Safe and Sound

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-By John Boley

Saab is a global group that employs over 13,700 people worldwide and generates annual revenue exceeding $4 billion “” some 20 per cent of which is then re-invested in research and development. Saab is one of the world’s leading high technology companies with products, services and solutions ranging from military defence to civil security. The group covers a broad spectrum of competence and capability in systems engineering and systems integration.

The company is broadening its reach into civil security solutions by developing products to revolutionise the management of crises, natural disasters and the protection of public resources. Saab is also concerned with the protection of society against terrorist threats. This move into civil security enables the expertise and technological advances of Saab military systems to benefit the wider community and signals Saab’s entry into an exciting new field involving integrated security systems to enhance our way of life.

In terms of public awareness, the Swedish brand Saab is probably best associated with cars (and trucks), but the group exited the automotive business (to General Motors) back in 1995. Nowadays, Saab serves the global market of governments, authorities and corporations with products, services and solutions ranging from military defence to civil security. In that sense, it has come full circle, for the company’s origins lie not in their often innovative, fun cars but in combat aircraft.

In Australia, Saab has six locations with different business units concentrating on C4I systems, military systems support, civil security, camouflage and aircraft support. The principal company, Saab Technologies Australia, has its headquarters in Adelaide where specialist systems engineers concentrate on developing complex military and civil systems solutions. These operational systems involve highly integrated software systems in which complex technology, reliability and safety are paramount. Solutions are developed either individually or in partnership with global companies that have complementary products and skills.

Dean Rosenfeld is general manager of Saab Security. “People do still associate the name Saab with automobiles, yes,” he says. So one of the first slides in our introductory presentation says ‘we don’t make cars any more’. “For us it’s really about an education campaign, so when meeting new customers, particularly in the security realm, we talk about the fact that we come from a mission-critical mission systems perspective in the defence industry and how we are bringing our programme and engineering skills into the [civil] security domain.

“We are all about integrated security systems. We provide a software-based integration platform that sits above all the various security and building management sub-systems,” Dean explains. It is possible to plug in a CCTV system together with an access control system and, for example, a perimeter detection system to see and interact with everything in just a single user interface. “You get an overall view from the one screen.”

This is not just about saving money, he says. It’s more about “providing that simple user interface, so if there is a situation where someone might panic, where there are mass alarms or something has gone wrong, it’s making sure we present the information very clearly and simply to enable the operator to interact and deal with the issue.”

The company has been establishing itself cautiously in the local market. It boasts some novel and advanced systems features and Dean is confident the company has applications that can be used across a wide range of industrial and commercial environments as well as public and government authorities. But he explains that the firm started by tackling correctional establishments, not least because of the Saab group’s background and expertise.

“We started marketing based on our experience in Sweden, where we are responsible as a technology partner for the Swedish prison and probation service. In this role we look after all the prisons and probation facilities in Sweden and assist the customer to choose appropriate technologies. As well as physically integrating the system solutions into their facilities we also work with the customer to further refine and develop their operational procedures. Along with our 20-year history here in Australia within the defence industry this background has assisted Saab to ramp up quickly in the Australian security market.

“Not long after we began marketing our capabilities to the various corrections departments around Australia, a tender was released for the South Queensland Correctional Centre and the authority expressed an interest in our solution.” The result was officially endorsed in July (please see sidebar for further details).

Dean says the advantage of the Saab system is that it is “vendor independent – we don’t make any of the subsystems, so we are not putting a security management system in front of a customer and saying this works really well with our own access control or CCTV system.” Saab is not channelling the customer down a narrow path but opening up options and choices. Neither is it offering just a set of ‘off-the-shelf’ components wired together. “We offer a true open platform and integration skills and we work with the customer to find out what their preferred subsystems are. In the Queensland case there are more than 20 independent subsystems on that site and we integrated all of those into one view.”

In most cases, a customer will already have engaged security consultants to identify the basic requirements and write the specifications. That will establish the functional performance parameters, and then Saab provides the security management system and helps the customer choose the various sub-systems that meet the requirements.

Flexibility is an important part of the Saab offer, especially if a site (or sites) has an existing security system that requires upgrading or extension. Dean’s team can integrate new with old in such a way that the operator will not see the difference, seamlessly extending the life of useful installations and with the potential to bring under one roof the security for even a large number of disparate but related sites. “The customer is getting more value for money and extending the life of their security systems while adding new technology and upgrading.”

There may be substantial potential in the mining industry for the Saab approach to security. “We’re still exploring the market at the moment but there may be opportunities in the gas fields – monitoring wellheads and process flow control, bringing hundreds of camera feeds into one control site and all the various access control systems, possibly bringing these controls from a large number of sites or mines to one single place.”

Lots of places can benefit from integrated systems, which could – if desired – seamlessly link building management, air-conditioning, lighting or other technology into a single system together with security for ‘intelligent buildings’. Everything in the Saab model is IP-based so it’s feasible to add and integrate. Take airports for example: “we have a system deployed in Stockholm airport (Arlanda, domestic and international) that runs over five terminals. We monitor all the systems in that airport and control (or “˜task’) and manage up to a thousand guards as well.”

If everything is simplified into a single system, is there not a danger of putting all the security eggs in one basket? “We always make sure there is no single point of failure. With these integrated platforms, if the head-end fails for any reason you can still operate all the sub-systems. Our processes also allow for “˜lock-step’ redundancy down to the processor level.” Using virtualisation Saab employs one big server (two servers for redundancy) to host multiple sub-system head ends on the one machine reducing space, power requirements and associated life cycle costs. “Should something go wrong with one server, the switchover is instantaneous – the operator won’t know anything has happened or that they are operating on a backup.” The system will flag a problem for maintenance and tell a technician a fault has occurred, like a card on a specific server, but “it’s completely seamless for the operator, unless of course they want to know about it.”

Worldwide, Saab offers a wide range of products but for the Australian business “we are trying to stay away from product and concentrate on the integration platform and software systems delivery.” All the software is developed locally in Australia and Dean is confident the list of applications for it is endless. “We are looking for the limits to the applications,” he says. “So far we haven’t seen any limits.”

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

July 14, 2020, 11:21 AM AEST