Many customers in the Middle East deploy ASC solutions. Especially public-safety organizations depend on secure recording solutions for a legally admissible documentation and traceability of incidents. In addition, the analysis of the processes and specific training can help to reduce the response time of control center staff. Claus-Omar Mundinger, Country Manager Region Middle East at ASC Technologies AG, explains in an interview what matters to the public-safety sector in the Middle East, what projects there are, and what is expected from a recording solution here.
ASC Technologies AG has a subsidiary in Dubai from where it distributes its portfolio of solutions for recording, archiving, and analysis of communication in the entire Middle East. How did it come about in the first place that ASC opened a subsidiary there?
I have to go back a little to answer this question: In general, ASC serves three sectors: public safety, contact centers, and financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies. When it comes to their requirements in our solutions, these three sectors must be clearly distinguished.
Public safety organizations set great store by the possibility to record and archive threat calls as well as to monitor emergencies in real time and be able to reconstruct them. Contact centers expect our solutions to support them in quality management and assurance, to increase efficiency and to evaluate the daily routines of contact center agents. When financial institutions record and store conversations, they are mostly driven by compliance with legal regulations such as MiFID II, FinVermV, or Dodd-Frank.
In the Middle East, public safety is our largest sector. In comparison with other industries, we see a percentage of more than 50 percent for public safety. Therefore, it was only natural for us to focus on solutions for public-safety organizations in the Middle East. These organizations often require local support and we as manufacturer naturally want to be at the pulse of the market, of partners and customers. Our subsidiary in Dubai put us in the place to do exactly this as well as to act faster and more flexibly.
What distinguishes the public-safety sector from the other sectors in the Middle East?
The market for solutions in the public-safety sector in the Middle East has proved to be a fast growing, stable market for us. In contrast, the contact center sector is rather saturated and many customers increasingly tend to buy products from the Far East. The financial services sector in turn is characterized by fierce eliminatory competition. This means that due to legal regulations, customers already deploy a recording solution which covers certain areas; maybe not as comprehensively as our solutions would, but it all comes down to the point that there already is a solution that we or, of course, other competitors would like to replace.
The demand in state-of-the-art security technologies has increased in the Gulf States in recent years. In my opinion, the readiness of these countries and the existing authorities to invest here is greater than in other regions. It is not for nothing that they are counted among the safest countries worldwide.
In which public-safety areas are ASC solutions deployed?
Most inquiries, especially in the public-safety sector, are inquiries for solutions to record and store safety-critical or mission-critical communication. Safety-critical communication does not only take place at the control centers of the police or of fire departments but also at institutions such as the military, coastguard, universities or airports. Currently we have joined hands with a renowned aviation authority from the region for a tender in the air traffic sector. Here, it is specifically about the audio recordings of the tower communication between the airport and the pilot including radar recordings. We have already equipped several international airports with our solutions. Another project is the control center of an underground station. You see, this is a wide field.
For what else are your solutions used in the public-safety sector?
We also record radio conversations in the control centers of police and fire departments. If there is an accident - for example, a fire in a warehouse - a dispatcher in the control center ensures that a team is ready for action. How many vehicles are nearby, which vehicles are involved, how many first responders are available, how many doctors can be reached etc.? Depending on individual requirements, the dispatcher assembles the teams and coordinates the operation. For this, there is a lively communication between the control center and the involved emergency teams. If an operation is to be reconstructed afterwards, ASC’s certified recording solutions help to retrace the circumstances of an accident down to the last detail. Audio content, screen content as well as the processes in the control center can be documented transparently.
This enables uncovering weak spots that may eventually be a make-or-break factor for rescuing people. In such operations, mere seconds count and our solutions help determine whether the response time was appropriate or whether there is room for improvement. This makes it easier to identify the source of problems. It is not about pointing a finger, though, but about being able to improve the response mechanisms for critical situations in the future.
Is there a particularly exciting project?
Oh, yes, there’s a project for a ministry in Saudi Arabia. Every year, there’s the Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. It is a major event with almost two million visitors which naturally massively affects the security measures that must be taken during this time of the year. And ASC contributes to ensuring internal security during this period. We provide the ministry with our recording software to enable security teams to record individual as well as group radio calls. Dispatchers in the control center thus have a complete overview. They can follow incidents on the monitor at any time and thus ensure faster response times which in turn helps to protect pilgrims.
What must a recording solution be capable of in the public-safety sector?
Simple functionality and intuitive handling are two essential factors. This includes a neat display of all relevant data. In integrated control centers, public-safety organizations such as fire department, police, and rescue services often work hand in hand. They share local resources to be able to react more quickly. In this scenario, it is absolutely mandatory to offer a tenant-specific separation of data and to encrypt it accordingly to protect personal rights. To guarantee multi-tenancy, a recording system must be able to differentiate between tenant-specific settings and system administration. This is the only way to ensure that the system meets all the requirements of the respective organization in terms of functionalities and security.
In emergencies, it is key to be able to react in a timely manner. Reducing the response time of control center staff in emergency situations by just a few seconds can save lives. Consequently, the quick reconstruction of incidents during and after an operation is crucial. If mission control does not receive all relevant information in time, this may have fatal consequences. Those in charge therefore depend on search and replay functions as well as on intelligent audio analyses. They give them an overview of the entire operation and enable them to immediately access the latest information and analyze the incident in debriefing sessions. This is the only way to increase the process quality.
A prerequisite to do so is reliable, uninterrupted recording. When in hectic situations it is not possible to replay the latest conversations or access the latest information, lives may be at peril. On top of that, a legally admissible documentation of compliance with regulated processes can no longer be guaranteed. Flexible redundancy options are required to ensure a continuous process flow.
And last not least, a recording solution in the public-safety sector must be capable of guaranteeing maximum data security and system availability. And while a redundant system must operate completely autonomously, it must be easy to maintain at the same time. This is achieved by integrating a nonreactive system architecture. This guarantees that a defective component does not affect the integrity of the entire system. So even in the unlikely event of a system failure, full functionality is ensured.