Ottawa-based security alliance looking for access control partners
By Neil Sutton
A group of Ottawa-area companies, most of which were founded by billionaire entrepreneur Terry Matthews, has come together to create security solutions that can be sold to municipalities or large operations.
By Neil Sutton
The Secure City Technology Alliance (SCTA) is comprised of eight different companies: BelAir Networks, Benbria, Bridgewater Systems, Dragonwave, March Networks, Mitel, Solace Systems and the Wesley Clover Group. Probably the best known of those companies in the security industry is March Networks, a provider of intelligent video IP solutions. Others focus on telecommunications equipment, mobile video, network devices and middleware. The only company with no Matthews connection is BelAir, which is known for its wireless mesh networking equipment.
The alliance was created to open up new business opportunities — particularly large scale customers, like cities or companies that operate on a similar scale, says Robert Wu, SCTA’s managing director and also March Networks’ vice-president of alliances and corporate development.
“The idea is to provide the community with a guaranteed pre-integrated solution — a platform to develop better procedures, to better link up their disparate groups, which usually have silo-based technologies that could be difficult to work with in times of emergency,” says Wu.
As an established player in the security market, March Networks is “trying to be the tip of the spear (for the alliance); to bring everybody in for security-based solutions.”
The alliance companies, many of which are neighbours in the Ottawa/Kanata region, hope to enjoy some economies of scale by coming together, says Wu. “Not to have seven or eight salespeople calling on the same people — especially for those whose core market is not security and safety.”
The alliance recently formed a pact with Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation wholly owned Federal Government which provides Canadian exporters with financing, insurance and body services, and foreign market expertise. According to an SCTA press release, the EDC “has agreed to engage its international customers and projects to help introduce the SCTA offering and solutions. In addition, SCTA will recommend projects to the EDC for financial support.”
“It was a natural fit for us to continue to make their life easier in encouraging exports in Canada,” says Wu. “The EDC relationship has been long and well established with all member companies. As the alliance, we are also making sure we have their support and also their engagement to sell at a different level rather than bits and parts.”
The SCTA, which was first announced in September 2010, has not announced any customer wins yet, but Wu says there are opportunities on the horizon, particularly as IP-based security technology becomes more popular.
“What we’re seeing is, a lot of fibre has been put into the ground, a lot of dedicated networking equipment has been installed for security. We think security is moving towards that. We are putting Cisco-type networks on top of that. That is just the very beginning of what we’re thinking. Going IP is part of that. What we want to show people is that you can take this to the next level,” says Wu.
Wu says the SCTA’s market approach may help its members move up the food chain by combining their strengths.
“People like UTC, GE and a few others before have and are trying to consolidate the industry, creating big blocks of power. (We) also know that these large blocks don’t seem to be able to succeed, or succeed on the scale that they want to succeed, because of the fragmented nature as well as the best of breed concern.”
Welsh-born Terry Matthews is the SCTA’s chairman. He has founded dozens of technology and communications companies in the U.K. and Canada, including the majority of SCTA’s members. But the SCTA isn’t a Matthews-only club, says Wu. The first non-Matthews member is BelAir Networks but there could be others as needs dictate.
“We do not have all the pieces. For example, UTC has a very large play under Lenel in access control. We’re looking for access control members. Are we there yet against UTC? No. Are we there yet against all these other players? No. Are we going to be a formidable force as is it our plan to be one of the pillars? Yes.”
The creation of new member companies is also possible, says Wu, through Wesley Clover arm of the SCTA — a business incubator fostering the creation of start-up companies.
“If the (customer) opportunity is too large for a small company within the group to take care of, or too small, (considering) the opportunity cost, for a large player within the group, then Wesley Clover will more than likely take its incubation program and create a company to address the need they see in the marketplace,” says Wu.