Secure solutions

The days have passed where security systems comprised of a simple lock and key, but just what options are being applied today? MEP Middle East takes a look beyond the keyhole.

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By  Alison Luke Published  September 23, 2006

|~|4p22main.gif|~||~|What did you do when you left home this morning? For most people, the routine is so regular it comes automatically: set your home alarm system, lock your front door, switch off your car immobiliser and unlock the car doors, before driving to work and reversing the process; get out your security pass and swipe into your office, then switch on your computer, adding a password to access your files.

Just getting to and starting work each day sees most people encountering at least half a dozen security systems, and that’s before the numerous cctv cameras overseeing them are taken into account. So if that’s what you as an individual have to do to make sure you and your possessions are protected – just how can companies and building owners meet their security needs?

Security is now big business. World events in recent years have sprung the need for security systems into the spotlight and the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) Countries have become a booming marketplace for the sector.

The region is currently estimated as the highest spender in the world on defence and security products, spending over US$270 billion (AED992 billion) since 1998. And this figure is set to rise, with growth projections for the UAE cited as an incredible 25% per year over the next five years.

Some of this spend is on countrywide initiatives such as the National Identity Project of Qatar. Here, the government is getting set to issue biometric smart cards containing personal data and fingerprints to all citizens in 2007. These will replace paper documents and be used for a wide range of activities from travel to gaining employment.

But it is not only the large-scale and newsworthy security issues that are fuelling this market demand; the basic needs of firms and building owners to protect their property and those working there have also become more complex.

“Clients are definitely getting more security conscious,” comments Amir Zaidi, director for MEP with consulting engineer Whitby & Bird, “CCTV systems are there and these days more and more clients are asking for [security systems] in their buildings. In current times, what is happening elsewhere has made everybody conscious that these systems are necessary,” he adds.

Dubai in particular is hitting the radars for worldwide security firms as construction in the city advances and increasing numbers of high-end structures are completed. The city’s desire for leading technology is also playing a part. “If we talk about the Middle East, Dubai has always been ahead of other places,” comments Zaidi. “Dubai has always taken the lead in the adoption of new systems in the region,” he adds.

The growing catalogue of multi-storey buildings in the region’s cities has raised the need for new security solutions. As many of these buildings will have multi-occupancy, it poses the problem: how do you provide a high level of security to individual firms, while enabling access to all employees in the building?

In addition to making use of better known products like access control, programmable proximity readers and cctv, various new technologies are entering the market, such as biometric systems that include fingerprint and iris scanners.
The increased demand in the sector has seen new players entering the market.

Zaidi notes that many manufacturers from the UK, USA and Germany now have local representations in the region and international firms such as Norbain and Sanyo have established business in Dubai.

Recognising the market shift in technologies, local security provider FESD Dubai recently formed an alliance with German firm Primeon Technology to increase its offerings. “FESD now outlines a new direction of customised time and attendance solutions, plus state of the art access control systems that are all based on the latest biometric technology,” commented FESD general manager Tanja Spoerl.

Global firm GE Security is also expanding its presence in the region and is planning to add offices in Riyadh and Dhahran to its existing operations in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Beirut. In addition, the German access control and biometrics company Simons Voss opened an office in Dubai last year, and already has clients such as the Dubai Islamic Bank, National Bank of Dubai and an Abu Dhabi shopping mall to its name. It is continuing to develop its systems to meet the changing demands of the market.

“Simons Voss is expanding its product range to include more biometrics and is also developing more features in the Locking Management System software,” explains Nicole Huffer, director of marketing communications at Simons Voss Technologies. Last year the firm introduced transponder technology to the region’s security market.

Billed as a solution to applications ranging from elevators and offices to car parking, these use a mechanical lock with integrated electronics. The benefits of such a system appear two-fold: unlike proximity readers and smart card systems they are not wired to the power supply, which reduces installation times and costs and means they will be unaffected by any power failure. As with other electronic locking systems, they can be programmed to limit access to specified people.

One of the principal factors in any building with multiple occupants potentially using several different systems, is how to make all the individual components work together so that they can be simply controlled by the building operator. Manufacturers are noting a market shift towards products that meet the demands of both building owner and occupiers. “We feel that there is a strong demand for integrated, multifunctional systems with high security and convenience,” explains Huffer.

Such integration means that each occupier can select the type of system they want, these would then be linked into the building management system along with the fire alarm and detection system, overall security system for the building, such as cctv and motion detectors and any other facilities management systems. The building owner or facilities manager can then maintain overall control from a central point.

The influx of these new products and systems to the market is starting to become more evident in some new buildings close to beginning construction. At The Hexagon Dubai, a development that includes a mix of residential and commercial space, a combination of smart proximity cards and biometric readers are planned for the management of the internal security and access systems. Private elevators that are accessible only to authorised users add to the security systems.

Another project in the pipeline whose security plans include such an integrated system is The Bay Gate development in Dubai. With this 40-storey mixed-use tower, the developer has highlighted the inclusion of an advanced security system as a selling point.

Zaidi explains: “There is smart access control and interlinked systems. You will have a smart card that will allow you into the parking area and the same card can be used to get you into the building area and the lift to the designated floor for which the card has been accessed. Then, as a final security measure, to get into the office itself there is a biometric reader, so at various stages [access] is controlled.”

The Bay Gate project is intended to cater for high-end clients, but Zaidi believes that more clients will be specifying biometrics in the future to gain this high level of security. These systems will be used in addition to those such as cctv and the installation will be designed to allow control from a central point. “All the systems will be interlinked through the building management system,” explains Zaidi, “The command centre will have all the systems sitting there, including the fire, cctv and bms.”

At Bay Gate, the final choice of biometric reader will be left to the client using each office space. “The biometric reader sits by each office door – this could be for fingerprints, iris’, it could be anything,” stresses Zaidi.

“These are all integrated into the building management system and we have full containment up to the point of the biometric reader into the office. Say there is an office belonging to Mr X, he will decide what kind of system is put here, we are providing the means to integrate with the bms,” he adds.

The supply of the various products such as biometrics equipment to make up these complex integrated systems tends to be as part of an overall package from an access control or a specialist local systems supplier. And the development of products is far from over: “New innovations keep coming,” stresses Zaidi. ||**||

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