedap. ¨Cultural differences also exist among different Middle Eastern countries, and companies need to treat them delicately.〃

In order to cross that bridge, the company solely works through local business partners who are trained by Nedapˇs staff from the region, speak their native language and are able to assist customers from the top right down to engineers carrying out actual installations. ¨Simply put, we are a multicultural company serving multicultural clients,〃 Bragt concluded.

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