With 2013 coming to a close, I was really excited to attend Mobotix’s West Coast National Partner Conference (NPC) on Dec. 8-10 because it’s my last security conference of the year. It was my third year attending the event, which was held in sunny — although cold and windy — San Diego at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel.
For the first time in years Dr. Ralf Hinkel, the founder of Mobotix, attended the conference, which was certainly a highlight for nearly 200 attendees. Another highpoint? Mobotix unveiled 24 new products that it plans to release throughout 2014, including the D25, M25 and Q25 5-megapixel IP cameras, as well as a software suite that allows installers to configure an entire surveillance system for customers at a remote location.
One of the things I enjoy the most about the NPC is seeing how excited electronic security contractors get when they learn about the improvements to Mobotix’s technology and products. For those unfamiliar with Mobotix, the manufacturer develops a decentralized surveillance system meaning that a high-speed computer outfitted with a MicroSD card is built into every camera. The company maintains that a decentralized system results in fewer installed cameras, fewer storage devices and lower network bandwidth. While Mobotix certainly has its loyal fans, in recent years, there have been quite a few critics that have slammed the firm’s decentralized technology.
So I spoke with Mobotix’s Dr. Magnus Ekerot, who was recently named as the firm’s new CEO, on his thoughts on the critics’ opinions of the decentralized system. He also provided his predictions on what the industry can expect to see in the upcoming year, as well as six years down the road in the year 2020. Keep reading as Ekerot explains where he thinks the industry is headed and the potential for 3D cameras to be utilized in security applications.
You have some critics that don’t understand the Mobotix decentralized technology. How do you respond to that?
Dr. Magnus Ekerot: A lot of the negative comments I hear come from those who compare us to other companies. They always ask: Why don’t you use H.264? I’m glad that people are like that, and I don’t have a problem with it. The only thing is when you start to ask questions like that it means you haven’t caught on to what we’re doing.
It takes a little bit of time for the installers to understand what we’re doing because some are still on the tracks of what used to be, where analog systems had cameras, cables, multiplexers, etc. When the IP cameras came out, installers would rip away those analog cameras, put in digital cameras, but put in another type of cabling and put an IT infrastructure in place.
At Mobotix, we’re saying, don’t rip out five analog cameras and replace them with five IP cameras. Rather, we’re saying that if you’re going to rip out your five analog cameras, just replace it with one camera. For the resellers that have always sold five cameras, they think they’re going to lose margin or they’re going to lose money. Hopefully they’ll catch on and realize that they can make a better system for the end user.
What do you attribute to Mobotix’s success?
At the core, it’s always the technology. There are other companies that may be considered better at marketing, but we are so true to the technology. What we want to do as a vendor is to always create the best product for the end user.
We have an extremely high amount of loyalty from our customers, and we appreciate that. And we pay it back to them that we are true in what we say. We are extremely moral and ethical. If we tell one of our partners that they’re going to be our partner in a certain region within a certain vertical, we’re not going to appoint 20 other people into that space. Perhaps there might be other companies that are saying that, but they don’t really do it. To us, we really live that way; we build that trust.
The third thing is that people see us as a unique company. In this industry, there is so little difference between flavors [of each company]. Let’s take the pear and the apple. Maybe end users want cucumber instead, and that’s what we’re offering. If Mobotix did like everybody else, we would lose that uniqueness, and that would mean that we would lose the edge that we have on the technology.
Can you discuss some of the challenges that the industry is currently facing?
One challenge is the speed of the technology, and that is why I think that we will see a consolidation of the market. Some of the smaller players will not be able to catch up. Either they need to be very good in the vertical niche or they need to be very strong geographically. If I look very specifically for the U.S., it’s a big country. There are so many different things that will make it almost impossible for me to have a reach everywhere geographically unless I’m a very big company. So the bigger fish will eat the smaller fish.
Speaking of consolidations, do you see Mobotix acquiring a company in the near future?
No. I have my ears and eyes open, but I don’t think that Mobotix will buy a company to expand our business. It might be interesting to do it in order to get more software resources. But I am always of the mind that you should own the confidence, but you should rent capacity.
We’re headed into 2014. What are your predictions for the New Year?
I believe that 2014 will be a very interesting year. We have new products that are going to come out both within the home building automation and the security space. We are taking clear steps towards my 2020 vision in order to be able to create this generic IP platform where most things that you will have in your home or your building, whether it be bigger offices or small offices, it will be able to communicate over intelligent IP. We’re actually going to bring out products that show that we’re moving in that direction and every year up until 2020, and you’ll see that we’re moving in that direction.
Let’s talk a little bit more about your 2020 vision.
One of the major things is the change in demographics. Our business today is traditionally older, grey-haired men who are making the decisions of what they are going to buy, how it’s going to be there and how it’s being deployed. Generally speaking, these older guys have a background in police or military. That’s the traditional security industry. They are not naturally the best ones when it comes to IT technology, but they are the ones who had the knowledge about analog technology and where to deploy cameras.
In 2020, the people who were born in the mid- to late-80s, are going to be managers. That generation has seen the technology explosion. They had cell phones in their teens, they grew up playing video games and they grew up with downloading music and videos.
They grew up with all these things, and they’re not going to change. They’re going to continue with that development. Soon, the older guys are going to retire and then the new guys are going to come in and look at the old systems and they’re going to say, ‘What is this? Bad resolution! I can’t see the picture!’ That whole mentality will change the entire industry, and we as vendors have to be on our toes to be able to provide Generation X-Y with the products and the tools to be able to match what they want.
Also with Generation X-Y, the demand of having fast access will increase because they will not accept having a slow network. In 2020, due to bandwidth limitations, people are going to look for much more intelligence, and I believe that what they want to do is put the intelligence at the front, in the camera, so that the camera will analyze and say, ‘This is the information that I want and need to send over the network.’
That is why I believe that Mobotix’s decentralized system is so right for the future. A camera sending a whole lot of information to a server, the server needs to send the information to whatever kind of device that you have. Generation X-Y always wants to carry a device with them so that they can see and have that information so that they can calculate it. It all boils down to the bandwidth and the limitations.
I also believe that we will have 3D cameras in 2020. For security applications, I believe that is interesting to see. A typical example: here you have polished this floor and it’s wet. Now, somebody is going to come into the building, and it’s dangerous because that person could slip on the wet floor, which is a big liability. So, the camera will be there and it will inform the people that there is a wet floor. Or, the camera can send the custodian a message that the floors are still wet at the entrance doors and there is no signage there.
I think it would be very interesting to see how we can use technology to understand behavioral patterns of people, and I welcome that. I think we have a lot of things to learn there because then we can utilize the technology in a good way if we know a little bit about how people are behaving in different situations. That gives vital information so that users can be proactive in how they approach people. We talk about facial recognition software today, but with behavioral analysis, you can recognize when a person becomes aggressive because of the behavior and the way they are using their arms and expressions. A camera can alarm a security manager and give that individual information as the tension grows. Instead of just viewing the footage, the security manager can say, ‘Hey guys, is there something that we can help out with?’