NEC profits from Middle East cyber fears

Demand for facial recognition cameras is high in the region, and NEC expects to generate a quarter of US$1 billion in anticipated sales in the region.

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The technology firm NEC expects to generate a quarter of US$1 billion in anticipated sales in the Middle East from public safety solutions, such as facial recognition cameras, by 2017.

The Japanese company, which is shifting its focus away from products to software services, is looking to generate more revenues from its overseas operations, and the Middle East is one of its key growth markets.

By 2015, NEC expects to generate $7.5bn from overseas sales and its global safety division, which comprises cyber security solutions for government infrastructure and biometric tools for airport security, is set to play a major role for growth.

“Our team is young here. The Gulf is very rich and has a lot of assets they need to protect like the oil and gas installations. It is a region we are actively targeting and after Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the Gulf especially will be an exciting place,” said Tan Boon Chin, the managing director at NEC’s global safety division.

NEC’s Middle East headquarters are in Riyadh, but the company opened an office in Dubai last month to better serve the region’s governments.

Interest in fingerprint scanning and facial recognition cameras has been high from governments in the region, according to NEC. In the UAE, hotels, restaurants and bars all require the installation of facial recognition technology at every doorway and corridor so demand is high.

NEC has a database of 700 million fingerprints worldwide and already has the largest fingerprint database in Saudi Arabia.

“We are looking to expand and push the rest of our public safety portfolio. We think facial recognition will do well and we are expecting growth of double digit next year,” said Wael Gharib, the regional business director at NEC Middle East.

The Middle East’s internet penetration rate of 40 per cent, higher than the global average of 34 per cent, and oil and gas wealth, has made it more vulnerable to cyber attacks in recent years, particularly where infrastructure is concerned.

The most notorious was the Stuxnet virus aimed at Iran’s nuclear facilities and the Shamoon virus that compromised 30,000 of Aramco’s computers in Saudi Arabia.

“In the future people will not need to be killed in war, it will be a waste of time and energy. You can cause more damage to a company and a nation by just attacking their internet infrastructure, so clearly the concept of a safe city is a big theme,” said Manoj Menon, a partner and managing director at Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific.