iOmniscient wades into analytics wars

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09/24/2009
One of the things I really appreciated about the Bosch tent this week at ASIS was that they didn't pull any punches. They held head-to-head competitions (of their own design, obviously, to maximize their strengths) and let people take a look. They went after Pelco particularly hard. I don't know why these kinds of performance tests aren't more common. I suppose we should be doing them, and I probably would if I even knew how to plug in an analog camera and make it work, or wire an access reader. I suppose I could learn, or contract other people to do it. Maybe I will. Regardless, the hollowness of manufacturer claims are hardly unique to security, nor are marketers to be faulted for seeing what they can get away with. Every day I come across another "leading manufacturer" of some piece of equipment. The security industry is kind of like Lake Wobegon: Everyone's a leader! I'm reminded of this today because of an email I got from iOmniscient, a company that just started sending me emails, but which I've gathered makes video analytics they think are pretty special. Here's the good part:
Last week Security World Magazine hosted the Secon conference in Seoul. With over 2500 attendees it is THE event on Automated Surveillance in Korea. For the second year in a row they invited Dr Rustom Kanga, CEO of iOmniscient to deliver a Keynote address – this time on “Selecting Software and Hardware for Video Analysis Systems”.
There is apparently some major interest in automated surveillance in Korea. Who knew? Also, why would you have the same keynote speaker two years in a row? Anyway, moving on:
An interesting observation on the event was that several speakers talked about the dissatisfaction that users felt about Video Analysis systems because of the number of false alarms they usually had to deal with. This is inevitable as other systems do not have an Artificial Intelligence based Nuisance Alarm Minimisation System (NAMS). All iOmniscient products above an IQ level of 65 are armed with NAMS. (Note: products with an IQ lower than 65 are rarely sold by iOmniscient. They are offered only in competitive tenders where the user does not understand the value of NAMS and wants the lowest price. These low end products always come with a warning that they do not include NAMS).
I mean: obviously! No else has NAMS! If only they did, all of their troubles would go away. I'm also impressed with the way that iOmniscient is willing to stoop below their normal IQ level to sell to those pesky end users concerned about price. Sorry. I'm being extra snarky this morning because I'm half-way through the red-eye home. I still haven't really gotten to the good part. My apologies. Here we go:
The importance of NAMS became evident in a recent trial in North America where we were in a competition against one of our very large US competitors. Over a week the customer put both systems through various tests. Both companies did equally well on the detections but there was one difference. Our competitor had 200 false alarms each night. We had zero. This wide difference in capabilities explains why there are so many “unhappy users” around the world among those who have used systems which do not have NAMS.
Ah-ha! A secret test, conducted by an unnamed end user, pitting iOmniscient against an unnamed competitor, in a completely unexplained environment! That totally explains why there are so many unhappy users out there. I'm utterly convinced. Seriously. What is the point of this? You know, recently, I gave my newspaper to 100 people at a major U.S. conference and asked them to read my paper and then read one of my major competitors. Then I asked them, "which one made you smarter?" Every one of them, it turns out, chose Security Systems News! In fact, many of the readers commented that the competitor's paper actually made them dumber. So that really explains why there are so many dumb people in the security industry: They're reading the wrong newspaper! But this kind of stuff isn't just limited to emails sent out by iOmniscient. Here's the text from the front page of their web site:
Our multi-award winning, patented Non Motion Detection is recognized as the world's only technology to accurately detect in crowded areas despite constant movement and obscuration; a feat that is not achievable with standard Video Motion Detection. This has resulted in a multitude of airports, railways, and roads and traffic organizations adopting iOmniscient's products worldwide.
Recognized by whom? What awards? Detect what? A multitude? Then why does the press release section of the web site mention exactly three customers since 2004? The big case study they're touting is a museum in Australia. I'm sure it's a national treasure, but doing people counting and loitering in a museum isn't that tough, and certainly isn't indicative any secret sauce. If you beat out some other guy, tell me which guy. If you were tested by a customer, tell me which customer, or at least tell me who the integrator was? If you don't have anything more than vague references to mythical stuff, just stop it.

Comments

That is quality feedback from a web site. Someone should forward iOmniscient your blog entry, maybe the email blasts will cease.

Hi there!
Your feedback is 100% correct. I work for the company only to realise that Rustom and Ivy are very full of themselves.

