During the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) 2021, the “New Defence Order. Strategy” journal talked to Selim Bouri, Vice President and Head of Region MEA & Asia Pacific of Airbus Secure Land Communications (SLC). We covered SLC’s participation at IDEX-2021, the pandemic, and its impact on SLC operations, and projects.
Airbus SLC at IDEX-2021
In IDEX this year we showed a large part of our portfolios in multiple areas. The first area is the critical voice communications system, the reliable Tetra solution.
This year, we also presented a hybrid solution; a new generation of hybrid base Station, the TB4. The TB4 can handle both 4G/5G and TETRA technology, it is therefore easier and more cost-effective for companies who can use both in parallel.
The Everus Manpack is another solution we exhibited this year at IDEX 2021.It is a tactical bubble that allows special forces, military forces, as well as emergency services to deploy very quickly a tactical communication bubble in remote areas or emergencies areas where there might not be coverage or enough bandwidth to allow specific security or emergency operations.
Additionally, we presented a number of Tetra and new generation terminals that we use. One of them is the Tactilon Dabat, a hybrid terminal which uses both the Tetra and LTE networks (4g/5g); so the user can connect to multiple networks at the same time.
Another new multimedia application solution is our Tactilon Agnet. Different versions of Agnet are tailored to different types of use. For example, our Tactilon Agnet 800 is tailored to public safety users (military, emergency services, first-responders) whereas the Tactilon Agnet 500, and Agnet 900 address mainly business critical users. We can modify features and functionalities in association with partners and mobile operators; and this solution is made fully available to corporate businesses, to transport organisations, for industries, and any other organisations that do not have the means or desire for a complete dedicated network but can use a virtual part of a network to secure their communications on their smartphones.
We introduced, for the very first time, a new solution called BorderCore, this system provides border protection and secures sensitive sites (military/energy/nuclear plants/ oil and gas installations). This solution allows the integration of existing protection systems (cameras and sensors) in one global monitoring system and control centre. The operations team can have a full view of their secure communications system, on one screen, consolidated with camera and sensors. They are able to monitor that in real-time, to assign tasks to their people in the field, to manage tactical operations, and to send drones.
The impact of COVID-19 on Airbus SLC
It is safe to say that Covid-19 has had an impact on every industry in the world. We have all had to adapt to the situation. Some parts of the businesses such as those associated with airport or travel operations have been temporarily reduced. Other parts have clearly translated in a higher demand and higher capacity because our system is primarily used by first responders (health, emergency, and police services) who more than ever need secure communication technology and solutions.
"The past year, we have been focusing on supporting our key customers and making sure the system was fully available for them, including potentially adding capacity and modifying the user schemes. At the end of the day, public safety actors have to be sufficiently equipped to respond efficiently and carry out their daily tasks."Selim Bouri, Vice President and Head of Region MEA & Asia Pacific of Airbus Secure Land Communications (SLC)
The pandemic also pushed us to adapt and come up with new solutions. A lot of businesses have realised how vital their communication systems are. All of a sudden, many many people were obliged to work remotely, to exchange data through networks, sometimes this included exchanging very critical data that cannot only be transferred through standard commercial networks, but needed an additional level of protection. Our role here was to adapt our solutions to offer small and medium companies a way of having the same level of security for their connectivity.
This is the reason why we presented Agnet-500, a solution tailored to enterprise where they are given access to a virtual network with a very high level of encryption and security in order to be able to exchange data with their team. It is an ideal option for professionals seeking a modern, easy-to-use, flexible and scalable collaboration solution.
It has been quite a challenging year, but we are so proud to be capable of supporting the community and to be part of those working behind the scenes. IDEX is another example of this as the system used by the organisers as well as the IDEX security team, is an Airbus SLC one.
In the Middle East, what are the factors that drive the demand for critical communications, and how do they shape the role of Airbus SLC in the region?
The Middle East is very advanced in the market, it is moving fast in every field. High investments are being made in terms of real estate, smart cities, transport, and new generations of networks. The Middle East is always one of the first regions in introducing such protocols, so we have to follow this and adapt to it in a smart way.
