Hikvision President Talks Product Development, Cybersecurity Battle
Hear about the company’s efforts to employ ‘voice of customer’ in its products design, plus measures to combat cyber espionage and hacking scandal.
You may have seen the gallery of images I posted last week that I shot during a recent tour of Hikvision’s global headquarters in Hangzhou, China. I am following up here to provide some deeper takeaways I learned about the company during a press conference with its president, Yangzhong Hu, and international marketing director, Keen Yao.
What follows are some expanded bullet points I lifted from my notes taken during a corporate presentation and Q&A session, centered on Hikvision’s strategic growth initiatives and related matters.
First off, among the company’s chief objectives is to become a complete solution provider for you and your end customers. Lay to rest this idea of conquering global markets with commoditized products. I saw firsthand the huge array of video surveillance products and systems on elaborate display at the Hangzhou facility. In addition, I toured a company manufacturing facility and a sophisticated testing lab. This isn’t about manufacturing knockoff cameras in a kaleidoscope of form factors. The company is deploying integrated video surveillance systems with intrusion alarms, access control, analytics, intercoms and more – all tailored for specific vertical markets.
Hikvision’s products development also encompasses video content services (the company views video content analysis among the industry’s leading trends moving forward). To help further its products and systems development efforts, in 2009 the company adopted Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), a process improvement training and appraisal program. Developed at Carnegie Mellon University, CMMI provides guidance for developing or improving processes that meet the business goals of an organization.
In 2014, the Hikvision Research Institute was established to carry out product R&D and to consider market trends and future demands. Hikvision said its research focuses on such topics as perceptive technology, intelligent analysis, Big Data and cloud storage. As for video surveillance data, through a translator Hu said, “We believe the future of storage will be distributed storage. Meaning, it will be a mixture of local storage and cloud storage. We see … stored video data to be onboard the camera and in the cloud. Even for cloud storage, it will be a mixture of private and public cloud.”
Hikvision boasts 5,400 engineers (and growing) along with investing about 8% of its annual revenue back into R&D. I asked Hu what role “voice of the customer” plays in Hikvision’s product development process. His answer was protracted and began with, “To answer that question we have to go back to the original  establishment of the company.”
From the onset, Hu said, Hikvision was highly focused on customization during the product development process. Each customer was asked to provide feedback on product performance to meet the needs of integrators and end-user customers. Still today when a new product is created, a taskforce is formed that combines resource and product teams, as well as input from product users. Technology specialists also contribute expertise in image processing, video/audio codec and much more.
“Voice of the customer is in our DNA,” Hu told me. “This is not extraordinary for us to do. It is hasn’t really changed much. It’s something we have been doing all along over the years. Today we have over 1,000 customized products.”
Another topic Hu indulged was cybersecurity. In the last year or so, the company itself has had to repeatedly address vulnerabilities raised by security researchers who discovered its cameras and DVRs open the door to hacking. Hu said in the past 12 months the company has worked to harden its security products, as well as form new organizational structures to boost the company’s anti-cyber espionage efforts.
A glaring problem with IP-based security products, Hu said, are weak passwords that users set for cameras, DVRs, etc. “We have set up a new structure on the product to make sure whoever is setting up the device will have to have a more complicated password when they boot up the device,” he said.
Last year the company created an internal security response team to quickly respond to cyber threats as they arise, and it is contracting with professional hackers to proactively test its products for weaknesses. Hu said the company has also partnered with an international cybersecurity firm to help it design a more complete system to thwart cyberattacks. And in April, Hikvision began partnering with a few of its technology partners to formulate best practices to battle cyber espionage across the industry.
“This is a very big responsibility for security manufacturers today,” Hu said. “This is something that not only involves manufacturers, but also everyone involved in the industry will have to be able to educate the market about what is going on today and what we need to do and what measures need to be adopted.”
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