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August 15, 2023


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Opportunities abound for the security sector in Saudi Arabia?

“An ambition vision for an ambitious nation.” That is the overarching message from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (KSA) Vision 2030 roadmap, designed to bring about unprecedented reforms via major infrastructure projects. The term ‘major’, is perhaps an understatement – just take a look at ‘The Line’ for an idea of the investment behind the vision…


Bruce Braes, Head of Security Consulting at Buro Happold

Here, Bruce Braes, Head of Security Consulting at Buro Happold, explains the opportunities that such ‘giga projects’ are presenting for the security supply chain. And, with technology and safety at the heart of Vision 2030, Braes believes projects will drive new frontiers in the deployment of innovative security solutions.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vison 2030 is focussed on the diversification of the economy through the development of giga projects, led by the Public Investment Fund (PIF). These projects show a strong interest in developing modern, technologically advanced, and iconic buildings that stand out globally.

The country aims to showcase its progress and ambitions through architectural marvels that include developments such as AlUla, Diriyah Gate, NEOM, Qiddiya and the Red Sea Project, amongst others.

The cultural, tourism and entertainment focus of these mega developments influences how they are to be secured and the specific challenge of providing safe and inviting environments is the subject of constant attention by designers and operators.

Designers and architects have been encouraged to deliver futuristic developments. However, the history and culture of The Kingdom mean that security remains high on the agenda.

We are seeing this play out as tension often arises between liberal Western architects, who may prioritise aesthetics and cutting-edge designs, and more conservative Saudi delivery teams, who are primarily concerned with physical security design.

Add to this the focus placed on technology, and security design has been forced to fully embrace convergence. In my opinion, this is great.


The Riyadh skyline (credit: Hansumusa/AlamyStock)

The ultimate goal of Vision 2030 is to place KSA at the pinnacle of states in the region and to achieve this there has been a focus on creating “the best” of everything. Quality is therefore king. I’m sure many security consultants would agree, it is a breath of fresh air to be working in an environment that is not a price-driven race to the bottom.

However, there are challenges when attempting to design massive integrated projects utilising cutting-edge technology that will only be installed in five to seven years.

Embracing the latest technology and compliance with standards – A paradoxical situation?

As technology develops so quickly, the long-term performance of emerging innovations is often untested. This has led to developers and operators opting to issue ‘Security Design Guidelines’ that designers are expected to satisfy.

The implementation of these guidelines has been riddled with challenges from the start. In their initial iterations, they were far from perfect, and in some instances, it was evident that the authors lacked adequate security knowledge.

Additionally, the abundance of conflicting standards and guidelines worldwide further complicates matters. Resolving these issues requires a thoughtful approach that addresses the gaps in expertise and harmonises the different standards to create a more unified and effective framework.

Thankfully the developers have engaged professional security consultants from across the globe to review and refine the various guideline document sets and these are now developing into world-class standards and guidelines. These advances have informed regulatory requirements in The Kingdom, which have also been meaningfully updated in recent months.

Currently, KSA does not have any nationally accredited loss prevention standards, however, the widely recognised Loss Prevention Standards (LPS) published and managed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) Group are extensively used to specify security products.

Other standards including NFPA are also being used, and guidance provided by the UK’s National Protective Security Authority (NFPA – formerly CPNI) is often referenced.

ASIS International standards and guidelines are also quoted and referenced in many design guidelines currently in use across the various giga projects.

So, all in all, the growing maturity of both the regulatory regime and design development across the giga-projects are driving a demand for high-quality equipment and solutions that are best in class in global terms.

Fulfilling demand a significant challenge

Probably the most pressing issue facing the security consulting and design practices working on KSA projects presently is the sheer volume of work that is required to be completed within a very compressed timeframe.

PIF’s expected impact as a result of Vision 2030 will be the creation of 1.8 million direct and indirect jobs by the end of 2025.

Saudi Arabia also has a national ambition to increase international and domestic overnight visitors from 41 million to 120 million tourists annually and the majority of hotels and resorts to facilitate this growth are currently in early design or construction phases.

These developments aren’t small, either. To give an idea, some plans feature around 5,000 video surveillance cameras – to be deployed across a single development.

Delivering these numbers is going to place extreme pressure on manufacturers and the security supply chains which in turn could have price impacts across the world in the coming years.

That said, the sheer magnitude of the requirements will no doubt drive research and development, resulting in quantum leaps in technology in the next few years.

The video above of ‘The Line’ demonstrates the scale of ambition at the heart of KSA’s Vision 2030 project. Security will form an integral part of these developments, argues Braes. 

Tech and integration will push the boundaries

The driving principles of Vision 2030 are ‘Champion Tomorrow, and Innovate Boldly’. To this end the use of technologies and their integration is at the top of the agenda for every project and designers are being encouraged to push pioneering to the edge.

Developments in mass scanning for patrons entering stadia and arenas has moved along at speed driven by the requirements of the giga projects – as has video storage, where cloud solutions are increasingly being utilised. Autonomous vehicles will be a feature of all the giga projects, as will contactless access control.

There is no doubt that the next 10 years will see an acceleration of technology development. Who knows, we may even see the use of rocket-pack-equipped police officers in KSA soon…!

While the nuances of advanced technology are a subject of much debate in in Northern Europe and North America, the latest tech is being fully embraced and viewed in KSA as the way forward. As such, The Kingdom may well become the leading light in integrated technologies that serve as the engine powering smart cities of the future.

Vision 2030 a “massive opportunity” for the security sector

Ultimately, Vision 2030 is providing massive prospects for all security consultants and designers to create solutions for the future at scale.

The ambitious goals set forth by KSA’s vision demand creative and forward-thinking approaches to address various security concerns, which in turn opens doors for professionals to contribute significantly to shaping the future landscape of security.

While the magnitude of the challenge is substantial, I firmly believe that the security industry has not experienced such a momentous opportunity since the turn of the century.

About the author


Bruce Braes is the Head of Security Consulting for Buro Happold, the global engineering design and advisory practice headquartered in the UK and operating across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Before taking up this role in August 2020, Bruce was the Director Physical Security at Jacobs Critical Mission Solutions in the United Kingdom, having joined Jacobs’s Major Projects in 2014. Prior to joining Jacobs, Bruce was Parson Brinckerhoff’s Project Risk Manager on the $12 billion Roy Hill Mine, Rail and Port project in Western Australia. Previous to his work at Parson Brinckerhoff, Bruce was the Principal Security Consultant with AECOM in Perth, Western Australia.

Bruce also spent 12 years as founder and director of Strategic Security Solutions International, a global security risk management consulting firm that he sold in 2008 to Universal Guardian Holdings.

Bruce is a Chartered Security Professional (CSyP), Certified in Risk Identification and Systems Control (CRISC), Certified Protection Professional (CPP), Physical Security Professional (PSP), Certification Institute of Risk Management (CMIRM), Certified Security Consultant (CSC), Certified Nuclear Security Professional (CNSP) and holds Master Arts (Security Management (MA), Master Engineering (Risk Management) (MEng), degrees.


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