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12/20/11- Terrorism threat raises spending on security technology

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The heightened risk of terrorist attacks, especially from elements believed to be linked to the Al-Shabaab terrorist network from Somalia, is forcing investors in Kenya to increase spending on security technology, boosting the balance sheet of companies.

Nairobi bore the brunt of two grenade attacks less than two months ago as other parts of the country suffered similar onslaughts that are believed to be reprisal attacks after the government of Kenya led military offensive against the rebels in Somalia in October.

This increased risk of insecurity has seen high demand for more sophisticated surveillance technology that has been the preserve of a few, prompting security firms to start large-scale importation of the products.

The entrepreneurs say it has become the next major source of income compared to the traditional training and deploying of guards.

“The terrorist bombing incidents that happened in October have sparked a round of ordrs for new and more advanced security equipment,” said the commercial officer at Securex Agencies Ltd, Mr Nitin Wadhwa.

Security agencies in Nairobi have started installing car surveillance system that will automate and increase accuracy of vehicle inspection while selling other gadgets that have not be common in the Kenyan market.

Among the products that are making their way into the local market despite the associated high cost are the Undercarriage Vehicle Surveillance System (UVSS), hand-held bomb detectors, and X-ray machines that were previously a preserve of airports and embassies.

Mr Wadhwa said demand for all equipment, including the already existing products in the local market such as the walk throughs, ballards, boom barriers and spike barriers has suddenly increased.

The UVSS will allow security officials of hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, embassies and conference facilities to view the vehicles’ under carriage without using mirrors.

Installation of the system could cost up to Sh15 million per unit if all the accompanying equipment such as the spike barriers are factored in. The gadget can take photographs of a car that is moving at a speed of up to 60 kilometres per hour.

For instance, a car driving into a building with a UVSS system has to pass over the machines, which are installed in the ground with cameras facing up. The system detects approaching vehicles and takes the photograph of the car’s bottom as it passes directly over it.

This means that one does not need mirrors since it cannot view the central part of the car’s bottom.

Criminals now prefer to keep explosive in the vehicle’s under carriage as they know that the boot and the car’s inside will obviously be checked.

“The system has a licence plate recognition camera which feeds the computer with registration details as the under carriage is scanned,” said Tony Sahni the managing director of Securex Agencies.

The technology can match vehicle identification to driver’s picture identification which can be compared with government database to establish the rightful owner of the vehicle.

Officials at KK Security also said they have ordered the product and hand- held bomb detectors for a number of clients in the country.

“We are shipping in the products for various organisations at a cost of between Sh3 million and Sh6 million per products,” said Vitalis Ongunya, regional technical manager at KK Securities.

Mr Ongunya said the increased spending on security means that they feel at risk of attack. “Hotels and the rest of the tourism market depend largely on their image and a single security lapse could cost them millions of shillings in losses either by loss of customers or in lawsuits,” he said.

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