The merger of Vicon and IQinVision has been one of the more interesting business developments in the security and video surveillance markets in 2014. Wondering how the merger is working out, I spoke with Eric Fullerton, CEO, Vicon Industries Inc., at the ASIS 2014 show in Atlanta. Here are some of his comments:
SS.com: What drew you to Vicon; what opportunity do you see here?
Fullerton: The merger of Vicon and IQinVision was announced at the end of Q1, and I thought: What is that? My first reaction was that it’s a losing proposition - putting a struggling camera company and a struggling solutions company together. Then I started looking at it more closely. I think by putting these two companies together, we will be able to create a very strong video company that can lift video to the next level. I wanted a good challenge, and to be part of the next change in the industry by combining hardware and software and to start innovating at the edge.
SS.com: What do you see as the next level of video, once it’s realized?
Fullerton: Video will become the most important digital information source to an operation. Video isn’t just your security application, but it’s a digital business application that adds value to the bottom line. That’s where we want to be delivering products and solutions. We are starting to extract metadata from the cameras. You can analyze the content of video, which provides a totally different value to the video. Less than half of one percent of recorded video is actually looked at -- it’s just used to document what happened after the fact. With some of the modern cameras, like some we are already launching, there is metadata storage of each frame, all the vectors and everything that you can know. Without looking at the video you can analyze changes from frame to frame in terms of color and movement. That will add value to the use of the video. You won’t have to sit and watch it to know what it’s capturing, but you will know what’s going on by using analytic algorithms, and combining that with other digital security systems, including access control and video management. With some of the self-learning video analytics, facial recognition and other things, we are starting to analyze video with data algorithms, channelizing it, and using it as valuable input into HR and management solutions, even in manufacturing. You can get more efficiency. Video will become a valuable addition to daily operations and add value to the bottom line.
SS.com: What is Vicon’s part of that – an end-to-end solution, or what?
Fullerton: That’s the million dollar question. We are going to build cameras under the IQinVision brand, and have a full line of cameras. We will focus on where our core capabilities are – design and functionality. We will be outsourcing all manufacturing to China and other places that give us the right cost basis, and we will be adding our value at the high end of the camera. The camera line will be open and able to interoperate with other video management systems that we know today.
"We’ll have a plug-and-play
On the Vicon side, today we have a proprietary VMS, which is not what the market is asking for. The emergence of Milestone as an open platform company was because end users were looking for freedom of choice and to get out of proprietary jail. We will migrate our video management platform to an open platform. We’ll have a plug-and-play solution at the bottom to deliver what the people want at the low end – one to 60 cameras with limited functionality. At the mid-market we will have much more robust and functional NVRs with more storage for your larger installations. And then at the high end we will a VMS-type solution that is cloud-enabled. We will also have a cloud solution at the low-end, residential, mom-and-pop market, with video only, no integrations. Later we’ll develop a multi-tenant cloud system for video service providers (VSPs). Going to the cloud doesn’t mean you put the video in the cloud. It means you can get the video when you need to, but also get the information you need. There will be a lot of on-camera storage. Because you have the knowledge of what’s happening in the frames (using metadata), you can pull out the data from the cloud and then decide what part of the video you need to look at.
SS.com: How fast are you getting out of the analog business?
Fullerton: We’re not. The analog business will have a very long tail – the last 10 to 15 years has proven that. Yes, there is some erosion of margin because of commoditization. There are benefits of analog cameras – they’re robust, they work, you can pull the cable longer than an Ethernet cable. Because of the robustness and the pricing, and some of the features, we’ll see a long tail of analog for years to come.
SS.com: What impact do you see of these changes on dealer partners?
Fullerton: Being successful in the security industry is to understand how business is done and what end users want. One reason IT didn’t take over is that there is much better value than anybody realized in the guidance security dealers provide end users. I strongly believe business in the security industry is done by local people, and we will migrate as a combined company to a full two-tiered distribution model. We go through distribution and security integrators, and they will be the ones doing the business with the end user.
SS.com: How do you deal with preconceptions about your history as a company, and how do you re-educate the market about that?
Fullerton: In the security industry, if you look at the history of how it was built, and the old boy’s network, the shadow of what you do is very long. The interesting thing is that Vicon has had IP solutions for 14 years. Everybody thinks that Vicon is an analog company. Yes, we still sell analog cameras because there’s a need in the market. Vicon has been a proprietary company. I would say the biggest fault of the company has been to try to be proprietary when the market is going the other way. That’s the big change we will make. We will be announcing that, and driving PR to let everyone know the new Vicon is an open company that gives the end user the freedom of choice and also delivers on higher value.
SS.com: What is your message to the market?
Fullerton: We have a 4K camera, which has been our message at the ASIS 2014 show. The management team sat down last week and said “how are we going to drive this?” “What are our values going to be?” We looked at our vision and our mission. The vision is that we believe video will become the most important digital [resource] in a company, so it will add to the bottom line, not just surveillance. Our values are built around the acronym CIPIT – Customer orientation, Integrity, Passion, Innovation and Team effort.