The communications intelligence market is becoming increasingly competitive as defence budgets are cut around the world and companies look to more crowded emerging markets for business, but GEW Technologies is confident it can access new markets following a change in its shareholding.
Until recently, GEW Technologies was known as Grintek Ewation, before the change in shareholding with Cassidian in 2012. EADS, which is the parent of Cassidian, and Kunene Finance Company of South Africa are now the sole shareholders. The change in shareholding provides GEW with new market opportunities.
“Worldwide, defence budgets are down,” Carel van der Merwe, Chief Executive Officer of GEW Technologies, told defenceWeb. This means that competition is becoming more severe, especially amongst European companies, as they look to new markets. “Emerging markets are getting tougher and Europe is becoming more competitive,” he said.
In this changing market, GEW attributes its success to advanced technology, competitive pricing and field proven products in service in Africa and the Middle East. “Our home market [South Africa] is not our biggest market but our most important. We’ve done good business in South Africa,” Van der Merwe said. GEW has been very active and successful in North Africa, which is their second home market.
Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South Africa are the main markets for GEW but the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping is becoming more important, especially as Latin America (notably Brazil) are now a focus area for GEW.
GEW specialises in communication monitoring, direction finding, electronic countermeasures/warfare, electromagnetic spectrum management and security systems (the latter incorporating surveillance and monitoring products). Since the 1960s GEW has been involved in providing electronic support, electronic attack and electronic warfare solutions.
A spinoff from the land-based electronic warfare side is communications jamming technology, particularly Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (RCIED) jammers. Van der Merwe said that a trend is the move from classical warfare to asymmetrical warfare, hence the proliferation of IEDs. He added that GEW has been involved with RCIED jammers in Africa and the Middle East. “We have been very successful in this region,” he said.
Although the big boom in this area occurred three to four years ago and is tapering off, van der Merwe was confident the market would not go to zero. “It will remain a standard fit for forces going into those [high risk] areas. It remains an important part of our business.”
Another big part of GEW’s business involves border/site/infrastructure security, providing complete systems for clients like airports, harbours, mines etc. Such security systems might include CCTV cameras, asset tracking devices, perimeter intruder detectors, fibre optic networks and vehicle number plate recognition systems.
Van der Merwe said there was quite a demand for infrastructure security in South Africa. The company also provides systems for combining border security solutions with radio monitoring technology. Van der Merwe said that GEW was selected as a supplier to provide monitoring equipment to a major Middle East customer.
“We have delivered some big border projects. We see this market growing…we see that as a critical part of our business growing forward.” Van der Merwe noted that classical border protection technology was merging with modern technology, e.g. cameras and sensors being mounted on fences, which is one of the reasons why GEW sees this market growing for the company.
Another spinoff from EW work is assisting regulatory authorities ensuring against illegal use of the electronic spectrum by monitoring the airwaves. GEW’s first spectrum monitoring systems were delivered in the 1990s to the South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SATRA). Spectrum monitoring equipment can be mounted in vehicles or installed in fixed locations.
Maintenance and support of electronic warfare and other equipment is another big part of business for GEW, particularly supporting the South African Army’s electronic warfare systems.