Netwatch Group spies growth in pandemic’s legacy of vacant buildings

New chief executive hails ‘unlimited potential’ of proactive video monitoring on first Irish visit

Netwatch Group chief executive Kurt Takahashi says there is ‘great pride’ in the Irish business.

Netwatch Group chief executive Kurt Takahashi says there is ‘great pride’ in the Irish business.

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Netwatch Group, the security technology company that includes Carlow-based Netwatch (Ireland), is eyeing revenue growth in the wake of a pandemic-related rise in vacant business premises and pressure on companies to cut labour costs.

“I see a big opportunity for us as we come out of Covid,” said Kurt Takahashi, the California-based chief executive of the group, speaking during his first visit to the company’s Carlow base.

“A lot of clients still have vacant buildings because they haven’t fully returned to work yet.”

The Covid-19 crisis stymied growth for a period because sectors such as construction and manufacturing were not opening up new sites during the first lockdowns. But, as economies recover, Netwatch has seen a “ramp up” in interest from businesses wanting to install its systems.

“In Ireland, Netwatch is very established, but in north America, it is not,” said Mr Takahashi, who was previously chief executive of video security company Pelco and led its sale to Motorola Solutions.

“Confusion around the legacy technology” of intrusion detection and identity verification has meant there is still work to be done to promote Netwatch-style “proactive video monitoring” in the US.

Rather than being reactive, Netwatch’s system aspires to prevent crimes from happening and also to alert business clients to other threats, such as safety hazards, before they cause harm to employees or the public.

While manufacturing businesses are turning to machine-learning systems to help prevent slips and falls on site, utilities are employing more sophisticated ways of monitoring substations and the perimeter of wind and solar farms.

“I think there is unlimited potential,” said Mr Takahashi. “The only other alternative is guards and guards are very expensive.”

Merger background

What is now known as Netwatch (Ireland) was founded, as Netwatch, in Carlow in 2003 by David Walsh and Niall Kelly. In 2018, the company merged with three other monitoring companies in the US and UK, with the backing of private equity firm Riverside, creating Netwatch Group. It employs about 400 people.

The Irish base is an important centre for the group’s research and development (R&D) and will be the hub for organic sales growth throughout Europe, through dealer channels, Mr Takahashi said.

“With the help of Riverside, our private equity owner, we’re definitely not ruling out any acquisitions,” he added.

Mr Takahashi was appointed to the group chief executive role in January, replacing Netwatch director Wendy Hamilton, who sought a successor after her plan to relocate to the US in early 2020 was delayed, prompting a rethink. Ms Hamilton is now leading operations in the UK and Ireland and is the group’s head of global monitoring.

As well as seeing his executive team face-to-face for the first time, Mr Takahashi has met Mr Walsh and other board members during his visit. “There’s great pride in the business,” he said.

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