EMS Enters Personnel Security Market with New Tracking Service

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PARIS — EMS Technologies, seeing a market opening up in government- and corporate-mandated security for employees, is positioning itself to provide a satellite-enabled personnel tracking service tailored to an audience not being served by mobile satellite providers such as Orbcomm, Iridium and Globalstar.

Atlanta-based EMS, leveraging its 2009 purchase of Satamatics, a specialist in low-data-rate terminals for maritime, energy and transportation markets, is introducing a personal device designed to satisfy government regulations and insurance requirements calling for security measures for employees in high-risk environments.

EMS Global Tracking intends its Osprey Personal Tracker Solution not as a hardware offer, but as a service that includes monitoring and response for people carrying the Osprey hardware who need assistance.

Steve Edgett, vice president of Tewkesbury, Britain-based EMS Global Tracking, said the company expects a commercial launch of the Osprey-based service in the coming weeks with the signing of an anchor customer. The idea, he said, is to give civil government and industry personnel the kind of security assurance that soldiers have in the field.

The Osprey, which is about the same size and weight as a can of soda, is designed for use in remote or dangerous locales and can be carried in a pocket or, with an external antenna, inside a vehicle. Like previous EMS satellite-based locator products — the company has sold more than 170,000 for personal search and rescue, and asset tracking — Osprey communicates through the L-band satellites operated by Inmarsat of London. Osprey production is expected to ramp up starting in May.

In an April 1 interview, Edgett said the Osprey service is intended to capture a market of tens of thousands of individuals whose jobs take them to places where they may need help that is not available. A hostage situation is an extreme example, but Edgett said several governments are now publishing regulations that make it mandatory for certain types of government employees, such as embassy staff, and their families to have some kind of security training and protection.

In the private sector, corporations are finding that their security-insurance premiums rise or fall based on how they train and equip employees who are working in remote areas on their own.

“There is a growing body of regulations on what is called ‘corporate duty of care’ for lone workers in remote places,” Edgett said. He said an example of the cost of these regulations is in Australia, where a company was forced to send a second vehicle out with workers who normally are on their own, or face paying a fine.

A brief training program combined with the Osprey Personal Tracker could meet the qualifications of these regulations and become cost-effective, Edgett said. Similarly, he said, EMS is working with insurance underwriters to structure policies whose kidnap and ransom premiums can be reduced in the same way.

Milpitas, Calif.-based Globalstar, whose core business is providing voice and medium-speed data services, in the past two years has introduced a hand-held Spot Satellite Messenger terminal that is smaller and lighter than the Osprey but also intended more as an aid for the personal-recreation market, including backpackers.

Fort Lee, N.J.-based Orbcomm’s fleet of low-orbiting satellites targets the machine-to-machine communications market for tracking valuable assets via satellite, and for coastal authorities managing maritime traffic.

Bethesda, Md.-based Iridium Communications, which operates a fleet of satellites for voice and data traffic, has said it will be moving into the asset-tracking market but as yet has not announced a personal-safety product similar to Osprey or the Globalstar Spot Satellite Messenger.