Concorde Security Pte Ltd is an award-winning company using a technology and IP-driven strategy to transform its business and its industry. It is now in the process of expanding its activities internationally, focusing on South East Asia, Europe and the USA.
Security guarding services are traditionally a very labour-intensive activity. Most property owners have become accustomed to making sure guards are on their premises on a 24-hour basis. It’s a very familiar market for Concorde, having provided similar services ever since its formation in 1997.
A few years ago, founder and executive director Alan Chua was making good money from supplying manpower, but was finding it difficult to grow beyond a certain point, owing to the complexities of managing so many staff – “it’s a very person-dependent business model.” He also recognised that individual guards are not infallible, and can also be very exposed to danger if a real emergency occurs.
He decided to take a different, technology-driven approach. Instead of locating one or more guards in each separate building, he used wireless links to beam surveillance and monitoring system data to specially equipped vehicles called ‘I-Man Facility Sprinters’. These vehicles act as mobile command and control centres, enabling a three-man team to look after up to 10 buildings at once.
The overall solution, which Concorde calls ‘I-Guarding’, uses TV White Space technology to monitor the incoming feeds and improve operational efficiency. Should an alert be detected, the team can be deployed on site within minutes. “This helps to take away the fear of removing the last man. Also, we no longer have a single point of failure, and that’s very important for security.”
Having oversight of several buildings or facilities in a locality has the additional benefit of providing earlier warning of possible threats or issues. The result is a service that is much more cost-effective for customers (their savings can be in the order of 50%), and delivers better-paid, more interesting work for security guards.
From two buildings under surveillance using the system in 2015, the number in Singapore alone has grown to over 100 in less than two years of operation. Concorde’s approach has clearly proved popular, and it has technology and IP at its heart.
The technology was developed by contractors to Concorde’s specifications, and at an early stage the company involved an IP law firm to draw up an initial patent specification. Concorde subsequently filed a first patent in 2012, which has now been granted in Singapore and is currently being applied for in 57 countries using the Patent Co-Operation Treaty system. Since then, Alan has filed two further patents relating to access control systems (“this looks quite simple on the face of it, but it is tricky to integrate”) and methods of monitoring security offshore.
As well as the patents themselves, the Concorde team has developed a body of knowledge on how building security systems can be successfully connected wirelessly to its monitoring facilities. This is kept as a ‘trade secret’.
As a ‘first mover’, Concorde has an additional advantage over existing providers of guarding services: the transition to a technology-led approach is not an easy one to make. “CCTV companies have the technology, but not the domain knowledge; man guarding companies have the domain knowledge, but not the technology.”
Most leading players make money by deploying large numbers of guards and could not implement new solutions without having a very substantial impact on their top and bottom line. In Alan’s view, this sort of change is not easy for a small firm either, since it will be very reluctant to lose what it has.
“When these difficulties are added to our patents and know-how, it gives us quite good protection.”
Within the South-East Asia region, Concorde is in the process of expanding into urban and industrial centres in a number of cities, currently focusing on Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The company has also taken steps to establish a subsidiary company to enter the European market, based in the UK, and is targeting entry to the US market in 2018.
Alan feels he is in an unusual position, as an established and profitable business that is looking to transform its industry – “we’re not a start-up”. While he is not currently attracted to the investment offers he is receiving, he is open to forming alliances or making acquisitions in order to develop his company further. “I am interested in collaboration, but I am not interested in selling my baby. My baby seems to be turning into a very intelligent boy!’