The July issue of SSI includes a far-reaching roundtable on the subject of video surveillance innovation featuring experts from eight industry-leading manufacturers. An additional expert who I have had the pleasure of knowing and collaborating with numerous times over several years is Arecont Vision Executive Vice President Scott Schafer. Here he addresses many of the same questions and issues as his eight colleagues did in the print piece and recent blogs of mine.
The word “innovation” gets used and abused a lot; what does it really mean to you?
Schafer: Truly innovative products provide solutions to business challenges that previously did not exist. For example, Arecont Vision’s multisensor panoramic megapixel cameras provide a truly innovative solution by delivering excellent image quality and high frame rates for an entire 180° or 360° scene. The situational awareness provided to the security operator is stunning. This is truly a game changing, innovative solution.
Innovation does not necessarily equate with success. Is it important to be innovative or can it be just as advantageous to apply business smarts to someone else’s concepts?
Schafer: For Arecont Vision, innovation is key to our success. We have led the security market with important multimegapixel camera features, products and solutions. Driving the best image quality, high frame rates, excellent compression via H.264, and advancing the size of cameras at the same time, help deliver a compelling advantage for our company. And we do this great work with our own engineers delivering best in world intellectual property into our designs. That allows Arecont Vision to bring products to market very fast. For other firms, being a fast follower of technology trends may be a better fit for their company’s capabilities.
What other ingredients are required for an innovative technology or product to make a real impact in the marketplace? Where do ingenuity and marketing savvy intersect?
Schafer: For Arecont Vision, the key to our success is delivering these innovations to market to meet customers’ needs but in many cases we deliver new features and whole products before the market even knew they needed these advances. Examples are the company’s multisensor panoramic camera systems, multisensor day/night cameras, and H.264 compression across our entire product line. We were the first to introduce 2-, 3-, 5- and 10-megapixel cameras.
Where it comes to innovation, who plays a larger and more critical role the engineers or the end-user customers? How is that balance achieved?
Schafer: Engineers and end users both play a critical role in the creation of innovative solutions. End users can help define the need for innovative features and sometime entire solutions. But for the most part, Arecont Vision engineers, advance development people and product managers provide the direction for our product lines.
What are the three latest and greatest innovations you have seen in the video surveillance space and what do you like about them so much?
Schafer: The use of CMOS sensors 10 years ago set the stage for the important move to multimegapixel imaging. Arecont Vision was very early to embrace CMOS sensors as our founders were well versed and leaders in driving these platforms in other industries like mobile phone cameras. In 2003 almost all camera companies were sure CCD was the right platform. Now all security manufacturers have moved or are moving to the CMOS sensor path. H.264 compression changed the way the industry approaches the design and implementation of networked security systems because of better network bandwidth management and improved storage utilization. Arecont Vision was the first company to drive H.264 across its entire product portfolio. Now others are committed to H.264. Multisensor panoramic megapixel cameras cover large spaces with fewer cameras. Instead of receiving images that become diffused on the edges by fisheye lenses, a multisensor panoramic camera delivers a high quality image across the entire180° or 360° scene. And because most leading VMSs and NVRs charge only one license fee for all four sensors, it is a terrific value to the customer. Another main advantage of panoramic products is they provide excellent situational awareness for the security operator who is watching the parking lot, receiving dock or the lobby of their building. Panoramic camera systems will continue to drive p/t/z cameras and domes into niche applications and for use by those security operators who are resistant to change.
How will the trend toward standards, open platforms and interoperability affect innovating video surveillance solutions?
Schafer: Open systems architecture is as important for the security industry as it is for the computer/IT and network industries. It is clear that embracing open systems standards provide huge advantages for Arecont Vision, our technology platform partners, our distributors, our systems integrators/dealers and for our end-user customers. Everybody wins by embracing open systems.
What are three to five recommendations or tips you would offer an installing security dealer or integrator looking to become entrenched and grow their video surveillance business?
Schafer: First, stay current with emerging technologies as typical cycles from new product development to delivery are faster than ever. It is imperative to stay in-step and ahead of the latest trends. Next, build relationships with leading manufacturers to capitalize on their ability to provide education and implementation expertise. Third, be innovative in how you position your services by looking to design and install new system solutions based on multimegapixel solutions. Fourth, become capable in delivering a much stronger business case and return on investment [ROI] for your customers. Lastly, look for new and unique ways to expand your business development efforts by applying video surveillance technology beyond traditional security applications.