The July issue of SSI includes a far-reaching roundtable on the subject of video surveillance innovation featuring experts from eight industry-leading manufacturers. My discussions with each participant was more indepth than the confines of print would allow so here is another in a series of extended offerings. I encourage you to review each of them and compare and contrast how each subject views security video innovation, its ramifications, and innovation in general. Up this installment: Illy Gruber, Product Marketing Manager for NICE Systems’ security business.
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?
Gruber: Innovation that is not translated into success might be ‘cool’ but most likely will quickly become obsolete. Having said that, especially in the security and VMS markets, companies need to show innovation in order to differentiate themselves from other vendors. There is value in demonstrating innovation, even if it’s not directly translated into business success as it can indirectly have a positive contribution to the company’s perception in the market. Applying business smarts to someone else’s concepts is something that is done all of the time. I’ll go back to the smartphone example. When Apple introduced the iPhone, it was unique. Today though other manufacturers have taken the concept and further developed it, in particular by making it more accessible to more people. There has been more than one headline recently expressing the sentiment that Samsung has out-innovated Apple. Now whether this is accurate or not isn’t as relevant as the fact that it’s being speculated. Samsung has now become a direct and fierce competitor to the original smartphone innovator, Apple.
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?
Gruber: An innovative idea should be practical and accessible. Users need to be able to use or deploy the technology without inconvenience and reap its benefits right away. As to the second part of the question, I believe it’s about the ability to translate ingenuity into clearly defined benefits and value for the customer. A customer must be able to understand how they will benefit from a particular solution on a daily basis. They must understand how they can utilize and leverage a technology to extract its maximum potential and the impact it will have on their organization.
How can a supplier avoid innovation giving way to commoditization? How can margins be maintained such that profits can help sustain further R&D?
Gruber: This is a tricky question. The answer very much depends on the specific market and technology. Mass-market or consumer solutions are different from those targeting the B2B market. Innovation which is based on technology-only is different than innovation that involves services and must work within an environment with other technologies. Nevertheless, I’ll try to answer this very broad question. In addition to patents, which are designed to protect the innovation from becoming a commodity, there is also the ability to create a level of brand-awareness that separates one particular technology, solution or product from the rest of the market. Apple managed to position its iPhone as a high-end product, even though, technology-wise, it is not necessarily outperforming some other smartphones in the market. As for the VMS market, I feel we have seen very little innovation over the past few years, both in terms of technology and features/usage of video surveillance. This has meant that only those vendors that rely on and utilize advanced technology can create a competitive edge.
Which innovations hold the greatest upside and why?
Gruber: At NICE we direct innovation towards what we define as tier-1 VMS customers. Tier-1 customers are those with larger video installations comprised of hundreds+ cameras, and more importantly, they are customers that require high-end capabilities and a high availability solution. We believe that these customers and verticals such as public safety, safe cities, banks, airports, mass transit and others that share similar needs value innovation the most and are willing to pay a premium for innovative products and solutions as they understand the positive impact it can have on overall costs and results.
What are one or two video surveillance innovations that failed to catch on and to what do you attribute their failings?
Gruber: Facial recognition and other video analytics-based solutions, abandoned luggage detection for example, are highly sought-after for use in crowded environments. Many organizations have tried deploying them, but with very little success. As much as video analytics technology has improved over the past 10 years, its greatest challenge is the ‘nonsterile’ environments. While VA technology has proven to be successful in more controlled environments, and has been deployed for applications such as intrusion detection and crowd management, the technology challenge of detecting and classifying objects in crowded environments is not yet mature enough.
What are one or two innovative technologies from other fields you see migrating into the security surveillance space and why?
Gruber: Cloud technology is making its way into the security market. With its promise of cost reduction and simplification, cloud computing is the ‘next best thing’ when it comes to technology. Nevertheless, at this point I believe that cloud technology is only suitable for entry-level VMS systems with very few cameras because of technology limitations, specifically available network bandwidth and as such it doesn’t deliver the cost reduction promise. There are also other issues that still need to be dealt with such as chain of custody of the recorded video when used for investigation or evidentiary purposes.
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?
Gruber: Offer PSIM solutions — they will help position your organization as an added-value provider, not just a me-too systems integrator. Choose the right vendor — in today’s constantly evolving security market, it’s important to align your company with vendors who’ll be strong partners. This can help you grow your business. For example, NICE is teaming up with system integrators to offer PSIM workshops to educate and enlighten SIs and their customers. Lastly, work the eco-system. Cultivate relationships with vendors, consultants and anyone who can mention your name and refer customers to you.