The whole idea when working with critical communications is that we cannot stop the system and create something else; we have to make it evolve because our customers need it to be available and operational 24/7. The biggest challenge is to maintain a high level of service and availability for use by actors such as the police, first responders, security people etc, without disturbing their work or existing network because whenever there is an emergency they need to be sure that they will have their back up, communication, tactical teams and units at hand. We need to support them in embracing technological evolution, without disturbance.
The Middle East is challenging due to the fact that every generation of technology arrives here first; so we have to take this into account - we have to take the best part of it without interrupting or drastically changing what is critical for the users on a daily basis. This is where our hybrid solutions become essential, as they enable a smooth transition and are a combination of both the existing technology with the new protocols on the top of it. Our role is to bring the best of the new technology while we keep the level of safety and security that is required, and this is why we have the hybrid approach, and thus always meeting the commitment of Airbus SLC which is keeping the communication protected, encrypted, and secure.
Data collection and distribution
We collect as much intelligence as possible, this includes geospatial, positioning, voice, we got access to the customer’s database and we put all this together and add a layer of ‘artificial intelligence’ in order to make sure that all this information is available for people that are in the field.
Thus, we have the operation centre, the network corporation centre, the tactical centre, and the operation and emergency centre. We want our customers to have access to one consolidated view.
Airbus’ BorderCore is a suitable option when it comes to site protection, Tactilon Management for tactical communications, and the Airbus Skywise collects data from flight operations; so we can really adapt and consolidate everything together.
Everyday we gain access to intelligence, and this is where the real challenge lies, not in collecting the information. What we do is take the right piece of information and provide it to users, like Ministries of Interior or Ministries of Defence or others, consolidate it and make sure they get access to the piece that interests them and share the intelligence with people in the field so that they can go at the right time in the right direction. After all, the people in the field are the ones protecting us as individuals because they are the ones who will help us in the case of emergencies.
There was this kind of gap in communications as it relied largely on voice capabilities, now it is not only about the voice -although it is extremely important and the most critical application when you look at it- but we want to complement that with additional artificial intelligence (being geospatial, or access to business applications for instance). This is something we want to offer for corporations.
We also want people in operational teams to have access and connection to Tactilon Agnet through their business applications. The possibilities are limitless and the amount of data at hand is massive. As much as this is valuable, the threat it imposes is huge because someone can alter this data if it is not protected, and the worst thing that can happen for those in the field is not about not knowing what is going on but it is to get altered information and to make the wrong decision. So our mission here is making sure that data is protected and that it goes to the right person at the right time.
The reality of the safety and security industry is changing on a daily basis. It is all about agility and adaptability; we need to be able to adapt quickly. Again, the speed in which the pandemic has changed our life so far is somehow pushing us to the basics.
The role of international events like IDEX in the development of Airbus SLC’s Products and Services
IDEX, especially this year, is a major event for Airbus SLC, especially when it comes to defence and space, providing a safe bubble for us to meet. We were able to finally meet a lot of people that we have not seen in a long time in person. We thank the organisers for this opportunity.
The organization of IDEX now is a strong signal the UAE is sending to the world that if you take the right measures with the right protection we can do it again, it is a strong message of hope that is extremely positive.
The participation was very high this year thanks to the high level of protection and organisation and it feels good to start participating in such events again.This years’ edition of Dubai Airshow will be another big event for us this year, along with other events in the region.
About Airbus SLC
Secure Land Communications (SLC), an Airbus programme unit, offers mission- and business-critical communication and collaboration tools based on advanced hybrid solutions combining Tetra, Tetrapol, and broadband technologies. SLC’s dense portfolio is tailored to the needs of Public Safety professionals, as well as users in the fields of Transport, Utility and Industry (TUI), Healthcare, and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). It includes infrastructures, networks, devices, applications, software, and services, based on the latest technologies, which enhance situational awareness, improve user experience and safety, and optimize operational efficiency.
Interviewed by: Reem Mohamed
©"New Defence Order. Strategy" 2021