AMG Systems is a leading provider of video and communication transmission technology for CCTV surveillance and a manufacturer of IP cameras it markets under the AMG-Panogenics brand. I caught up with the sales director Sara Bullock recently to talk about where she saw the market going and how AMG was responding to that.
AMG is perhaps best known for its transmission technologies including multimode and single mode video, data and audio fibre optics, but it also produces single and multi-channel unshielded twisted pair (UTP) links, multi-port Ethernet switches for transmitting IP signals over fibre and analogue and digital wireless transmission equipment for transmitting video and data.
Sara explained that AMG Systems supplied equipment to projects worldwide from its base in Bedfordshire. The company’s transmission solutions are in demand on projects worldwide, especially in harsh environments such as the Arabian Peninsula where they were able to withstand extreme heat.
Recent projects include supplying the transmission system for the UK’s NRTS project and the security and surveillance system at the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar.
Signs of life
Activity in the security market has been slow for AMG, as for most other companies, but fortunately the company’s products are also in demand in other sectors such as IT. In addition, the security sector is showing signs of life, with noticeable activity in the prisons and utilities sectors.
“These sectors are good for business because they have money to spend and they need to do it within defined timelines to meet their end of year budgets,” she said. “The main driver in the utility market is the fact that they have contracts with governments which means they have to put certain things in place by defined times.”
She added: “There is definitely more quote activity around, so it’s not as flat as it was.”
In a crowded marketplace, one of AMG’s differentiators is its bespoke systems. “We are determined to have product differentiation,” Sara said. “No one else in our space does as much custom build as we do.”
Examples of bespoke products include deployable datacomms units. “We made them for the defence industry originally, but now we continue to supply bespoke devices into the military as well as the oil and gas industry.” AMG is an Aramco supplier and is able to adapt products for high temperatures as well as making many other small adaptations.
One area of the security industry that AMG has perhaps been slow to adapt to is the adoption of IP. Sara readily admits that AMG “sat on the fence regarding IP”.
This approach is understandable given that the market space it was working in was slow to adopt IP itself. AMG has come off the fence and introduced an IP product that it claims no one else can match, but nonetheless, its market continues to be split 70/30 in favour of analogue transmission compared to IP.
Analogue continues to be the transmission medium of choice in the Middle East and other harsh environments because of the lack of ruggedized IP products on the market.
The product that AMG introduced for its market is called the ‘Wonderbox’, a ruggedized Ethernet switch which provides Layer 2 Managed Ethernet functionality. AMG claims that with this product it has bridged the gap between analogue and IP technology by supporting easy integration of low-speed serial data channels and alarm contacts, alongside video, onto an Ethernet backbone.
“With the Wonderbox, we are achieving a transition from analogue to IP,” Bullock said. “You can plug a variety of different feeds into the box. It used to take one or two fibres to transmit an analogue signal but now with a single fibre you can transmit hundreds of IP feeds, saving infrastructure cost.
“And yet, 70 per cent of our market continues to be analogue because we are dealing in extreme environments and analogue equipment is simply more robust.”
With regard to the security market in general, Sara is hopeful that the green shoots she is seeing here and there will herald a sustained recovery.
“This year should be better than the last two years. The security market in the UK has been pretty dire, but now there are a lot more opportunities in general,” she said.
The gestation period for projects means that enquiries that are coming through now means the company can project an increase in business in the year to come. “The time to worry is when you can’t see new projects coming through. The next three to six months will be telling in terms of which projects go ahead.”
So, positive signs but nothing definitive.
For AMG, the experience in the Middle East is telling. They exhibit at Intersec every year, with last year’s event being highly successful but this year’s event somewhat less successful.
“We went to Intersec last year and had a brilliant show,” Bullock said. “It seemed buoyant last year and most projects that we were introduced to have come through. But this year there doesn’t seem to be as many projects coming through. So it wasn’t great – but then it’s difficult to use one show as a generalisation.”
She added that Africa is getting more active, with a number of enquiries coming from Nigeria and Ghana.