A roundtable on video analytics

Here's how seven of the major analytics vendors answer some of the industry's most pressing questions
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009
CYBERSPACE--There continue to be more questions than answers regarding video analytics. It has still yet to be determined how this technology will be best brought to market, where it will be best employed, how it will be best made profitable. At ISC West and in the weeks following, this reporter had the opportunity to ask seven of the leading companies the same basic questions, so we thought we’d share with you some of their answers. 
Participating in this virtual roundtable are David McGuinness, CEO of ObjectVideo; Scott Schnell, CEO of VideoIQ; Zeev Farkarsh, CEO of ioimage; Steve Russell, chairman and founder of 3VR; Craig Chambers, CEO of Cernium; Elan Moriah, Americas president for Verint; and Eric Eaton, CTO at BRS Labs.
 
These participants didn’t really know they were participating in a virtual roundtable, but they were all asked the same two questions and these are their answers, some of them edited for length. Also, some of them said the same basic thing, so not everyone answers every question.
 
SSN: Where are you seeing actual installations and traction with video analytics?
 
Farkarsh: Most of our business is coming from the mid-range market. I can’t say the mass-market is really perfect for analytics yet; it’s still not quite the mass market. We didn’t achieve the hype yet. We’re still on the way to the hype. We thought we’d get there 2009, 2010, but the slowdown might change that. But there’s still the argument that we can save them some money. 
I’m a strong believer in the mass market. I think the big projects are driven by the mass market, not the opposite. It reminds me of the strategy of Microsoft, not going to the giant companies like IBM, but going to the mass market, and they proved that was a good strategy. And I think the same thing will happen here as well. It’s nice to have analytics that’s affordable. 
That was our pitch for the last three years, that was our number one pitch: You’re retrofitting the dumb security installation and just adding a box. You’re upgrading your security for a reasonable price. We’ve been doing that for the last three years, and now those competitors are doing that as well. 
System integrators need a reason to go back to their customers. 
 
Russell: It’s tipping. It’s always been ease of deployment and prices that has slowed the adoption of analytics, and we’ve solved those problems. We have a new product designed for exactly that middle market. We’re at the forefront of the industry, we’ve always had the best analytics, etc., but we were a high-end system. So what’s changed recently is that we’ve been very aggressive in making analytics easy to deploy by our partners, and we’re releasing products that are designed to compete head to head with your standard hybrid NVR and DVR out there. From a cost standpoint, we’re a no-brainer. It’s really just a question of ‘Do you want a dumb DVR or do you want to pay the same price for a smart, searchable 3vr?’ We make that price not an issue.
 
Chambers: Where it is being used successfully, and how can integrators use Perceptrak, is when an organization might have one or two, maybe three, people who have the ability to do communications, dispatch, coordination, that type of thing, and they just use Perceptrak as a tool to bring their attention to things as they’re happening in real time so they can act on them. 
In a campus setting, the Johns Hopkins installation for example, Catholic University in DC, University of Minnesota, every one of those has seen the ability to upgrade real-time security with guards who can intervene as things are happening. That’s a huge paradigm shift. 
Where that fits with the integrator is that they’ll talk with the security operator, ask things like, ‘What kinds of issues are you dealing with?’ And then they’ll recommend a suite of capabilities that, if it includes video surveillance, will often employ Perceptrak or another real-time notifier. This provides the ability to upgrade technology and products, but also to get professional service fees. 
 
Schnell: The key thing for me has been the continued growth of business with notable end user organizations, both in the breadth of categories and weight of the institutions, including DHS, the oil and gas industry, some state and municipal customers. And we’ve had continued strength in the schools. We’ve seen good strength in both the k-12 side and the university side, and that breadth to me is a great sign. Some of the common elements are that those sectors are healthier, more so than retail and the consumer-focused financial services sector. We’ve had good success in the markets that are healthy and continuing to invest in security infrastructure. 
We’ve seen a lot of activity by the remote guarding partners, too. There’s really two center points: One is what I would call guard augmentation, as in, ‘I want to have a certain number of uniformed officers at the site, and want to use a professional monitored service to cut down on that number and to give them universal visibility to the site - analytics-monitored cameras do a better job than human beings in terms of persistent vigilance. Guards will be distracted by one incident, where analytics don’t get distracted. That’s the high-end phenomenon. 
The second market, which is much larger, is a market that hasn’t been served by guards because they’re too expensive or it’s too large of an area for it to be practical. This includes mid-market outdoor commercial, equipment dealerships, rental facilities, perimeters at refineries and other industrial installations.
Eaton: For us, with the integrators, what they like about our solution is the dramatic reduction in the cost of deployment labor and the cost of ongoing maintenance. Some of the integrators that we’ve talked to, when they go to deploy, their cost curve on setting up each individual camera and making sure it’s tuned has been a real sore point on the deployment cost. Our system that self learns and defines its own rules has been well received. 
For one of our customers in a major hotel, we deployed the system and had it up and running and giving them information within three to four days. Of course, the patterns that it’s learned are limited to those observations you can make in a three-day period. And it can learn things over weeks as well. And it’s not just large customers. We do have customers that start out with four cameras and do get value out of the system. It is actually more expensive to do four cameras, but we might eat that cost because we think it’s going to lead to further deployment. 
 
McGuinness: Our customers are manufacturers, and we have them around the world in all regions, and based upon the shipment reports, we’re encouraged that it is being spec’d, it is being sold, and it is being deployed around the world. Security and safety applications still drive the marketplaces - airports, rail, maritime, oil and chemical plants - but we’ve also been very excited about performance in business intelligence, retail, casinos, entertainment and banking. It’s security at some points and it’s collecting data at other points.