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Getting the Big Picture on Video Technology
We’ve become used to seeing video surveillance technology in retail settings, attached to traffic lights, and even trained on urban sidewalks. But the opportunity space for video is going beyond just protecting property and issuing fines. Video can make people’s lives better in a tangible way—from easing traffic congestion to helping the elderly.
We talk to Thomas Jensen, CEO of Milestone Systems, a leader in video management software, about exploring the use cases beyond property surveillance. He’ll discuss the importance of working with the right kind of partner company, as well as the future for predictive video, and taking a human-first approach to video technology.
Where does Milestone land in the video-technology space?
Milestone produces video-management systems—which is a way of providing data-driven solutions based on video technology—within the security industry, but also beyond the security industry. What we provide to our customers is video data, and the ability to see video data that people may not be able to capture in the moment with their eyes.
Our product can deliver insights into the past by pulling from historical video data. It can provide real-time data by watching live video. And—with the utilization of all the new technological advancements we have—in the future we will be able to provide predictions based on historical video data.
When you look at it from a citizen’s perspective, nobody really likes video surveillance. We provide responsible video technologies, so that we as citizens and as users of video systems can feel comfortable with the technology. We take pride in acting responsibly—of course, in regard to corporate governance. But also, when it comes to the utilization of technology, and video technology in particular. Because as a technology company maneuvering in a field where there are a lot of new advancements, it’s important for us that we always put humankind ahead of what we do and take responsibility for what we develop.
We are a company with a very strong culture and foundation of focusing on people first—when we look at our colleagues, when we look at our partner communities, as well as when we look at our customers.
I think technology companies hold a great responsibility for the future, and we need to live up to the trust that our customers and our societies vest in us in how we produce and use technology. And, as an industry, we are not always perceived as being willing to do that.
How are the systems integrators you work with responding to these values?
We, as an industry, have a challenge. We very often fall in love with our own products and solutions. And we have that perception that our product is—if not God’s gift to mankind, then at least it is our gift to our customers. Whereas our customers are really looking at: “What does that product do for me? What value does it create in my business?”
I think it’s important that we keep putting our customers and our value creation in front of what we do. I’ve introduced something called Business Outcomes at Milestone—every time we develop a new product, a new feature, or bring something to market—we need to understand what outcome it will bring to our customers. We encourage our partners, including the systems integrators and our technology partners at large, to have that same approach.
What are some emerging business outcomes we can expect from this space?
Today we are selling video solutions primarily for safety and security. But we could start looking at what we can put on top of the security part. For example, you could monitor traffic patterns. Traditionally, you would only use video cameras on streets to either look at speed control or red-light violations. But tomorrow we would be combining safety and security with traffic-management systems and analytics. We could use video data intelligently to redirect the traffic onto alternate roads to avoid traffic jams, and to thereby also avoid the pollution that typically happens when you have a lot of vehicles idling on the road. That would also increase productivity for society.
Instead of just selling the various elements that provide safety and security, we should be educating ourselves on what it is that actually makes a difference for our customers. So you can start seeing use cases or business outcomes that are not just about managing traffic speed or issuing fines, but actually optimizing how you could use technology to improve the greater good for our customers and our citizens.
What do systems integrators need to do to get to these business outcomes?
At Milestone we offer our customers access to our technology, to our stack, and to our experts across the board. We have a number of technology partnerships that work closely with our systems integrators. We also have a close partnership with Intel to help bring more of these elements to market on an ongoing basis.
That doesn’t mean that the systems integrators shouldn’t understand the technology they’re selling, but they should really first and foremost understand the customers, and the value that they bring to the customers. For me, it’s almost a swapping around of the traditional view of selling products and implementing products, and instead looking at how we can demonstrate the capability of the solution.
Can you talk about how you view the partnerships you have?
We have decided that we will be experts in our field of technology—data-driven video technology. And we want to work with the right partners that want to bring that vision to life—both in terms of the technology side, but also in terms of bringing that value to our joint customers. It’s also about how we can ensure that, collectively, we provide the best end turn solutions, rather than believing it’s a one-man show.
So we have two types of partners. We have our technology partners, with whom we integrate our solutions through our open-platform technology—with APIs, with drivers, and so forth. And then we have the partners that are actually creating and bringing that value to life for our customers—our systems integrators, our resellers, and so forth.
“We honestly and genuinely believe that #technology—and #video technology in particular—should serve humanity, not the other way around.” —Thomas Jensen, CEO of @milestonesys via @insightdottech
With partner companies, we obviously look at their capabilities—in terms of technology, in terms of vision, and in terms of commercial capabilities. But more importantly, it’s becoming increasingly visible to us that the true partners for us are the ones that can visualize the business outcomes or the value creation, over mere products.
