BEIRUT: Sitting somewhere in the city are several multi-million dollar technological hubs which are part of a huge security structure that many people don't even know exist -- the Beirut City Surveillance System.
The overall system is vast and covers key parts of the city. Composed of thousands of cameras and over a hundred operators, the sophisticated network features surveillance systems to monitor the roads, traffic flow, and pedestrians, automatic number plat recognition (ANPR), and two controlling base-stations that use analytics to collate incoming information.
The company tasked with the lead on this project was Beirut-based Guardia Systems whose key clients for the project - the municipality of Beirut and the Ministry of the Interior - had the goal of building a 24/7 apparatus for traffic monitoring, stopping crime and preventing the possibility of a terror attack. Five companies competed for the project, with Guardia Systems winning the tender.
"That is why we exist, to provide advanced security solutions for government and commercial clients," Chadi Rahi, business development and sales manager for Guardia, told Annahar.
Completed last year, the $33 million project represented the single largest security contract in Lebanon, with a finished system the company says is a model of infrastructure and integration.
The finishing phase of the Beirut City Surveillance project includes 2000 cameras distributed over 350 surveillance points. All these cameras are connected to two separate control rooms with 50 operators each and two individual data centers with a cumulative storage capacity of 10,000 Terabytes of information.
Though taking the lead as project integrator, Guardia Systems noted the many different international suppliers who contributed in the success of the project, including: Pelco for CCTV, Genetec for video management solution, EMC for data storage, Cisco for networking and IP telephony, IBM for servers and workstations, Emerson and Schneider Electric for data center solutions, and Crestron for audio and video control and integration.
On the street, in addition to stationary cameras for monitoring, are 360-degree PTZ cameras that have 32x zooming capabilities for active work in taking a close look at situations and events. At the city entrance points are the Autoscope EX-110 automatic number plate recognition cameras that enable tracking of vehicles by their license plates, and also immediately flag vehicles that have no license plates and blacklisted or wanted cars.
"Ideally, surveillance systems help prevent problems, as perpetrators know they are being observed, but also CCTV systems help after an incident with investigating and building a case, as footage is on record of crimes being committed," Rahi said.
The two high-tech hubs each have a different surveillance focus and geographical coverage but both run around the clock.
The security-sector business is a competitive one in Lebanon and worldwide, and Rahi says that Guardia Systems works to "differentiate itself from its competitors with the solutions that it offers," adding "We are always looking for new ideas to offer to the market in terms of technology and security."
Also, with offices in Iraq and Nigeria, he added, "Guardia Systems is accustomed to operating in challenging environments."
The company has operated since 1995 and was acquired by MG Holding - a private investment group that includes a diverse portfolio of companies and services - in 2010, which has leveraged Guardia Systems' marketing and technological offerings. For the holding company, it was a smart investment as the security business is a fast growing sector regionally and worldwide.
Rahi told Annahar that since the acquisition, Guardia Systems has "gone through an intense period of development," adding, "We have hired additional key persons in the security industry, worked even more closely with top vendors and honed our team skills."
In addition to integrated surveillance systems, the company also provides such security and related solutions as videophones, intrusion detection, entrance and access control, parking management and guidance, speed gates, road blockers, fire detection, alarms and suppression, data centers and network operation centers.
A short list of Guardia Systems' clients in Lebanon includes Roumieh prison, the General Security headquarters, United Nations, ESCWA, Rafic Hariri Airport, the Central Bank of Lebanon, Bank Audi, the American University of Beirut Medical Center, ABC malls, Souk Beirut, Le Mall, Azadea Group and Indevco Group.
In Iraq: Erbil International Airport, Zain HQ and City Centre Basra; and in Nigeria: The Central Bank of Nigeria, Total and Nigerdock.
Of the variety of projects the company has undertaken, Rahi said, "We have a great passion for understanding our client needs and delivering customized solutions."
Parent group, MG Holding, has a portfolio of investments that includes companies providing oil and gas services, defense communications, telecommunications, IT, real-estate development and contracting, healthcare, insurance and general trade, in addition to Guardia Systems' security solutions.
The business is always changing, Rahi noted, and Guardia Systems keeps a tight focus on providing the latest technology and security knowledge in a quickly evolving field.
"It's all about knowing what the next generation of security is going to be," he said.
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