INTERVIEW WITH MR. ERIC LEE, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER – ASEAN REGION (SECURITY) FLIR SYSTEMS, INC.

Malaysiasafe: Please tell us about FLIR as a company.
Eric Lee (EL): FLIR headquarters is based out of Oregon in the United States. The company designs, manufactures, and distributes technologies such as thermal sensors, visible-light imaging systems, diagnostic systems and advanced threat detection systems. We are the market leader both in terms of our end products as well as our sensors which many companies use. FLIR employs over 2800 people worldwide. Our company is publicly listed on the NASDAQ exchange and our revenue exceeded USD 1.6 billion in financial year 2016.

FLIR operates from six business groups which are Surveillance, Instruments, Security, OEM & Emerging markets, Maritime and Detection. For ASEAN and Malaysia in particular, some of these business groups are actually involved with government sales because the defense sector uses many of our products. Also for instrumentation, our thermal products are being used for various applications such as in construction, manufacturing and oil refinery.

MalaysiaSAFE: What sort of products do you have in your portfolio?
EL: I am representing the security business group in ASEAN region. We focus primarily on selling thermal solutions and analytics for commercial and municipality government security. Combined with the acquired products from DVTEL, which include CCTV cameras and video management systems (VMS), we develop thermal surveillance cameras and the integration with our Latitude VMS. We also have daylight cameras, enterprise grade CCTV and 4K cameras. Besides that, we are known for our video analytic products under the name ioimage.

MalaysiaSAFE: How has the acquisition of DVTel affected the company?
EL: DVTel was acquired in December 2015 and it brought with it the VMS and video analytic devices which FLIR initially did not have in its portfolio. This further strengthened FLIR’s offerings in the advanced CCTV systems; with a high-availability and scalable VMS where customers rely on CCTV as a strategic aspect of operations and security. And now we continue to serve DVTel’s clients as our own.

MalaysiaSAFE: Your products seem to be tailored more for government use such as for defense and law enforcement. Is this perception accurate?
EL: Not really. I would say that our products are tailor-made for the enterprise. Typically, the enterprise customer is a large entity, be it private, commercial or government that needs to safeguard critical infrastructures. So, our products are mostly suitable for large commercial enterprises, municipalities, sea ports, airports, oil depots and smart cities; used in supporting their local law enforcement and emergency services.

MalaysiaSAFE: What is your ‘go-to-market’ strategy?
EEL: We appoint business partners within each of the ASEAN countries. We do not participate directly in any bids for projects. We operate as an indirect channel, facilitating our partners and customers in crafting a solution for their requirements.

MalaysiaSAFE: Which verticals are you most involved in?
EL: If you break down the CCTV segments, there is a huge market for small-and-medium sized businesses (SMB) with many price competitive products. Instead we only focus on the enterprise segment, not because the price is higher, but because we can offer products with a multitude of benefits. Today, consumers are very aware of the capabilities of CCTVs. With the rise of IoT, smart phones and powerful applications, consumers are demanding more services out of a CCTV.

MalaysiaSAFE: What sets you apart from other industry players?
EL: There are many good companies who are active in this fast-growing industry. From what used to be an analog-tip based guarding industry, it is now morphing into an IT and IP based. What sets FLIR apart is firstly, we are very strong in the enterprise segment. And we have one unique capability – which is to integrate thermal sensors so that our customers can have flexibility in terms of the edge devices that they require. In the Latitude 8.0, we have an enterprise grade VMS that has many features like redundant recording and operates with an open platform that supports other devices like access control. Therefore, customers can get a total solution that suits their every need.

MalaysiaSAFE: Compared to other products in the market, FLIR’s can be considered on the higher end in terms of price. How do you make yourself competitive?
EL: It is very important that we position ourselves to the correct audience. The price reflects a number of features in our products and if the end-user has no need for these feature sets, then certainly it can be an oversell. For instance, we have high performance sensors, lenses and 4K resolution cameras and we back these up with a solid warranty service. In addition, our IP products go through a very stringent firmware and malware testing before they are released. So, we provide the best quality components that are meant to put up and work for a long time. And this is very crucial for enterprises like banks and critical infrastructures which cannot have a down time in their systems.

MalaysiaSAFE: Can you name some of the big projects that FLIR is involved with recently?
EL: Customers using our solutions do not want to make known to public in order to keep potential perpetrators guessing; suffice it to say that we have many of the world’s largest global multinational enterprises, local governments, air and sea-port authorities in the ASEAN region using FLIR.

MalaysiaSAFE: How do you provide technical support to your clients?
EL: FLIR ensures that our partners are well trained with a certification course. This is further augmented with a remote support team comprising of level 3 experts that are highly trained, highly experienced in reviewing and resolving problems. Bear in mind that some of the problems that come to us are actually not inherent to our products. One needs a certain experience to identify what is the problem and what may be triggered by something else. For example, it could be a network issue and therefore a technical support should have some level of network understanding. Having a remote support team means that we can reduce the cost of support tremendously but could still provide expert advice.

MalaysiaSAFE: How do you provide training to your distributors or dealers?
EL: We provide regularly, formal and informal training sessions regionally in Singapore. Formal trainings require distributors and dealers to sit for a test to receive certifications. We have a team of dedicated trainers with many years of experience and knowledge to conduct the trainings. In addition, we also have plans to bring together both training and seminars to share our solutions and use-case in Malaysia for this year.

MalaysiaSAFE: What are the up-coming trends in the security business sector in this region?
EL: I would say smart cities are growing. Even though it is not something new, I think it is really coming to fruition. We are seeing how local governments are becoming savvier in taking solutions from different vendors and integrating into a platform. They are all trying to resolve their challenges which typically involve security and safety, and at the same time it improves their services. Another up-coming trend is PSIM but that is at another level of command and control compared to VMS.

MalaysiaSAFE: What initiatives have you chartered for this year?
EL: In terms of Malaysia, we are very excited about the overall economic environment. We have come off from a quite difficult time in 2016, but all indications are that it will become better in 2017. Hence, local governments will be more confident to invest. Our partners are also gearing up for more businesses. For FLIR, we are actively engaging our partners because there are a lot of new products that we need to share the knowledge with.

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