Israeli security co ready for Rio Olympics

Tomer Fulman Photo: Eli Yizhar

ISDS is managing security for the Games, with a $2.2 billion budget, and in coordination with 30 Israeli companies.

When the Rio Olympic Games open on Friday, and billions of eyes are watching the track and field, swimming, and gymnastics events, Israeli company International Security & Defense Systems (ISDS) will be deeply involved, making sure that this mega event takes place in safety. With a huge $2.2 billion security budget under its management; knowing a thing or two about the war on terrorism; control of public order; dozens of innovative technologies, some of which are breakthroughs, developed by 30 Israeli companies - the Rio de Janeiro Olympics will be a practical demonstration of Israeli capabilities - a real gold medal for Israel in one of the branches in which it truly excels: defense and security - even before coach Ira Vigdorchik leads the Israeli artistic gymnastics team in their performance with hoops and colored ribbons.

"We have been living and breathing these Olympics for years already," ISDS CEO Tomer Fulman told "Globes" in a special interview before traveling to Rio de Janeiro himself to manage security for the world's biggest event. "For four years, we have sown, sprouted, watered, and grown, and now things are in the right balance."

The International Olympic Committee and the entities responsible for managing the world's largest sports event selected ISDS two years ago to manage the security system at Rio 2016. Company personnel, including founder, owner, and president businessman Leo Gleser, sweated a great deal to win this prestigious tender, which took no less than three years, in the fractious and uncertain Brazilian market.

ISDS's role in Rio de Janeiro is to analyze all the events relating to the games - the stadium environs, the facilities, the routes for bicycle riders and sailors, the Olympic Village, the parking lots, and just about everything else, and to design scenarios and find answers for all of them. As the integrator for the Rio security system, the company is in contact with other companies, defines their responsibilities, selects the appropriate technologies, and divides up the work - and the billions.

206 national sports delegation with 10,000 athletes from all over the world, over 100 heads of state coming to the stadiums, a new Olympic Village that will house the athletes when they are not setting or missing records, hundreds of thousands of sports fans in the streets and various facilities - all this with innumerable possible scenarios for such an event, from minor incidents that can merely spoil the celebrations to nightmare scenarios liable to end in catastrophe - must be carefully planned. Even if the world is not such a dangerous place, there are quite a few dangerous people and ordinary crazies moving around in it. Even every Frenchman knows that, as do also Gleser and Fulman. It could be ISIS, or it could be a lone wolf, or just some nut getting his hands on a gun, machete, truck, or airplane.

Fulman hears these scenarios, and keeps a smile on his face, saying "We're talking about the Olympics." He reminds a reporter who has watched too many international news broadcasts, "The Olympics are not a war; they are a sports event hosting masses from all over the world coming to see the games, eat well, and drink."

"Globes": How do you sleep at night with something like this on your mind?

Fulman: "We sleep really well. We know that we have done everything we should have. We worked on this event day and night. We were on the site, and learned about it. We did the maximum. When you boil it down, ISDS is not managing security for Brazil. Brazil has intelligence units, an army, policy and the state authorities for that. We're like a special unit helping and advising the various agencies dealing with the event itself. We give them coverage through advanced tools, operate them, and list rules - if everyone observes them, they will prevent terrorism, crime, and vandalism."

How many times has the name ISIS been mentioned in the status evaluations you have with the Brazilian security agencies?

"We haven't mentioned it even once. The authorities responsible for this get the relevant intelligence reports, and they know the data. Keep in mind that no country is immune to terrorism. Even in France, which is on the highest security alert, there is no 100% coverage."

And there are innumerable scenarios.

"There are also very large forces that know how to operate, and have the training for it. Most of the emphasis is on prevention. If we face a situation with a lone wolf who reaches the entrance to the stadium, it's obvious harder to handle it, but there's an answer for that, too.