Intersting to know: iOmniscient recruite university students, mainly Indian and Chinese, to programe their software; of cousre under Indian working conditions such as:
- min. 8.5+ working hrs. and overtime is not compensated
- flat rate wage per month; i.e. Rustom calculates monthly salary = salary / 30. Yes by his understanding Saturdays and Sundays are working days!?
- continuely hiring uni internees WITHOUT pay (they should be gratefull that they can work for the Number One iOmniscient!)
- Your working attenance (arrival, coffee breaks and leaving the office after work) is closely monitored.
- they do not record annual profits accordingly so they can cash-in on government subsidies

By the way they are continually pretend to provide analytic services which do have; they quickly ring from where ever they are dinning in the world and put the gun to your head to deliver, our else you are mobed the Ivy!

I should write a book about this company and inform the world of the these ......! [To finish the sentence just use your imagination].

SORRY CORRECTION!

....

By the way they continually pretend to provide analytic services which DO NOT HAVE; they ring from overseas where they are dinning in a 5+ star hotel and put the gun to your head to deliver a customers ENQUIRY; if you do not deliver "pronto" you are mobbed continuosely the Ivy [her claws and teeth and in your neck]!

....

I like your articles as they always include a good doze of skepticism and thats healthy - but let me share my experience of this mob. I work for a contractor on an oil terminal in Azerbaijan. We tried out several VIA systems and none of them worked. They could not cope with the false alarms we got from rain and snow and dust. They were pretty useless. Then we put in iOmniscient's IQ system (dont remember the model) and it worked like a dream. It still there 18 months later. It does give the occassional false alarm but one or two per week on a system with hundreds of cameras is quite acceptable.

Till i used their system i thought all VIA suppliers are frauds. I am now a fan of theirs and i think NAMS is a great invention. Perhaps they need more sophisticated marketing to convince the rest of the world about it.

Frank

Adam, cut the venom and state the facts. I too worked for iOmniscient. I joined as an intern and then got a job there (about 50% of the interns get hired) and I worked in both the Sydney and Toronto offices. I was there for over 3 years and left only recently. I don’t remember you but that was because you were in a different office and you were there for a very short while.

I found Rustom and Ivy to be visionary and very knowledgeable about the technology and the market. Many of their concepts were truly revolutionary. I would often sit in a meeting and think, “Gosh I would not have thought of that in a million years”. We might struggle on a problem or customer situation for two weeks and then Ivy would come in and tell us how to fix it in 5 mins. There are many things iOmniscient can do which no one else can do and almost all these are a result of their personal involvement in designing the product. They made decisions very fast and had an absolute passion for their customers to the extent that they would both stay up all night if a customer on the other side of the world had a problem. They have certainly made the company what it is.

Do I notice a racist tinge in your comment about Indians and Chinese? The fact that they hired you Adam (I assume you are also Australian) would indicate that they took all types. In fact our colleagues included several French, German, Egyptian and American guys and girls not to mention a bunch of Canadians and even Australians like you and me. For a while there was even an Iranian and a Mexican. The Indians you mentioned will feel insulted as they were in fact also Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi. And the Chinese cohort you mention includes Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and Taiwanese and a bunch of others who don’t quite think they are Chinese – not yet!!! If one works for an international company one should not feel threatened by smarter colleagues from distant lands.

I often travelled with both Ivy and Rustom and if anything they were miserly about expenses. They never once as far as I know lived in a 5 star hotel that you talk about. Everyone was expected to share rooms (and they did not make an exception for themselves) and they always travelled cattle class. It was their own money (they have no VC funding) so I respected them for being careful. Of course we all worked hard - this is appropriate in a start up company and we were rewarded well for that. I got to participate in profit sharing when they started making a profit in 2007 and even got stock options. I have to say though that they were very intolerant of people who wanted to come and work as though it were the public service and from your comments, Adam, it would seem you were one of them. So I am not surprised that they were tough on you.

I, for one, am grateful that R and I are tough on bludgers. We worked very hard to make the company successful and bludgers are a dead anchor around the necks of all of us who were trying. If you want a 9 to 5 job with no responsibility you should go work for the government. In the real world we have to compete on the international market and we have to work harder and smarter and be better than any one else. In your note Adam, you were very focused on your rights and there was no talk of your responsibilities or what you actually contributed. Maybe you should be grateful that they paid you a salary for as long as they did. If it was my personal money I may have cut you earlier. No one owes you a living.

Maybe you should try starting up a company – it only needs a little vision, a touch of courage and a passion for what you are doing – but I imagine that’s not quite you.

I just checked with some ex-colleagues and found that you were “let go” at the end of your initial probationary period. I can therefore understand your anger – but you should fume in private and not spoil the name of those of us who worked hard to make this little company rise from virtually nothing to what it is.