Made in Ottawa: A tour through Senstar’s private security playground

Jeremy Weese
Jeremy Weese, senior vice-president and chief operating officer at Senstar, explains the technology at work at Senstar's testing facility in Carp. All photos by Mark Holleron.

Just a short trip down Carp Road will take you to the headquarters of Senstar, the 35-year provider of perimeter security systems for jails and prisons worldwide. Travel a little farther, and you’ll find yourself on the grounds of the world’s largest private test facility of its kind, a 10-acre site where Senstar’s team tests each of its fences, sensors, cables and the software that makes it all run.

In addition to hosting the occasional barbecue, the site offers a chance for staff to get out of the lab and into the outdoors, where the equipment is put to use and has its limits tested.

Tests can range from monitoring response to wind and weather to tossing balls through the wiring to see what will set it off. For all its practical use, the site is essentially a playground for Senstar’s engineers.

“That’s part of the fun of having this site. All of the guys in the development group, they’re hands-on, not desk engineers, they want to get out, they want to do things. So they’re always coming up with crazy things to try to test this,” says Jeremy Weese, senior vice-president and chief operating officer at Senstar.

The primary advantage of having a testing site in Ottawa is, counter-intuitively, the annoying weather. While designing equipment that can function in all climates is certainly more complicated, Senstar’s advantage is being based in a region that hits nearly every extreme, from harsh cold and winter blizzards to sweltering heat in the summer. The company’s competitors, which Weese says are based in Arizona and the south of France, don’t have the same access to these environments, and can’t confidently tell clients their technology will work in a blizzard. Senstar, on the other hand, can.

All of Senstar’s products are manufactured in-house or nearby. The buried cable technology that gave Senstar its start is made in its production facilities, and even the circuit boards that power the sensors are made by a company in Carleton Place.

Weese says it doesn’t make sense for Senstar to outsource the production overseas. If there’s an issue anywhere in the manufacturing process, he can swing by the facility on his way to work and fix it. That’s not easy to do when the factory is in China.

The second benefit of local production is an obvious one: The more Senstar manufactures in the Ottawa area, the more work there is to go around for local firms.

“The whole goal is to keep Canadians employed,” he says.

 All varieties of Senstar’s fencing and sensor equipment run through and around the 800-metre perimeter of the 10-acre testing site.

All varieties of Senstar’s fencing and sensor equipment run through and around the 800-metre perimeter of the 10-acre testing site.

 These sensors, common to nuclear power plants, can detect the difference between a wall of steam coming off a reactor and the threat of an intruder stepping between the wires.

These sensors, common to nuclear power plants, can detect the difference between a wall of steam coming off a reactor and the threat of an intruder stepping between the wires.

 Senstar also develops the software to display the security equipment’s interface. This screen shows, within a metre, where a disturbance occurs on the fenceline.

Senstar also develops the software to display the security equipment’s interface. This screen shows, within a metre, where a disturbance occurs on the fenceline.

 “Our buried cable, that’s where our IP lies. We make every foot of the buried cable that goes out the door,” says Jeremy Weese.

“Our buried cable, that’s where our IP lies. We make every foot of the buried cable that goes out the door,” says Jeremy Weese.

 Senstar’s OmniTrax is purposely designed to be a bad coaxial cable. It releases some of the travelling energy so that a corresponding cable can detect the leak – as well as any disturbances above ground.

Senstar’s OmniTrax is purposely designed to be a bad coaxial cable. It releases some of the travelling energy so that a corresponding cable can detect the leak – as well as any disturbances above ground.

 The circuit boards used to run Senstar’s tech are manufactured a few kilometres away in Carleton Place.

The circuit boards used to run Senstar’s tech are manufactured a few kilometres away in Carleton Place.