"Incidentally, you don't need a mega terror attack to miss out on the amazing atmosphere of this event: it's enough to disrupt the opening ceremony, so we're involved in everything, including security at airports, seaports, and critical infrastructure. We took care to train the local people to use the technologies of Israeli companies. We're bringing all the experience and insights that our company has accumulated in 35 years of activity. Our readiness level is good."

Chorizo, horses, and business

Fulman has been CEO at ISDS for five years. He comes from the defense establishment. In one of his positions, he was served in the Ministry of Defense Security Authority when Yehiel Horev was director, and he was also the personal bodyguard of then-Deputy Minister of Defense Ephraim Sneh, with whom he is on very good terms now. These bonds of friendship are maintained to a large extent also due to Sneh's activity in defense consultation. "He's like family," says Fulman. He is not polite; he is charismatic, eloquent, and knowledgeable, with personal charm

He manages the company's business from its offices in his home at Moshav (communal community) Nir Zvi. In the front, there is a large green and shady yard. Behind is a house owned by Gleser, and a little further behind is his well-cared-for horse ranch ("I have had some colts born recently, so it's very busy here."). There is also a place for barbecuing asado, which is used on pleasant days when leading foreign army officers, defense officials, procurement officials from overseas, senior defense establishment figures, business associates, and personal friends visit. At such times, between the spicy chorizo and well-groomed horses, bottles of red wine are also opened, ties are loosened, and the atmosphere becomes relaxed. There is nothing like a barbecue and good wine for good mingling. Try it yourself in your business; maybe you will make it to the Olympics one day.

"This is very much a family company, and this atmosphere helps the company ," Fulman says. "When decisions have to be made, we sit here under the tree - Leo, Ron (VP Ron Shafran, ex-defense establishment), and me with my coffee - and we move things forward as long as it's not too hot, like today.

Gleser is already in Rio de Janeiro on the site allocated to ISDS, just above the enchanting Copacabana beach, probably with a cigar in his hand. He is 67, born in Cordoba in Argentina, and founded ISDS in 1984. His company does not disclose many financial and business details, a large part of which was conducted in South America, including weapons deals and training soldiers. The walls of his office in Moshav Nir Zv are covered with hundreds of old relics and photos from all over the world. In one of them, he is smiling at the camera together with his deputy, Shafran, flanking ex-US President Bill Clinton, the husband of Democratic Party candidate.

"Our business in the world," says Fulman, "includes protection of airports and infrastructure facilities, nuclear facilities, and more. We used to also have physical security, but the market has changed - it is much more focused on cyber and advanced technology, and we're completely there. One of our advantages over other companies is that we live the places where we operate - if we enter the venture, whether it's security for the Olympics or security for a large airport - we like to be in on the project already at the initial surveys stage, so that we can specify the needs and the relevant solution, understand the environment we will be working in, and map it. The threats in Japan are totally different from those in Brazil."

This is not the first time that ISDS is involved in security for the Olympic Games, but in Rio de Janeiro, this is the first time that is it being hired to manage all the complicated security systems for the event. The next Olympics will be in 2020 in Tokyo, and Escom Electronic Security, a Japanese company will do what ISDS is doing in Rio de Janeiro.

The Japanese have already begun studying the material, and Fulman says, "Businessmen are already accompanying us in Rio de Janeiro to study the technologies we're using. They're going over all the technology and studying it and learning from it in order to meet the security challenges at the next Olympics."

Meanwhile, Israeli companies getting a foothold at this great sports event that are benefiting from ISDS's presence in Rio de Janeiro in a market in which good products are not a guaranteed entry card.

"We're very proud of the Israeli market, and believe in it, and that's also from Israeli patriotism," Fulman says. "Yes, patriotism. We insisted that all the systems we used on the various sites would be made in Israel. It's a matter of national pride. I'm completely sincere. Mentally, too, it's easier to work with Israeli companies, and so we have agreements with 30 Israeli companies whose technologies are included in the security system in Rio de Janeiro. It's a technological display window for Israel, and if we all join hands, we can win together. The Foreign Defense Assistance and Defense Export Organization is joining in, and has helped to promote the companies with something to offer for an event on this scale."

