South African infrastructure VAD First Distribution has expanded its distribution offering with a new division focusing on Digital Security and Internet of Things (IoT). David Simpson has been appointed as General Manager to head up the new division specialising in digital security and video surveillance solutions.
Tony Abrahall, Director of First Distribution, explains that the new division complements the existing datacentre, cloud, cybersecurity and networks business units within First Distribution and moves the distributor further up the value chain: “the convergence of security networks and IP networks allows us to provide a complete turnkey offering to the market, something that no other distributor currently offers.”
Simpson is no stranger to the security industry and has been a systems integrator (SI) for most of his career. Having seen the convergence of traditional security with IT and networking, he identified a gap in the market for integrated products and expertise.
“As an a Systems Integrator I battled to find partners with the right level of knowledge and technical support to help us to deploy complex solutions”, he says. “Many of the solutions available out there work in a lab but it’s not so easy to get them working efficiently in the field. So the SI spends a lot of time on system specification and deployment rather than identifying and converting opportunities.”
Simpson worked with First Distribution on a major smart city tender towards the end of 2019. The two parties then decided to take the synergies forward with the launch of the Digital Security and IoT division under the First Distribution umbrella. “With First Distribution, we were able to propose a solution based on Tier One that brands came in at a better price than any of the other tenders, and we realised there is an opportunity to take this business forward”, he adds.
First Distribution brings its data centre product stack of servers, storage and networking, coupled with a wealth of expertise to the party. This combines with the physical security expertise from Simpson and his team, allowing the new division to offer a complete turnkey solution in all aspects of digital security and IoT.
“The CCTV camera was the first, and is still the most common IoT device in the market”, Simpson explains. “The information associated with these cameras could be worth millions to companies if they are able to properly mine it and extract meaningful metadata.”
By adding analytics, artificial intelligence and video synoptics to the security and IoT arena, First Distribution can now help customers to unlock this value and more, becoming more competitive and profitable as a result.
Simpson explains that IT and security are typically handled by different departments within large organisations: “there has traditionally been a disconnect between the two departments. The value we bring is that we speak both languages fluently, bridge the gap, and develop relevant solutions based on top brands.”
Simpson cites the example of a mine using cameras to analyse traffic in and out of an open cast mine, then using the data to streamline flows, prevent bottlenecks, and increase productivity. Another customer uses cameras and machine learning to warn operators if production line equipment is about to fail, saving time, optimising maintenance, reducing product wastage, and ultimately increasing profitability.
Partners have been positive about the new division, he adds: “they recognise that with First Distribution’s ICT expertise, infrastructure and supply chain coupled with the in-depth security industry knowledge, we can offer a superior product and service. They see it, and they get it. This is important: the SIs want to work with us because we can deploy a holistic solution of behalf of their clients. They can feel more confident in selling solutions, knowing that we will support them from beginning to end – as we say, from Seen to Screen.”
Another value-add that First Distribution offers is the ability to develop new solutions. Simpson points to a new offering the team has been working on during the Covid-19 lockdown that combines no-touch access control with fever sensors to ensure the health and safety of workers. Other solutions can be custom-built for customers according to their specific needs.
“We want to build strong relationships with our vendors and our partners”, Simpson says. “We are already seeing the results from our consultative approach to presales design, pre-commissioning and on-site commissioning.”
The new Digital Security and IoT division will primarily focus on digital security and video surveillance solutions with technologies that include video management systems, digital cameras, security analytics, facial recognition systems, access control systems and biometrics. Security network solutions are underpinned by infrastructure solutions like switches, WiFi access points, servers, storage, access control hardware and fire detection. Solutions will be built using software offerings like video management, retail analytics, business intelligence, forensic investigation analytics, facial recognition, perimeter intrusion detection, number plate recognition and vehicle recognition.
First Distribution has a footprint throughout Africa, with a physical presence in 7 countries, and actively trading in 28 countries on the continent, with a partner ecosystem of more than 2000 active resellers. Simpson believes the market opportunity in South Africa and Africa could be as much as €4.2-billion over the next five years. The initial sales opportunities are in the manufacturing, retail, commercial and industrial environments.
Joining Simpson in the new division are national sales manager Matthew Short and national technical lead Francois Malan. A full team of internal and external sales specialists and technical experts is on board. “Our skilled and trained technology specialists are the backbone of our business, and they are always available to guide partners through any technical difficulties”, Simpson says.
The core distribution function of logistics has also been optimised to ensure that products arrive on time, and all orders are handled with the priority they deserve. In addition, regular training is provided for partners, to ensure they are up to speed on all First Distribution’s brands and product verticals.