Interview with Arecont Vision's Scott Schafer at IFSEC 2015
Arecont Vision’s Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Scott Schafer, speaks on the commoditisation of video cameras at IFSEC 2015. He also speaks about how Arecont Vision’s multi-megapixel base technology, wide-dynamic range and low-light and day/night capabilities prove to be a real advantage within the security market.
Megapixel video and commoditisation of video cameras
Scott Schafer: Hi, Larry.
Larry Anderson: He is the Executive Vice President of Sales Marketing and Service, and we are going to have a little conversation about megapixel video.
Scott Schafer: Very good.
Larry Anderson: We hear a lot these days about commoditisation of video cameras. I'm wondering how is Arecont Vision dealing with that issue, and how is it positioning itself to compete in an age when cameras are commodities?
Scott Schafer: Arecont Vision was and is the leader in multi-megapixel technology. And we were really on the first stages of building the first, 2, 3, 5, 10 megapixel cameras that came to market. We were the first to do dual sensor day/night products and the first to do multi-sensor panoramic cameras like the ones that you see here. So the first to do an 8 Megapixel, a 12 Megapixel, a 20 and a 40. So we've only stayed on the leading edge of those technologies, bringing forward even more capabilities in the cameras. So the first thing I think was to bring the pixels forward. Always trying to find ways to develop and lead the market in multi-megapixel based technology. And then we got into wide dynamic range, and low light and day/nights capabilities that we thought were real advantages not only to our company but provided the solution set that the users were looking for as well.
"And because we own the base technology, we're able to do a number of things that others can't, because we control the design and through that, we're able to even do some things once we've released the product"
So with that, I think that those are the foundational elements. But if you look back to our architecture too, we developed everything in-house and, Larry, when you came to visit us you saw that. And because we own the base technology, we're able to do a number of things that other can't, because we control the design and through that, we're able to even do some things once we've released the product. We've got what's called an FPGA-based architecture or Field-Programmable Gate Arrays, and with that we're able to even provide upgrades to current technology for better color accuracy, frame rate improvements and those kind of things. We're able to grow and, I guess, protect the investment protection of the cameras that we've released.
Larry Anderson: Commoditisation doesn't relate to you because of the ways that you are differentiating in the market, would you say?
Scott Schafer: I think that's one of the things. Then when you look at, we provide the best cameras, right? But the platforms that are out there also are important to the overall solution. So the integration and service that we provide with these leading third party platforms is really key too. PSIA and ONVIF are great standards that the industry is rallying around and so are we, but the tighter integration, the feature utilisation of panoramic technology and higher megapixel count technology goes beyond what is available through ONVIF or PSIA. So working with those NVR and VMS partners is key to us. And being able to support our products with and through them is also a real differentiator.
Global market operations
Larry Anderson: Perfect, so you are a U.S company?
Scott Schafer: We are.
Larry Anderson: And you are operating in a global market place which is not that common these days. A lot of your products are made in the U.S.A or all of...
Scott Schafer: All of them.
Larry Anderson: All of your products are made in the U.S.A. So what are your secrets of global success and what can others learn from your success as a U.S. company and the global market?
"Working with NVR and VMS partners is key to us. And being able to support our products with and through them is also a real differentiator"
Scott Schafer: That's a really good one. The first thing is it's all about people when you get into a global business. First of all, our headquarters people have to act global too. When we get into the markets that we serve, we've got to act local but also be a global company too. So that means finding the talent in the local regions. Here in Europe we have UK-based people. We have people throughout Europe, and also throughout India and Middle East and Asia that aren't U.S citizens. They're in their own countries being the experts in Arecont Vision and leading our efforts there. So that's one thing. The other side would be building a global platform with global partners like we've talked about. Not only the underlying technologies that we build but also the VMS and NVR partners, and storage and network partners that we deal with are usually global. There are some local ones, some local platforms in Europe that we support or even local to the UK market that we support.
Then after that I think it's the channel partners too. A lot of the channel partners that we deal with are in the local markets, and we've got to be attuned to their needs. And some are multinational like us where they have local offices in these countries and we've got to team up with them as well. So it's a lot of work. And then we have a lot of global end users that are driving their business throughout their organisations, and we've got to be able to support them where they work and live as well.
Regarding the ever expanding megapixel count
Larry Anderson: In the megapixel arena, pixel counts seem to be going higher and higher. What's the impact that you see of the megapixel race, and when will we know that there are enough pixels? How many pixels will it really take before they are enough?
Scott Schafer: That's a really good question. In the earlier days of VGA and analog cameras, a lot of people thought that those 300,000 pixel cameras were really enough. And then what we found over time was that even though there is the ability to pan, tilt and zoom into a scene, pan, tilt, and zoom into an image that was already recorded was a superior way to do forensic analysis. So doing the first, 2, 3, 5 and 10 megapixel cameras from Arecont Vision, we found that people always had a desire to do more and they really wanted to be able even to do more zooming than what the earlier cameras were able to do. Then we decided, hey, with the multi-censor cameras or panoramics, we can do a whole scenes and then deliver 8 megapixels with four censors, so 2,2,2 and 2, and then we move to 12 which is 3, 3, 3 and 3, and then 20 which is 5,5,5 and 5, then up to 40.
"We have people throughout Europe, and also throughout India and Middle East and Asia that aren't U.S citizens. They're in their own countries being the experts in Arecont Vision and leading our efforts there"
So even with those, we find customers who wish they could even have more resolution at great frame rates to do the work that they need to get done. So I don't know that the race ever is over. I think that it's like the days of the PC. You always wanted more memory. You always wanted faster processing. You always wanted a smaller form factor. Look at the machine that you have here, right? I don't think those days will ever change. I think that the race goes on for a long time.
Larry Anderson: Yeah, is there a point at which there's no reason to get more megapixels because we are there or is the sky the limit?
Scott Schafer: I think that there are some applications where the camera is close enough to the scene that you wouldn't need more than 1080 let's say. But there are scenes like we're showing in the background here of parking lots, and warehouses, and distribution centres, and retail centres where they probably would like to even have more than 10 megapixel imagery at some time. So, yeah, I think that it just keeps going.
Future plans of Arecont Vision
Larry Anderson: What would you say is next of Arecont Vision?
Scott Schafer: Well, I think the strategy that we've deployed over time, the smaller formats, faster or smaller, faster, and less expensive is really the key. We keep driving costs down by shrinking down the size of our cameras, reducing the components, providing more performance through low light technologies, wide dynamic range technologies, improving color accuracy, improving frame rate, those kind of things. So we'll always be working on those items and trying to provide smaller formats so that people can use less space in order to deliver the world's best image quality.
Larry Anderson: Well, thanks a lot for spending some time with us. Good to see you.
Scott Schafer: Thanks, Larry.
Larry Anderson: Thanks a lot.
Scott Schafer: It's a pleasure.