Milestone Systems’ sustained growth during its first 15 years has to be attributed to our introducing the open platform approach to the security industry. By allowing other companies and developers to add functionality to Milestone’s software and supporting the widest choices of servers and cameras, our open platform has had a radical effect on the security industry. Milestone’s open platform concept has attracted over 7,000 partners around the world, and within the span of just a few years quickly became the foundation for a thriving business ecosystem.
Milestone’s open platform has created the freedom for both partners and customers to select their own video system components and to create, define and tweak solutions to suit their security needs. Not only was Milestone one of the visionary companies in the shift from analog to digital but our introduction of the open platform has paved the way for new ways of thinking about using surveillance video.
For the surveillance industry, the decision to “go open” has motivated a series of developments that mark three distinct phases in its growth.
The first phase: IP video technology
When Milestone started up in 1998, the video surveillance market was 100% analog. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) was synonymous with video surveillance, and even though the concept has changed a lot since then, most people today still think of analog video when they think of video surveillance. Video surveillance is a tool to view and record video images, and the general public generally sees it as being used in security only.
With the advent of the digital revolution and the drop in price of digital storage, the shift towards digital video surveillance became certain. Digital images were clearer, storage media were getting smaller and video compression improved dramatically. Digital files could be moved much easier, footage could be found much quicker (no more spooling tapes back and forth) and long-term storage had no effect on image quality. It was the way to the future. For many there were clear advantages in purchasing a digital video solution, but in practical terms it was not much different from analog in the way it was used. It was still basically a security tool.
The second phase: video integration
The Internet brought with it a new electronic infrastructure that made Internet Protocol (IP) applications like email, instant messaging, peer-to-peer file sharing and Voice over IP (VoIP) widely available. Digital video was soon added to this list, and saw application in video conferencing and, of course, video surveillance.
The main advantage of networked applications was that they were programmable, and this opened up a range of other benefits. These typically included better user experiences, network visibility and control, better access to data and development advantages, notably in the form of tailor-made video integrations.
One can program a simple IP network to give a building administrator an overview of controllable doors or gates in a building, so they can be locked and unlocked remotely. However, by integrating surveillance video with this existing network, access control can be given a higher level of sophistication and efficiency, by combining it with possible security-related evidence or by ultimately automating the access procedure through the use of video content analysis – face recognition in this case.
With Milestone’s introduction of the open platform standard, it was soon apparent that innovations in this area were going to be driven by the Milestone partner alliances. Our innovative partner ecosystem was the driving force in identifying customer requirements and creating distinctive and revolutionary video integrations.
The third phase: video enabling
It was clear that video integration with other IP-based systems was going to change the face of video surveillance. While new video integrations were a natural result of a growing and diversifying partner ecosystem, Milestone recognized the new definitions that networked video was beginning to offer to the world of video surveillance. Companies were beginning to adapt their existing video solutions for other uses, for purposes that optimized and improved their businesses processes.
Video enabling is to video surveillance what the smartphone is to the telephone: it is an added set of functionalities that surpasses the original concept. We no longer use phones only to make calls; we use them to take photos, record video and audio, surf the Internet and play games – and third parties are constantly adding new applications to make the user’s smartphone experience so much more rewarding.
Video enabling simply means that video surveillance has shifted into a new paradigm of usability and application. This is because of the unique combination of network programmability and the extensive partner ecosystem made possible by the open platform standard.
For Milestone, the recognition of these new possibilities is not a passive one; it is a motivation to mobilize a greater awareness of video integration’s scope. It is a call to action to partners and customers alike that video enabling – the optimization of business processes through video – is the way forward. It is not a move away from security, but rather an addition of function to that of traditional asset-protection and loss prevention. The amount of revenue-generating potential inherent in video enabling is a ‘win-win-win’ for vendors, partners and the customers.
There are a number of possible ways in which companies can video-enable their businesses. Here are just a few:
- Workers can be monitored to enforce protective clothing and safety equipment or procedures, preventing loss due to fire, chemicals, accidents and injury.
- Prevent queuing at point-of-sale locations by notifying when extra personnel are needed.
- Alert maintenance crews to impending structural failures in buildings and vehicles.
- Retailers use video to track traffic patterns, measure the effectiveness of displays and other merchandising strategies, and devise ways to increase sales or visits.
One retail chain in Ireland initially had a video solution installed to keep an eye on their parking lot. They realized that they could adapt it with the use of video content analysis, to send an alert to the store when someone parked in the disabled persons’ bay. A mobility chair could then be made immediately available, providing improved customer service.
In the same vein, a vegetable farm in the U.S. used their video installation for more than security (which was integrated with their access control system) to also optimize the timing of harvesting trucks, cutting down queuing time, ensuring the shortest amount of time spent between picking and delivery – and thereby delivering a better quality product.
According to a 2012 Loss Prevention Research Council report, in the category of Video for Sales, Marketing and Operational Efficiency, “of the retailers who use IP-based video systems for cross-functional benefits outside of security and loss prevention, 93 percent have seen a positive impact on operations, while 40 percent have seen a positive impact on merchandising,” and “nearly one quarter named ‘integration with business intelligent video, such as analytics and POS integration’ as a main driver for adopting a network/IP system”. These are significant numbers, and an indication that the retail sector, for one, is making giant strides in adopting video-enabling solutions.
Milestone’s vision is “to drive the convergence of video surveillance and IP-based systems”. This is not only an open acknowledgement of the new direction that video surveillance is taking; it is an assumption of initiative and a rallying call to lead the security industry toward video enabling and optimized business processes.
by Lars Thinggaard, President & CEO, Milestone Systems