Have oil prices hurt GCC's site security firms?

Regional onsite security and surveillance providers will grow in tandem with the rising value of under-construction projects in the GCC.

Fences have been mandated for all multi-storey Dubai construction sites. (Getty Images)
Fences have been mandated for all multi-storey Dubai construction sites. (Getty Images)

This February, credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s said the GCC’s overall capital spending over the next four years will be $480bn. Government spending on projects – including infrastructure contracts to be awarded between 2016 and 2019 – will be $330bn, the firm added.

Clearly, the stakes on GCC construction projects are high, and look set to increase further within the next three years as the region prepares to host Expo 2020 in Dubai and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

But even if in the shorter term, the pace of project development takes a hit due to ongoing oil-price stagnation, security providers at under-construction developments will continue to thrive. Essentially, even if ongoing projects are delayed, security at work sites will need to be maintained.

Perhaps this is why Hussain Al Saffar, chief executive director of Al Saffar Group, is unperturbed by claims that the construction industry is in the midst of a region-wide slowdown. Al Saffar’s group comprises Al Saffar Fencing Factory, which provides security and perimeter barriers to the construction industry, predominantly in the UAE.

Al Saffar says demand has been good for his firm this year, and that “there is business” in the construction industry.

“The market is moving and everything is good,” he tells Construction Week.

“There are a lot of projects as well. But people will plan their investments based on other factors too, such as [the impact] of petroleum prices. But there are projects being carried out in the UAE, and we haven’t faced any problems with that.”

Al Saffar Fencing’s activities are mostly carried out with private sector construction firms, and the company, as its chief executive director explains, supplies directly to contracting firms in the market.

“We only deal in cash – nothing in credit,” he continues. “The contractor buys our goods in cash and pays directly. We don’t rent out the fences, since our payments are more secure this way.”

But despite the security segment’s partial immunity to the industry slowdown, low market fluidity typically leads to delayed payment. This is a pressure point for the construction community at large.

Nevertheless, technology experts believe their systems provide an alternative to traditional security management tools. Not only can equipment such as cameras or drones be deployed for infrastructure protection, it can also help project teams closely monitor construction progress.

Brian Cury, CEO and founder of EarthCam, says that the latest surveillance equipment plays a significant role in the security of GCC construction sites.

“EarthCam specialises in providing security camera solutions for the construction industry,” he explains.

“With the integration of 4G wireless cellular networks and solar power, EarthCam is perfectly suited to provide live video for new construction at remote areas without infrastructure.

“The new Mobile StreamCam 4K portable system, for instance, has built-in wireless 4G connectivity and offers a 109° wide-angle view, which is perfect for interior monitoring.

“On an active construction site where entry and access points are changing, the wireless system can easily be moved from one location to another to provide security recordings within seconds,” Cury tells Construction Week.

Since 2000, EarthCam has helped to protect and monitor a selection of the Middle East’s highest-profile construction projects. Its portfolio of regional developments includes Jeddah Stadium, Dubai Mall, Doha Convention Center, Bahrain Bay, Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Midfield Terminal Complex, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Qatar Rail, and the 1km-tall Jeddah Tower.

Teams working on similar developments in the Middle East also choose EarthCam equipment for dispute-prevention or marketing purposes, Cury adds.

“Clients in the region rely on EarthCam’s webcams to showcase their project progress to international investors and stakeholders. Live views of construction progress have also proven to be an effective tool in supporting sales initiatives. Our high-definition construction cameras robotically pan the job site to archive progress by using megapixel imagery that can create up to 10-billion-pixel panoramas.

“The high-quality photos act as a detailed historic record of project progress and can be used to dispute claims or prove that work meets compliance requirements.

“At the end of the project, the images are professionally hand-edited into a time-lapse movie, which can be used to further promote your company and project to the public,” Cury proudly adds.

Awareness of such technology among regional construction experts appears to be on the rise. GCC governments are also helping to drive the shift towards computerised construction operations.

Dubai, for example, has already mandated the installation of security cameras at all multi-storey construction sites. Since 1 March, 2016, project teams have also been required to install temporary fencing – spanning at least 2m – around project sites. The prescribed cameras, according to Dubai Municipality’s Buildings Department, must be installed on cranes, or at any other vantage point, to monitor the site’s safety and security.

That Dubai is redefining the remit of site security is evident through the mandated adoption of similar drone fleets by other government bodies in the Emirate, such as Dubai Municipality and Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA). The latter, in September of last year, even went so far as to introduce a smart security surveillance program at its free-zone technology park.

The initiative of the regulatory body for Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) will incorporate the deployment of drones to help coordinate onsite security and surveillance functions.

Commenting on the development, Eng Khalil Odeh Shalan, vice president of operations and facilities at DSOA, said: “The use of this new technology will significantly enhance the security team’s response time and help us monitor the premises with ease.

“We would like to reassure our residents and business partners that the new system will not compromise the privacy of residential or commercial properties at DSO. Authorisation of drone operations is currently limited to a select few from the security team at DSO.”

EarthCam’s Cury, meanwhile, expects such government mandates to stimulate further growth in the security-tech sector.

“With the new requirement in Dubai to have four cameras on every job site, we will provide clients in the region with high-definition live webcams that meet the necessary requirements,” he concludes.

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