Monday September 24, 2012
We’ve got our eyes on you
By Nevash Nair and Joy Lee
Photos by RAJA FAISAL HISHAN and ART CHEN
We cannot put a price on security. And as people become more aware of the crime stories around them, they become more concerned about their own safety.
Amid the crime, security companies are making a killing as more people are willing to spend to ensure extra protection for themselves and their loved ones.
And with disposable income on the rise, security equipment manufacturers are enjoying a brisk business. According to some estimates, there has been a 40% jump in sales over the past months.
A recent report by The Star noted that more homes are equipped with closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems due to concerns over break-ins. It said Malaysians were spending over RM5mil per month buying CCTV units.
A homegrown business
One company that is in the business of safety and security is Secure Intellect Technology Sdn Bhd (SIT). Based in Puchong, SIT is growing rapidly as they provide affordable security systems for homes and offices.
Company founder, 41-year-old R. Ravindran, a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, was teaching accounting for several years before joining a security firm specialising in automobiles.
“I was with the security firm for 12 years and we provided alarm systems for vehicles.
“In 2003, we toyed with the idea of investing in home security products, but that did not materialise,” he said.
In November 2009, Ravindran left the security firm and started SIT. The company focuses on home security with products such as CCTVs, home and office alarm systems, keyless entry and barrier gates.
“I partnered with Datuk Ong Boon Hee and, with a start-up capital of RM100,000, SIT was born. Our initial investment for products was approximately RM200,000,” Ravindran revealed.
According to Ravindran, the company is able to provide affordable yet comprehensive security systems because they develop and manufacture most of their own products.
“We are an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for a leading multi-level-marketing company in Malaysia.
“We provide them the goods and we manage customer complaints as well. This enables us to gauge what the customer really wants,” he said.
Besides end users, SIT also works with housing developers to provide CCTVs, home alarm, door access, barrier gate and the auto-gate systems for property projects.
Currently, SIT’s systems have been deployed in the Kota Harmoni (Shah Alam), Taman Tropika (Bangi), The Takun (Templer Park) housing projects, One Selayang apartment (Selayang) and Kingsley International School in Putra Heights.
Ravindran said a basic CCTV package that includes four infrared cameras, one digital video recorder and a 500 gigabyte hard disk would cost a homeowner RM2,500.
“Security is an evolving business. We need to stay one step ahead of the criminals. We work with the police to find out the modus operandi that perpetrators use and improve ourselves,” he added.
SIT has also ventured into automobile security by providing customers the ability to track and immobilise their cars through their mobile phones.
“This system is helpful if you are carjacked. With a simple message, your vehicle will come to a halt and you can inform the police where it is,” Ravindran explained.
“Parents can also use this system to keep tabs on their children,” Ravindran added with a chuckle.
He noted a case where a young girl had decided to skip college and headed to the mall instead.
Her father, suspecting something amiss, traced the car through his phone and when he found that the car was in a mall, had it immobilised.
When the girl tried to leave the mall, the car would not start and she had to call her father and explain her situation.
The girl was later grounded, but the father was happy that he could track his child’s whereabouts in case of an emergency.
Moving forward, Ravindran hopes that the government will consider installing CCTVs in schools that have a high number of discipline problems.
“If the kids know they are being watched, they are more likely to behave,” he said.
SIT generated revenue of RM3mil last year and Ravindran hopes to grow SIT from strength to strength.
“My salesmen are the burglars,” said Ravindran jokingly.
“If there were no break-ins, I would be out of business,” he said, but clarified that safety is of utmost importance and reminded all Malaysians that prevention is better than cure.
Ahead of the curve
Technology has evolved much in most industries and the surveillance sector is no exception.
While security equipment such as CCTVs and panic buttons are more familiar to Malaysians, surveillance company iOmniscient Malaysia is championing the use of software for more effective security.
iOmniscient executive director Ling Ken Ji said human error is common in many circumstances and it is more efficient to let software take over the function of monitoring a space.
Ling, an investment banker prior to setting up iOmniscient, came back to Malaysia after his passion for finance fizzled thanks to the weak global economy.
After a fair number of hits and misses, Ling settled on growing of iOmniscient’s business in Malaysia.
iOmniscient is Australian company that offers what it calls “smart” surveillance systems. Their surveillance products are based on an intelligent system that monitors the location where the CCTV is located.
The system will pick up suspicious behaviour and alert a security team who will decide on the need to respond to the alert.
“The CCTVs basically function as the eyes of the system and the software functions like the brains which will analyse the CCTV feeds.
“For example, if a person is seen loitering in a place past a certain amount of time, the system will send an alert out and the security person can keep a look out on that particular person,” Ling said.
He added that this would help security teams move towards being proactive and act on suspicious behaviour rather than being reactive by only looking through CCTV recordings to find the cause of an event that has already happened.
“We are trying to educate mall operators to adopt technology to increase the effectiveness of their security. It is important to deploy the relevant technology,” Ling said.
The company’s software is able to pick out suspicious behaviour such as loitering, unattended bags, and intrusions, among other things, even in a crowded space.
Users of iOmniscient’s systems can also set their own parameters for what is considered suspicious behaviour.
Ling said this would reduce the need for more security personnel and help to lower manpower costs in the long run.
Unlike more traditional surveillance companies, business is not picking up as fast for iOmniscient Malaysia.
Ling is aware that Malaysians typically look at cost above other factors. The basic price of one of the company’s cameras is about RM1,800.
“The challenge for our business is retrofitting budgets for business or home owners and educating them on the need to upgrade their surveillance systems.
“It is really about getting the word out in our first few years,” he said.
iOmniscient Malaysia kick-started its new business in 2009 and has about five major clients to date.
“People need to see the value of investing in security. We can’t be ignorant about this sort of investment.
“You take an average of one and a half years to recover your cost of the system and the camera has a 10-year lifespan,” he added.
Various studies note that the market for surveillance systems will continue to grow in the coming years after the market experienced a slowdown during the economic crisis.
A 2009 Frost & Sullivan report said the Malaysian video surveillance market was estimated at over US$65mil (RM198.28mil) in 2008 with an average growth rate of 27% by 2013.
Ling is projecting a revenue of about RM1mil for this year and acknowledges that the road ahead is full of hard work.
He is looking at tie-ups with various government agencies and property developers to expand the business.
“More people are willing to consider higher expenditures for surveillance these days so we just need to raise the awareness about smart surveillance,” he said.