New technology keeps people safe
Sterling company’s under-vehicle inspection systems boost security
- February 28, 2014
Fans traveling to this year’s Super Bowl via mass transit didn’t see Gatekeeper Security’s technology at work, but the Sterling-based company was making sure riders were safe from threats. The automatic under-vehicle inspection systems produced by the company allow the underside of vehicles to be searched and drivers and passengers to be screened from a safe distance.
The company’s patented technology can be used on properties with a regular stream of traffic, including oil fields, shipping ports, airports, prisons, trains and hotels.
Chris Millar and Dick Barcus started the company in 2004 after seeing the limitations associated with the standard inspection of vehicles. Inspectors generally use a mirror attached to a long stick to look for any threats. “We took the most inefficient, antiquated inspection technology and said, ‘Why can’t we automate this?’ The germinating idea behind Gatekeeper was using computerization, optical technology and high-speed imaging,” says Barcus.
Gatekeeper’s technology is more effective at detecting threats such as explosives, weapons, drugs, cash and bombs that are brought into facilities under vehicles. Companies can use X-ray equipment to look inside a vehicle, but that approach is not viable for under-vehicle inspections because of the large amount of metal. “We thought we could come up with a better and safer way to do it,” Barcus says.
The company’s first order, delivered in 2005, went to U.S. Central Command in Baghdad. “You don’t want to have soldiers on a government facility stopping vehicles and inspecting,” Barcus says. “This allows you to move the inspection point out further and take the humans away. A safe standoff distance, from 500 feet to one mile, became life and death in Iraq.”
Gatekeeper’s products come in different languages — Arabic, Russian, Spanish, Hebrew and English — and are sold in 23 countries. They have to work in all types of terrain and weather — from the cold in Northern Russia to the heat and sand in the Middle East and the jungles of Indonesia and Vietnam. “This has to work in the worst weather possible,” Barcus says.
The company also has several commercial customers, including high-end resorts in Kuwait and the seven-star Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. “Our ideal market is anywhere there are huge security concerns,” Barcus says. “The Middle East is a very dangerous place, and they have a lot of money to spend for protection. They are our No. 1 market.”
Gatekeeper works with all of the nuclear stations in Russia and several in Spain, as well. “They need help with defending their property,” Barcus says.
The company has five employees at its headquarters in Sterling, four in its office in Dubai and four in its location in Mexico City. Barcus is hoping to add two more employees in the Mexican office because of a rapid increase in business last year.
Gatekeeper recently won a large contract with Mexico to provide license plate reading equipment for its northern and southern borders. “Mexico has very old, under-performing license plate reading technology,” Barcus says. “There were many vendors trying to win that business. We had to show them that the product did what it claimed. We had the best overall performance and economics in terms of price, maintenance and reliability.”
The Mexican federal police and secret service used the company’s technology when President Obama and Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada, visited the country in February.
Eighty-five percent of the company’s clients are international. From 2005 to 2013 the Middle East, Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia and Spain represented an overwhelming share of the company’s business. The company also works with the Department of Defense, the Pentagon, U.N. headquarters in New York City and several Federal Reserve banks.
Sales have grown steadily, from six systems in 2005 to 60 last year. The cost of an individual system averages $100,000. “This year we plan to be closer to 130 systems,” Barcus says. “Our technology is more widely known now, and Gatekeeper is respected.”
The company worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to expand its international reach. “We took our first business development trip to Saudi Arabia and Jordan in 2005,” Barcus says. “We took another to Kuwait and Amman, Jordan.”
Barcus and Millar directly support their customers even though they often use authorized distributors. “One of our key attributes is that we take care of our customers better than anybody,” Barcus says. “We love face-to-face meetings and side-by-side comparisons.”
The company currently provides all of the vehicle tracking camera and license plate reading technology for the new Doha airport in Qatar. The small products are mounted in the open on poles or sides of buildings, for example, wherever there’s a good view of the street.
The company also works with a few U.S. military bases in Kuwait as well as hotels in Jordan. After a suicide bombing several years ago at the Grand Hyatt in Amman, Jordan, the city turned its attention to non-invasive ways to monitor traffic. “When bad stuff is going on, that is a Gatekeeper place,” Barcus says. “We are trying to give people tools to make their lives a little safer.”
Economy in Sterling (Loudoun County)
Loudoun County is constantly diversifying its economy. Industry targets include aerospace, information and communications technology, data centers, air cargo, life and health sciences and government contractors. The county’s labor force has grown 80 percent over the past 10 years. It has more than 900 federal government prime contractors and is home to a large number of data centers, with more than 4.3 million square feet of space. Up to 70 percent of the world’s Internet traffic passes through the county on a daily basis. Large employers with up to 5,000 employees include AOL Inc.; United Airlines; Raytheon Technical Services, which specializes in defense, security and civil markets; and M.C. Dean Inc., a systems integration firm. The county also is home to Washington Dulles International Airport.
Economy in Dubai
The city of Dubai is moving toward a technology-driven economy that will complement its revenues from oil. Dubai was named the overall leading investment destination in the Middle East Cities of the Future 2012/2013 report of fDi Magazine, a foreign direct investment publication. It came in first in the categories of economic potential, infrastructure, business friendliness and strategy. The Emirate has a diversified list of industry sectors that include logistics, financial services, hospitality, tourism, construction and manufacturing. It attracts many international organizations and multinational corporations because of its focus on the development of information and communication technology. The city is home to the Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park. Companies based in the Emirate include Emirates airline; Halliburton, a provider of products and services to the energy industry; Leisure Corp., which invests in sports and leisure activities; and Advanced Global Trading, an investment group.