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AGT International makes its initial foray into the U.S. security market

Mati Kochavi

AGT International, a security system designer and integrator which has implemented sophisticated projects around the world worth more than $7 billion, is making its initial entrée into the U.S. market, via a strategic partnership with Microsoft, which both companies unveiled at the Aspen Security Forum on June 29.

AGT prides itself on its unique approach to identifying terrorists and other intruders trying to penetrate “sealed” or “open” national borders – or other sensitive perimeters -- through its adept use of multiple sensor systems (such as video surveillance, sonar, radar, cell phone conversations and more) and its advanced analysis of the voluminous data it gathers through these sources.

AGT’s history, methodology and exceptional approach to spotting the movements of terrorists amidst the “noise” of everyday life, was explained to GSN by Mati Kochavi, the CEO, founder and co-owner of the privately-held firm, which is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.

AGT is like many other global systems integration firms active in the security market, in that it offers initial design, concept integration, deployment and program management services for the projects it undertakes.

It is unique, however, in the philosophical underpinnings that guide its counterterrorism efforts. Rather than adopting the traditional “war-fighting” model, in which military forces are directed at locations suspected to be harboring terrorists, AGT acknowledges upfront that most Western governments don’t know how to define victory over terrorism, can barely define who the enemy is, don’t know how many terrorists exist in the world, and don’t even know if they’re fighting in the right locations.

Given the uncertainties surrounding the current state of worldwide terrorism, Kochavi and the company he spearheads have adopted a new approach to the fight.

“You can’t come with the old toolbox to fix this,” he told a group of current and former U.S. homeland security officials at a breakfast held at the security conference in Aspen, CO.The key to AGT’s approach to counterterrorism is its quest to identify what it calls “low-signal threats.” These are the barely-visible tip-offs to a terrorist’s future plans, which are extremely difficult to discern through traditional surveillance methods.

“So, how do you catch someone who is producing low-signal threats?” asks Kochavi. To answer that question, Kochavi provided the hypothetical example of a terrorist who hopes to avoid having his cell phone conversations monitored by an opposing intelligence agency by using four different cells phones, rather than a single cell phone. This behavior inevitably causes “inefficiencies” for the terrorist, and generates what AGT would perceive as low-signal threats because of the unusual cell phone loads.

Or take the example of a terrorist hoping to penetrate a sealed border crossing. He might make advanced surveillance visits to that crossing area to scope out the situation, on different days and at different times of day. If captured by video surveillance and properly analyzed, these visits could serve as another low-signal threat that might tip-off an integrated security system installed along the border by AGT, Kochavi explained.

The “secret sauce” in all this are the algorithms developed by AGT to help make sense of what might otherwise appear to be mountains of random and useless sensor data. AGT employs its own scientists, mathematicians, program managers, game players, former military officers and others – as well as a specialized firm known as 3i-MIND – to build models of “normal” behavior in a particular location. Once these models are developed, it becomes easier to spot “abnormal behavior” that occurs in the same location, even amidst a welter of surrounding activities and other background “noise.”

Kochavi points out that many security system designers for other companies attempt to “reduce the noise,” so their systems can function more effectively. By contrast, AGT likes to gather as much noise, from any many different sensors as possible, to enable it to construct as vivid a behavior model as possible. “I want to know all the noise,” explained Kochavi.

AGT envisions installing sophisticated systems such as these – which enhance “situational awareness” and create complex databases that contain both structured and unstructured data – for a wide variety of security-related applications, such as critical infrastructure sites, intelligence and fusion centers, law enforcement and anti-crime facilities, natural disaster response centers and disease monitoring systems, said Kochavi.

AGT currently employs 1,500 people and has undertaken projects on five continents, but has not yet done business in the U.S. with customers in either the public or private sectors. It intends to approach the U.S. market in partnership with several U.S. companies that have advanced technologies and well-developed business relationships with government and corporate customers.

The first such “strategic partnership” with Microsoft Corp. was announced in a press release AGT released on June 29.

"Under the partnership agreement, Microsoft and the AGT Group of companies will jointly deliver consulting services and fully integrated security services for corporate and government customers," says the release.

AGT’s initial foray into the U.S. market was well-conceived. It is one of four corporate sponsors of the Aspen Security Forum (the others are Boeing, IBM and Northrop Grumman), it played host to an illustrious group of homeland security leaders at a breakfast on June 29, and Kochavi is meeting face-to-face with several journalists while in Aspen. The company currently has a low-profile in the U.S., but that is likely to change in the very near future.


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