Tapping into niche global markets led to a successful 30 years for Sheffield-born firm

L-R: Paul Webb (Chief Executive) and David Coghlan (Chairman

Global surveillance solutions business, Synectics, is celebrating 30 years of business, during which time it has adapted to demands of the markets and now provides services across the globe including the Middle East and USA.

The firm offers high-end technology solutions which are designed to protect people, assets and processes. Its headquarters, which includes its tech and development department, is still based in Sheffield; with a developer who was one of the original staff members still working for the company now. The company also has an operations centre in Scunthorpe.

30 years ago this week, three people were employed by the firm. Now more than 450 are part of the Synetics worldwide group. The company’s surveillance solutions now protect over 3bn passenger journeys every year and are entrusted by the world’s biggest casinos to provide constant coverage and help prevent fraud.

Paul Webb, Chief Executive, told TheBusinessDesk.com: “We have retained the same ethos from when we were founded, even as we have evolved and grown; that’s an important part of our success.”

The firm has had to remain at the forefront of technological advancement, having started with analogue systems and now customers needing hundreds of cameras feeds to be available on an interactive system at the touch of a button.

When the company first formed, much of the surveillance centred around public realm in the UK. However, as public funds slowed, Synetics looked further afield to fill gaps in the niche markets to grow the business.

Webb said: “We have had huge success in the US and Asia and it’s because we have really got to understand their needs. We sent a team from Sheffield to the USA and spoke to casinos. They wanted automated processes for their video management on the gaming floors; so this is what we developed.”

The firm then went on to make numerous acquisitions in the USA, including a £1m acquisition of a North American company. In Asia, the firm has picked up significant market share in surveillance for the oil and gas industry and has since also entered the gaming market there too.

“It’s all about differentiation of the markets and developing what the customer needs. We have had a real impetus on our future growth while always keeping our development and solutions firmly in Sheffield.”

Asked why this was, Webb said the talent from both Sheffield universities has allowed the company to hire people with the right skill sets, as well as invest in new skills for people changing roles. “The technical side of things have changed in the 30 years but they are quite exciting technological innovations that we have embraced. It is a tougher market but we have adapted along the way.”

The firm designs, integrates, controls, and manages advanced surveillance technology and networked security systems, for environments where security is operationally critical.

Launched in 1987 as a surveillance technology research and development house, Synectics was founded on an ethos of customer-driven innovation. The products developed in the early years established its position as a trusted surveillance technology provider within the Public Space sector – coinciding with the UK’s burgeoning, government funding-led public space CCTV initiative.

The business now operates throughout Europe, in the US, Middle East, and Asia-Pacific. Webb added: “Our approach has always been to listen to our customers and let their needs drive product development. The feedback received – from customers wanting to monitor, manage and store their video data more effectively and efficiently – drove the development of the original Synergy software platform. It is a principle that continues to be at the heart of our technology development, 30 years later.”

The company’s global expansion truly began in the early 2000s, by which point Synectics had a growing reputation for developing solutions for large-scale projects with a defined critical or legislative need for security.

Paul added: “We’d already started to build a strong profile in high security and particularly in the public space market, based on our collaboration with customers to tailor solutions to meet their specific requirements. It was apparent that there were compatible industries where our experience and technology complimented the surveillance needs of these customers. These sectors, notably transport – a natural evolution of our public space heritage – oil and gas, and gaming all have similar challenges and requirements.”

What does the next 30 years hold? Well, according to Webb that will be about providing greater connectivity and building upon the tech advances; as well as always investing in and re-skilling the workforce . Transport surveillance will be a big area of the business. Webb said there is a need to centralise how recordings of public transport activities for public safety purposes can be quickly removed and used without having to manually do so.

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