Homeland Security initiatives should boost the GPS market

Some say it is just a matter of time before the GPS segment of the security industry takes off in a big way
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Tuesday, April 1, 2003

With strong ties to Homeland Security propositions as well as growing interest from both the corporate and private sectors, players in the Global Positioning Systems market say it is just a matter of time before this segment of the security industry takes off in a big way.

“GPS is changing the world,” stated Glenn McGonnigle, senior executive for VistaScape, an Atlanta-based software company that has made GPS a key component in its product. “The ability to geo-locate people, objects and vehicles is huge.”

McConnigle said the importance of knowing where events are occurring, especially within large, hard-to-monitor spaces such as borders, harbors or military bases makes GPS attractive in a security setting.

Once an event is identified, he noted, users can take this fundamental data and “apply their own business rules,” such as not allowing trucks or individuals into a space defined by specific GPS coordinates.

Although described by Ray Menard, senior vice president-development/technology division at Criticom International, Minneapolis, as a “nascent technology,” GPS-related security efforts “are receiving a lot of attention…and we expect to see meaningful growth (of this segment) within the next two years,” he added.

Much of the future growth of GPS usage for security measures is being tied to government-related initiatives. Although Menard said he is disappointed with the lack of government spending so far, he and others concede the potential is there.

Dave Dimattina, vice president-national sales for SecureFleet Fleet Management Systems Inc., Valley Stream, N.Y., pointed to Sen. Charles Schumer’s proposal in December 2002 to the Transportation Security Administration for a national vehicle tracking system using GPS as one of the efforts that could spawn business.

“He (Schumer) realizes the importance of knowing where certain types of vehicles are at all times,” Dimattina explained. “Because of Homeland Security concerns, there’s a larger interest in these (GPS) types of systems, especially for fuel and chemical-hauling vehicles.”

Dimattina said he believes there eventually will be a mandate by the government for certain vehicle tracking.

Cliff Dice, chief executive officer of Dice Corp., Essexville, Mich., noted his company is already taking part in developing software for the Emergency Provider Access Directory, or EPAD system, which allows 911 centers and other agencies to share data such as phone numbers, addresses and Internet info in emergency situations. Under the EPAD system, Dice noted, GPS-related data is also used to locate and respond to emergencies.

And VistaScape has installed its Security Data Management System at a San Diego facility to help the U.S. Navy monitor and manage security sensors there.

Another driver behind the expected growth of GPS-related systems could be the insurance industry, said Lawrence Harper, president of the remote video and GPS monitoring division at Greater Alarm, Irvine, Calif.

Harper said other countries have already mandated vehicular GPS with integrated alarms because of the high potential for hijacked vehicles and the costs involved with insurance claims. “Insurance companies in some parts of the world have put their foot down and it (GPS with integrated alarm capability) has zoomed,” Harper said.

Harper said he believes it is just a matter of time - “it could be weeks or a year” - before insurance providers here institute the same requirements.

In the United States, Harper said many high-tech companies have installed these systems in their trucks because cargo theft, which has climbed to $15 billion a year, is both easy and profitable for criminals.

SecureFleet’s Dimattina said he, too, has seen a movement toward requiring GPS systems in fleets. “We see a lot more bigger companies that are mandating tracking systems for the trucking companies they work with,” he said.

Although stymied by the slow economy and the downturn for communications companies specifically, Criticom’s Menard said the advent of the Enhanced 911 initiative, which links GPS to cellphones, likely will be another boon for the industry.

Menard said issues ranging from Sept. 11 to the “dot-bomb” fallout of 2000 has held up technology. “It’s not too surprising we’re behind schedule, or rather on a new schedule,” he said.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, a four-year rollout is scheduled for Phase II of E911, with completion set for Dec. 31, 2005.

Also moving the industry forward are new applications of GPS technology driven by software.

For companies such as VistaScape, the focus down the road, said McGonnigle, is continuing to link GPS with the world of physical security.

“We’re automating detection and response in a closed-loop system and doing it through GPS,” he said. McGonnigle said on the response side, guards on patrol as well as employees can be equipped with GPS units and monitored on the same map as the places and people you’re trying to protect.

“The message here is that without GPS, we couldn’t do this,” he said.