Security elevated to position of high tech in Emirates

Technology firms are introducing more security in UAE offices, with fingerprint readers, face scanners and metal detectors becoming commonplace.
A Kone lift control panel at Aldar’s headquarters. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
A Kone lift control panel at Aldar’s headquarters. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Picture the scene: you drive to work as usual and park your car in the parking lot after swiping your access card at the security gate.

Then, from that moment on, every gate and turnstyle not only lets you pass but greets you by name. And its just an easy walk from there to the elevator which is already waiting for you ready to deliver you to your usual floor.

And the lifts are designed to know how many people want to travel to all the various floors at any one time, allocating passengers who want to travel to similar floors into the same lift, effectively speeding up journey times and removing that infuriating wait as the lift appears to stop at every floor possible on the way up.

No, it is not a scene from The Jetsons but the latest security system being trialled by the Finnish lift design company Kone Elevators, already in use in two buildings in Singapore and Australia and about to be tested in two more buildings in Dubai.

“We said, “Why not put the security and the lift all in one integrated system?’ I haven’t seen any other companies do this yet,” says Samer Halabi, the managing director of Kone Middle East.

Apart from begging the obvious questions such as “What happens if I take longer getting out of my car than expected?” (apparently the lift moves on to another call and you have to reactivate the lift) and “What happens when you have a visitor?” (they have to get a card from a security guard), the new technology raises wider issues.

The move is just the latest in a drive by technology firms to introduce yet more security in UAE offices with security guards at every turn, while fingerprint readers, face scanners and metal detectors in offices are becoming commonplace.

Global firms including Cisco, Johnson Controls, IBM, ADT, Bosch and many others are all actively selling ever more complex security systems to landlords in the Middle East.

According to the American research company Global Information, the world market for electronic security systems is projected to reach US$62.5 billion by 2018 and the CCTV and video surveillance market will rise to $15bn bolstered by strong growth in the developing world and counterbalancing relatively weaker growth in the West.

“The security market is growing very fast for us in the Middle East, perhaps by 10 per cent a year,” says Mr Halabi.

Such extra security measures of course come with a price tag which Mr Halabi estimates comes at about 5 to 8 per cent of a building’s development cost. However, he says the cost of installing his system rather than a traditional lift and security system can be approximately the same.

And that is good news the firm, which last month reported a bigger than expected fall in first-quarter profit, while new orders booked in the quarter also fell short of forecasts.

The group’s January to March operating profit, excluding one-off items, fell to €15.6 million (Dh78.18m) from €23.1m a year earlier. New orders booked for the quarter were worth €439.

“The report was weak, there is no way around it,” the Pohjola Bank analyst Pekka Spolander says.

For the full year, the company says sales are expected to be about flat and adjusted operating profit about the same or slightly up from 2013.

But in the UAE, where crime levels are low and yet security guard numbers appear to be higher than in most other parts of the world, is the company’s latest high-tech creation really just showing off?

Mr Halabi says not. “We all are human beings and there is a natural human need for security. Everyone wants to be in a safe and secure atmosphere.”

Yet, as well as providing additional security, Mr Halabi admits his system is also designed to impress.

“We also have VIP options such as using a mobile phone or other high-tech technology to call the lift or having security personnel with ipads who can call the lift for you using these,” he says.

“For certain VIPs or VVIPs we also have a priority call for the elevators. This is very personalised so it recognises the VIP and the time waiting from call to final destination can be cut down even further.”

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Published: May 27, 2014 04:00 AM


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