25 Sep ISS – Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Intelligent security systems – ISS has managed to rapidly establish itself as a leading provider of advanced security technologies in Saudi Arabia. We find out the back story and the reasons for their success.
Saudi Arabia has become the prime target market for a host of security products and services vendors around the world, attracted by the sheer size and scope of H.E. The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi 2030 Vision Programme. Petrodollars are being recycled aggressively to build cities, industries, jobs and culture that will propel Saudi Arabia to the forefront of the post-industrialised, post-oil world.
So-called giga cities are rising literally from the deserts of Arabia, with names passing into the everyday language of global infrastructure: NEOM, Diriyah Gate Project, the Red Sea and Qiddiya.
Few companies in the security sector have been as successful as American intelligent software pioneers intelligent security systems – ISS in penetrating the Saudi market over the past two years, since liberalising investment sector laws has allowed more flexible participation and easier visa passage in and out of the kingdom. Iss has quietly and very successfully emerged globally as the market leader in paid video analytics and has increasingly been developing hardware that maximises its AI-driven algorithmic software solutions. Security Middle East Magazine sat down with ISS chairman Richard Burns and CEO Aluisio Figueiredo to understand their firm’s voyage in the kingdom, why they think their market entry has been so successful and whether there are lessons to be learned.
How did this all start?
Burns: we’d been nudged by Sanjay Phatak – ISS Middle East Managing Director – for a couple of years to open in Saudi, but we’d hesitated while building our business in other markets. But three years ago we determined that there were three strategic global markets that we would pursue full bore. One of those markets was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The transition from what we call the second wave to the third wave of security technologies – with a great demand for sophisticated and effective software and devices to lead the solutions and away from end-of-cycle hardware – was well underway. Now, Aluisio and I are getting ready for our 17th trip to Saudi in two years. We joke that we probably have the most maximised Saudi visas ever issued. Our Saudi prospects and partners never doubted our commitment to Saudi Arabia once they’d seen us pop back again and again from New York in person – and the Middle East is a region where turning up is key to confidence.
We were lucky to have great support from key people and institutions at the very beginning. ISS won the prestigious E-Award from the US Commerce Department ‘for outstanding contributions to US exports’ in 2020. Commerce invited us to Washington DC in the summer of 2021 to meet with much larger US corporations with a very senior Saudi delegation to the US. It was there that we met Minister of Investment H.E. Khalid A. Al-Falih, a prolific Saudi public servant and former Chief Executive of Aramco. His kindness in introducing us to leaders in the public and private sectors got us off to an unusually incredible start. Not only were we speaking early with the top levels of security and technology management at Aramco from the very start, but we gained huge momentum from the Ministry of Investment’s (MISA) attention to detail in matching us with partners and with projects. At the same time, the US Department of Commerce International Trade Administration treated us as a poster boy for emerging SME businesses competing head-on with major Chinese and European multinationals and leaned into our success in a major and important way.
When did you know you were on the right track?
Figueiredo: On our second trip we met with a very influential and powerful Saudi executive who controlled a lot of projects. We gave him our ISS presentation. He asked a few questions during the show. And after there was a moment of silence and we didn’t know what to expect. Then, in a very pronounced way he said: “You know, you may have arrived late to Saudi Arabia… but you have arrived at the right time.” We were being told that others may have set up earlier in the country before us but that we had the right technologies. That meant if we told our story, got our references, followed the rules of engagement in Saudi, that we had the potential to become very successful.
Can you explain Second and Third Wave technologies within a Saudi Context?
Burns: The Saudis expressly are looking for best-of-breed technologies. They’re building very ambitious infrastructure visions and want to be benchmarks for urban planning success. They’ve relied on a range of vendors who arrived a decade ago and established themselves as standards for video management or cameras or PSIMS. By and large, these companies simply haven’t updated their technologies that much in the past decade opening themselves to competition and loss to third wave, software-driven software and hardware device solutions.
One excellent example is ISS’s SecurOS® UVSS (Under-Vehicle Surveillance System) and LPR (License Plate Recognition) solutions. The established vendor never knew what hit them as we started replacing their often-abandoned sites across the Kingdom. These ISS technologies have been adopted by ZATCA (the Zakat, Tac and Customs Authority), KAPSARC (King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre), Al-Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah, and in Jeddah and Dammam Ports as major examples. Similarly, on large-scale projects, where ISS SecurOS® provides a highly reliable, expandable platform for all security intelligence, ISS is replacing old standards like the European video management firm that’s had traditional market share.
Who are your most important Saudi Partners?
Figueiredo: We understood from the very start, as we read carefully through the Saudi Vision 2030 literature, that we needed to be true Saudi citizens for longterm success in KSA – truly red, white, blue, green and white. On the floor of Riyadh LEAP Conference 2023, we signed an MoU partnership with AEC, the wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Arabia Military Industries. The partnership is specifically to advance business in the security and video analytics sectors, and very specifically to transfer, maintain and enhance the technologies to manufacture the ISS SecurOS® UVSS at AEC’s facilities in KSA. At the GITEX Dubai conference in 2022, we also signed an important MoU partnership agreement with TAHAKOM, the Saudi Technology and Security Comprehensive Control Company. The MoU covers a range of joint initiatives for comprehensive solutions for smart cities and public security in the Kingdom. In both cases, ISS has committed itself to the full sharing and transfer of technologies with its Saudi partners, hiring, training, joint IP patents, and, of course, production of third wave technology devices for use both in the Saudi market and for export.
That said, while the AEC and TAHAKOM relationships drive a lot of our activity in the Kingdom, we have a range of cherished relationships with integrators across the country. ISS has a policy, worldwide, of working exclusively with integrators to satisfy end-user demand. We hope to be able to make another big announcement at the Security Middle East Saudi Conference in May, and we certainly look forward very much with our partners to participating. It is great that Security Middle East magazine is participating in raising debate and standards in the Saudi security market.
Any Final Words to close up this interview?
Burns: Because we’ve been here so often, we’ve done things – usually with our Saudi friends – that you’d never do if you were popping into Riyadh for a day to shake hands and leave. Like heading out to Al Nassr Football Club to watch Cristiano Ronaldo perform, for example. Or selecting our dates from the street where all the date merchants operate. Or if you really want a tip, stay around for Riyadh Season at the end of the year – it makes Disney look like a sideshow.
Find out more about ISS through issivs.com