We increasingly require our partners to act responsibly—in how they produce, in how they sell and integrate, and in how they use the technology stacks that we offer to our customers. We believe that we have a responsibility to really create technology that benefits both our customers and the societies we are part of. So, those four areas—the capabilities, the ability to do business outcomes, win-win partnerships, and responsibility—are really the core of our partner selection.
How do you work with partners like Intel® to bring solutions to market?
When we select partners, and core strategic partners like Intel®, we look at what capabilities are at hand to support new product development in new technology areas. And these may be areas that are underutilized today, or areas where we can actually create that value in front of the customers.
So we have continuous briefings and exchanges between the Intel team and the Milestone team. Our teams discuss very closely how we can continue to develop our platform utilizing Intel technology, but also ensuring that smooth interlink between the technologies that makes it easier for the systems integrators to really accelerate our business together.
How have you been working with partners to expand the uses and capabilities of video systems?
We have partnered with an American city on their traffic situation. One of the things that they realized early on is that it’s very hard to intelligently predict traffic patterns. With our technology—with the cameras mounted on the streets—they started being able to address this and to access the traffic patterns. They looped it in to the time stamps, and started analyzing all the elements that could be seen from a day in the life of the city—such as understanding that there’s a huge difference in what the traffic movements are. For instance, how much traffic is going eastbound-westbound versus north-south during the morning hours and during the afternoon hours.
And what they were able to do was to reprogram all of the city traffic lights to follow the traffic patterns. If people are mostly approaching the city from the south and the west in the morning, then the city has the ability to keep the green lights open for longer for people driving in those directions during the morning hours, and reverse it in the afternoon hours.
The outcome for the city is, of course, that rush hour peaks become shorter—we are minimizing the time that our citizens are spending on the road. We are also increasing productivity in the society for the same reason. And, on top of that, especially in these environmentally conscious days, idle traffic generates pollution. So when we can reduce the amount of traffic, we can also contribute to reducing the pollution from that traffic. So, all in all, those are several great outcomes that video has never previously been part of solving.
What are some other areas where you see video technology showing up in new ways?
Let’s take a look at healthcare—like providing doctors the opportunity to provide virtual consultations, which has been very important during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is also a lot of discussion about how video can be used in homes for the elderly. I’m sure we can all agree that none of us would like to have a camera pointed at our elderly citizens 24/7. However, by using our software together with heat sensor technology, without necessarily having video enabled you can have full detection.
So if an elderly person tripped on the floor of their apartment, you will be able to see—with a heat signal—is it just somebody tying a shoelace, or is it actually somebody that had a heart attack? And in this case, two minutes can really matter. Nobody would sit and look at a video of our elderly citizens, but it would trigger an automatic alarm based on movement sensors and heat sensors that would save lives, basically.
Take retail as another example. Not just theft and burglary and so forth—it’s also about optimizing customer flow. How do we improve the customer experience? We can actually guide customers through the shop, and also open more cashiers when we can see that people are gathering in the aisle and wanting to exit and pay. So there are a lot of elements there that are beyond just security. It’s really a matter of how we apply that technology, and thinking about what it is that really makes life easier or better or more prosperous for our customers.
What is your big-picture vision of where the future of video technology is heading?
Our aspiration at Milestone is really to support societies to make the world see. And by utilizing new technologies—like artificial intelligence, machine learning, sensor technology, and so forth—to actually use historic and real-time data to predict what will happen in the future.
Imagine that video technology—going back to my traffic example—can actually see, based on traffic patterns of what is happening in real time, that there is an accident that is bound to happen within the next five minutes. Imagine that it can thereby activate red-light signals so we can avoid this thing happening. That’s what future technology and video technology can really bring forward.
And, for us, we honestly and genuinely believe that technology—and video technology in particular—should serve humanity, not the other way around. Of course we like to turn a profit. That’s why we exist. But we actually believe that acting responsibly and putting people first in what we do—that’s really good for business. So, for us, the future of visual technology is data-driven application of our technology, of our platforms, in a responsible way.
We have to continue challenging the status quo. And one of the ways we’ve done it is by saying: “We develop a product, but we are selling a solution.” We know that we can’t know it all, but we know that the technology is moving so fast that if we look to the right partners, we will ride that wave.
To learn more about the future of video surveillance technology, listen to the podcast Human-First Video Surveillance with Milestone, and read Safety and Security Trends: How SIs Succeed. For the latest innovations from Milestone Systems, follow them on Twitter at @milestonesys and on LinkedIn at Milestone Systems.
This transcript was edited by Christina Cardoza, Senior Editor for insight.tech.