Apple App Store stocks up on security downloads

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

CUPERTINO, Calif.—The iTunes App Store, run by Apple, which is based here, now has a number of downloadable applications for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch that can be used to control video surveillance systems. They range in price from completely free to $899.99 (the single most expensive item on the App Store) and offer varying degrees of functionality and control.
That $899.99 application is made by Lextech Labs, a company that has been working behind the scenes in the security industry for years, creating software that helps control diversified systems, from a surveillance system for the Coast Guard to military weapons platforms. Lextech’s iRa, available at the App Store as of Oct. 21, allows users to control multiple live video feeds and offers PTZ control with just the touch of a finger, in real time.
One of its claims to fame is that it was selected as “Coolest iPhone App” at iPhoneDevCamp2 in San Francisco, in August.
So why does your typical security integrator care? Currently, there’s no way to sell the App other than through the iTunes store, so there’s no chance for a resale margin, agreed Lextech CEO Alex Bratton, “but we’re expecting that our application will really become a marketing tool for the integrator to show new capabilities and extend the reach of a new IP video system well beyond the confines of the facility.
“That allows them to sell more equipment or get the job in the first place,” he continued, “and they’ll generate revenue from configuring the application for the end user.”
John Honovich, who watches the IP video space as the proprietor of www.ipvideomarket.info, had doubts about the iRa business plan, however. “The NVR or DVR vendor has traditionally built the client [that would allow remote access] and then given it away for free. It’s a throw-in. I don’t think there’s a lot of precedence or interest in paying for a client.”
As if to validate this opinion, the other application on the iTunes App Store geared to the surveillance market is March Networks’ VideoSphere Pocket, which can be downloaded free and works seamlessly with cameras hooked into March’s VideoSphere Intelligent Video Management Portfolio.
“This is kind of the early days of determining where the market is going,” said Peter Wilenius, vice president of corporate development and investor relations at March, of some of the logic behind the pricing. “We think there’s a definite trend toward mobile access, but we’re still gathering feedback on the product, whether it’s on an iPhone or a Blackberry, and we’ll see what the reaction is. It will evolve considerably from this place.”
Currently, select integrators and end users are using the iPhone app, Wilenius said, many of them in Europe. “We need to understand from the integrators how the end users use the iPhone, and it won’t just be limited to video. It’s also alarm information, access control and the rest of it. This is an opportunity to see how people can interact while they’re mobile,” though he noted that March has had customers using mobile applications on Treos and PDAs for a few years now.
Wilenius agreed with Honovich that the iPhone app is more of a value-add than a singular product. “It’s one client,” he said. “It’s part of a bigger solution.” He noted, however, that he thinks, in the long term, video management software will be sold as a subscription offering, and “you’d get access to various applications and the iPhone app would be just one of them.”
Out of the gate, the iRa will have more universal compatibility, said Bratton, who expects to announce integration with a number of video management software providers in the first quarter of 2009. However, Wilenius said integration with other VMS makers was in the road map. “There will be open systems,” he said, “and we’re not naive enough to think we will corner the market.”
Of course, remote video has been accessible via Windows-based PDAs and mobile devices for some time, but Honovich said the iTunes App store offers significant advantages. “It’s been really hard to get mobile video up and running in the past,” he said. “That’s what you want to eliminate with the iPhone. It’s easy to load, easy to manage, easy to update. Having a closed system like the App Store helps to ensure that.”
Wilenius agreed: “In terms of media devices there’s not really anything that can rival the iPhone. It’s time to go to that next step as the technology evolves.”