While I cannot recommend traveling to Montreal in the dead of winter as I did this week, I have no qualms endorsing the company that drew me to the frigid Canadian metropolis: Genetec. The security software developer, best known for its video management system (VMS), held its first press summit at its global headquarters and I was one of a dozen or so trade media journalists from around the world who gathered for a two-day immersion of technology, vision and hospitality.
Founded in 1997 by current CEO Pierre Racz, Genetec provides open-platform software, hardware and cloud-based services to the physical security and public safety industry. Its flagship product, Security Center, unifies IP-based video surveillance, access control and license plate recognition (LPR) into one platform. I was quite familiar with Genetec and its portfolio but this event afforded me the opportunity to become more familiar with the people and culture behind the technology as well as a firmer grasp of the company’s approach to the market.
Some other facts about Genetec include the following. Security Center networked security solutions have been deployed across industries worldwide, including more than 80 airports (largest being around 2,000 cameras), some 40 traffic management clients and around 37 shipping ports. Genetec systems are connected to more than 100,000 cameras and thousands of doors in the education market. Specific customers include: BJ’s Wholesale Club, West Edmonton Mall, Orlando Sanford Int’l Airport, Gimpo Int’l Airport, Port Freeport, Watertown Police Department, Avis Budget Group, Arco Norte, Calgary Light Rail Transit System, Mahwah Township Public Schools, Accrington Academy, Sherwood Valley Gaming Commission, Trollmühle Water Supply Association, Terminals Pty. Ltd. and Fulham Football Club.
At Genetec’s headquarters, I was quite impressed with the firm’s professional and congenial atmosphere as well as its smart and enthusiastic personnel who are clearly driven by the passion to innovate and excel. This all emanates from Racz, an ingenious entrepreneur who has grown the business from a couple of people to more than 450 and an international presence. I had the pleasure of deep discussion over dinner with him and his IT perspective, experience and insider knowledge of what has transpired on the manufacturing side of the security industry the past 15 years was enlightening, entertaining and shocking. Racz is energetic and refreshingly candid (much of which is too juicy to reveal here).
In his presentation to the group, Racz talked about the skeptics he encountered when beginning the business. “They laughed out loud when I first showed them networked video and management,” he said. But Genetec soon became a vendor to the Montreal Police Department, still one of its top clients, and the company was off and running. The company’s VMS has evolved from a federation (Omnicast product) to unification (Security Center) to hybridization (Stratocast) model, with the latter introduced in 2013 as its cloud-based offering.
The cloud is one of Genetec’s top initiatives and it has partnered with Microsoft’s Azure service to enable it. Racz spoke of how IT departments are overwhelmed and cloud-based services avoid placing any further burdens on them and are more cost-effective overall. So it is a win for the end user and for the security integrator for additional recurring revenue streams. He talked about hour hybridization is this final step into the cloud and how Genetec can make it seamless to the end user. Racz also addressed concerns about cloud vulnerability. “The ‘Snowden effect’ and concern about the cloud is becoming moot,” he said. “It’s already happening throughout enterprises; take Microsoft Office 365, for example.” He added that the cloud is ushering in “the beginning of an explosion of new functionality.” Right now, the cloud-based video market is best suited to locations with three to four cameras, but Racz says it’s only a matter of time until it becomes viable for larger applications as well.
The other two major pieces to the unification puzzle for Genetec are its Synergis IP access control system, which it launched in 2006, and its AutoVu license plate recognition (LPR) system, which was gained through a 2007 acquisition. In addition to its own offerings in those areas, Security Center can integrate the majority of intrusion detection and other types of security and safety systems so there is a common platform and user interface. The firm revealed it also plans to release an intercom module this year. Product managers, which at Genetec are geared toward vertical markets such as education, health care and transportation rather than just products themselves, provided comprehensive updates and demonstrations of the firm’s VMS, access and LPR systems. While all were quite fascinating, of particular note was being able to ride in a vehicle equipped with the LPR and witness firsthand how it quickly reads plates and alerts as warranted.
Executive Vice President Alain Cote detailed the company’s current strategic roadmap, which includes five areas of focus. They are: 1) continuing to grow and expand video surveillance offerings, capabilities and market share; 2) pursue access control business to a greater extent, as this segment is the company’s fastest growing area right now; 3) integrate LPR into security applications and extend its possibilities; 4) take advantage of enhanced capabilities enabled by the cloud; and 5) extend activities in the enterprise market. Cote also discussed the importance of leveraging video data for more actionable intelligence, what many are calling Big Data and what he referred to as the “fusion stream.”
All in all, despite near whiteout conditions the trip north of the border was well worthwhile. One might say while it was blizzard-like at times outside, within the walls of Genetec it was a security technology brainstorm. It was my first trip to Montreal; hopefully there will be another where I can actually see what I have been told is a beautiful city. All the terrific people I met are too numerous to mention but I am grateful, but do want to give special thanks to Genetec Communications Manager Kevin Clark and PR liaison Veronique Froment for coordinating the event.
I advise you check Genetec out at the upcoming ISC West if you have the opportunity.
License Plate Recognition