Irregular movement in a crowd

One of these tools was development by Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT), based on technology that makes it possible to spot irregular behavior in a crowd according to characteristics defined in advance as irregular. The system itself is interfaced with security cameras aimed at areas defined in advance - crowded areas, such as the entrance gates to stadia and halls, bleachers, and parking lots and algorithms that facilitate analysis of irregular movements in them. For example, one person in a crowd carrying an extremely large bag, someone jumping over the fence, a person turning around in a sterile area, or simply sneaking into a place where he has no business being there, such as at nighttime.

With this identification of every such movement, the system transfers an alert to the control center. There will be trained security forces already there who will know what to do. Another tools to be included in the system in Rio de Janeiro is an event management system developed by (Safe City in a Box SCIB), a startup supported by ISDS that facilities rapid deployment of a network of sensors and cameras connected to the remote control centers, which supplies photos and essential data from the field in real time. The system can also be connected to permanent networks of security cameras dispersed throughout the areas without complicated installation and connection, or dependence on fiber optics for data transmission.

"At every point we define as of interest," says Fulman, "This system will provide us with real-time data. When the event is over, and the point is no longer of interest, the system is dismantled easily and installed in a short time at the next event theater."

In addition to this, an Israeli system called Argos will also be used, based on signals from mobile telephones. This is a sophisticated and clever system, but when the mission is to protect an event on this scale, all means are acceptable. Argo collects broadcasts from telephones in every space defined, and provides not only critical data, such as how many people are in the space in question, and according to Fulman, even their socioeconomic category.

"The system is also able to identify people organizing themselves according to the country of origin of the mobile telephone users in that area, thereby enabling personnel to detect irregular behavior through being connected to the local cellular networks," Fulman explains.

Even when the cellular telephone user has exchanged the SIM card of his telephone, Argos is designed to detect it. If its operators really want to, they can also order from it a breakdown of the countries of origin of specific groups of people there whose behavior arouses suspicion.

Fulman" "This is good for cases of demonstrations, gatherings, vandalism, and completely different incidents, such as earthquakes."

Adjusting to conditions

Not everything consists of chorizo, wine, and fund, and not everything went smoothly on the road to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. After all, this is Brazil, and in an Israeli company charging ahead, nothing can be taken for granted. ISDS has learned in recent years that the road to the Olympics is difficult, requiring achievement from security agencies, not only from the athletes.

"There were upsets along the way, ups and downs," Fulman recalls. "We were under insane time pressure, and there were also difficult entry barriers in this market. Many companies tried to get in and couldn't."

You succeeded.

"Because we decided that we wanted to enter the market or the project of interest to us, and would not merely sit in Nir Zvi and do it remotely. Our teams were there, in Brazil, and constantly experienced the same thing that the client and experienced: street riots on the eve of the World Soccer Cup, stories of corruption, and an economic crisis. Every such crisis affects the projects we're involved in, affects the budget, and delays entire plans. For example, If the facilities were not yet ready, the area was not prepared to receive the relevant experts. We had to undergo an entire process there - understanding this market we were working in, and adjusting to it."

The boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel also tried to throw a spanner in the works. Over the past two years, they have conducted campaigns around the world against ISDS, "the occupiers of Gaza," and tried to ruin tenders and projects for them.

"We ignored them, and I'm ignoring them in this interview, too," says Fulman.

In the middle of next week, two or three days before the opening ceremony in Maracana Stadium, Fulman and his boss, Gleser, will enjoy a few minutes of satisfaction, after years of preparation and before nerve wracking days. They already know that they will run for 10 minutes through Rio de Janeiro with the Olympic Torch, surrounded by an entire Brazilian party.

"We expect an enjoyable experience that will close a circle of us," Fulman said. "Yes, I'm excited."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 31, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

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Tomer Fulman Photo: Eli Yizhar
Tomer Fulman Photo: Eli Yizhar
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