Picture this: Instead of using video surveillance just to issue traffic citations, what if cities used traffic cameras to prevent traffic jams? What if retailers used security cameras not only to catch shoplifters but also to improve the customer experience? Video systems can even be used to let problem gamblers voluntarily blacklist themselves from a casino!
This is all becoming possible. But as an industry, we must ensure that citizens and users are comfortable with the use of video safety and security. Listen to this podcast to learn how video technology can be used for good, how new video applications are transforming industries, and the responsibility of systems integrators.
Our guest this episode is Thomas Jensen, CEO of Milestone Systems, a global leader in open-platform video management software. Thomas joined Milestone in 2020 after relocating from Spain to Denmark to become the company’s CEO. He says he was drawn to Milestone’s visionary and progressive company ethos. At Milestone, Thomas is working to advance data-driven video technology and deliver socially responsible video surveillance software across the globe.
Thomas answers our questions about:
- (4:31) Why video technology needs a human-first approach
- (5:17) The responsibility of systems integrators and video technology resellers
- (7:14) New opportunities and areas of improvement for systems integrators
- (8:50) How Milestone helps SIs succeed
- (14:50) The value of video surveillance technology partners
- (17:32) How to identify a good technology partner
- (21:25) New and unexpected ways video technology is being applied
- (25:14) How Milestone works to future-proof current technologies
- (26:11) The future of video technology and its role in society
To learn more about the future of video surveillance technology, read Getting the Big Picture on Video Technology and 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.
Transcript was edited by Christina Cardoza, Senior Editor for insight.tech.
Kenton Williston: Welcome to the IoT chat, where we explore the trends that matter for consultants, systems integrators, and end users.
I’m Kenton Williston, the Editor-in-Chief of insight.tech. Every episode we talk to a leading expert about the latest developments in the Internet of Things. Today I’m exploring the future of video safety and security with Thomas Jensen, CEO of Milestone Systems, a leader in video-management software.
In the past, video surveillance was mainly thought of as a way of protecting property, but now the use cases are exploding. Video is easing traffic congestion to reduce emissions. It’s detecting falls to help protect our elders. It’s monitoring shared spaces to avoid overcrowding for systems integrators.
The key to all of this innovation is finding the right ecosystem to support that innovation and to ensure that this technology is used responsibly. That’s why I’m so excited to hear from Thomas, who is passionate about taking a human-first approach to video technology. So, Thomas, welcome to the show. Really appreciate you joining us.
Thomas Jensen: Thanks a lot. My pleasure.
Kenton Williston: Let me start by getting a little information about Milestone and your role there.
Thomas Jensen: Yeah, absolutely. I’m the CEO of Milestone. I’ve been with the company since October last year. So, just passed my first-year mark. Milestone is a video-technology company. We produce video-management systems, which is a way of providing data-driven solutions—both within the security industry, but also beyond the security industry—based on video technology. What we provide to our customers is video data and the ability to see video data which we may not be able to capture in the moment with our eyes, with our various means of observing. Our product can deliver insights to what has happened in the past by pulling off historical video data. It can providereal-time data by watching live video. And in the future—with the utilization of all the new technological advancements we have—we will be able to provide prediction based on historical video data. So we would be able to also provide data-driven solutions that predict what will happen in the future. That’s Milestone in a nutshell.
Kenton Williston: Excellent. What brought you to the company so recently?
Thomas Jensen: Well, what brought me to the company was really the opportunity to lead a visionary and progressive company in a very important, yet also a very sensitive industry. When you look at it from a citizen’s perspective, nobody really likes video surveillance. What is important for Milestone is that we provide responsible video technologies so we as citizens and as users of video systems actually can feel comfortable with the technology.
In essence, there were three things that really brought me to Milestone. First and foremost, we are a company with a very strong culture and a foundation on focusing on people first—both when we look at our colleagues, but also when we look at our partner communities, as well as when we look at our customers. We really develop software. We drive our business with people in mind. Secondly, we take pride in acting responsibly—of course, from any elements of corporate governance, but also when it comes to the utilization of technology, and video technology in specifics, from our perspective. Because, as a technology company maneuvering in a field where there’s a lot of new advancements, it’s really important for us that we always put humankind ahead of what we do, and take responsibility for what we develop.
So, responsible technology is something that’s important for us—both how we produce it, how our partners sell it, and how our customers use it and consume it. And then, finally, what really brought me in here is that Milestone is a strong company with a technology foundation. And we genuinely believe that we can make a difference in the world and make our dent in the world based on video technology, and bringing advancement into how video technology is used in modern societies—both when it comes to the security industry, but absolutely also beyond security.
Kenton Williston: That’s really interesting. And, I think, a pretty unique perspective on the industry. Video has become so important everywhere, but, like you said, there’s a lot of complications that go with it. And I really like this vision of having a human-first approach.
Thomas Jensen: It’s one of the things that really brought me to Milestone, and I relocated from Spain to get to Denmark to take this position. So, from my personal perspective, 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 actually produce and use technology. And it’s not always that we are being perceived as such, as an industry. So I think we all hold that responsibility.
Kenton Williston: Yeah, absolutely. And, to that point, I imagine that a lot of times you are working with systems integrators and resellers and other folks like that to deliver solutions to the end customers. Do you find that the systems integrators you work with are really responding to these values? As well as the end customers, I suppose, for that matter.
Thomas Jensen: Well, I think there are a lot of things going on in the technology industry. I think most of the partners that I’ve met and the customers that I speak to have all—both the right values, but also the right aspirations. 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?”
And this also goes for our systems integrators and resellers at large. I think it’s important that once we have the right aspirations, we keep bringing our customers and our value creation in front of what we do. I’ve introduced something called Business Outcomes at Milestone, and Business Outcomes is really—every time we develop a new product, a new feature, or bring something to market—is to understand what is the outcome that this brings to our customers. We encourage our partners, including the systems integrators—our technology partners at large—to have that same approach, because there’s so many things we can do with modern technology, and in particular with video technology. And it’s important that we take that approach and just have the good intentions.
Kenton Williston: Yeah, totally makes sense. And, on that point, I think the opportunity space for video has changed a lot in the past few years. I’m thinking about things like the evolution of AI—being able to, to your earlier point, assess what’s happening in video streams in a way that human beings just can’t. And then, of course, just the basic elements of a system like video cameras gaining all kinds of new capabilities. You’re talking about Power over Ethernet, and 4K, and maybe even 5G-powered cameras. There’s so many things you can do now that were very difficult to do before. And what do you see as some of the business outcomes you were talking about, that are new and emerging as a result of some of these technologies?
Thomas Jensen: I can give you an example. If we completely disregard video and video surveillance, but start looking at what is it that we bring on top of the security part—you could take monitoring traffic patterns to manage the flow of traffic to prevent traffic jams, and therefore also reduce pollution in cities. Traditionally, you would look at video cameras on streets as either looking at speed control or red-light violations. In this case, utilizing sensor technology, AI, the collaborations we have with IoT providers and the strong technology partnership we have in general with Intel® and the likes—are really providing these additional solutions to the market. 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 would you use technology to improve the greater good for our customers and for our citizens.
Kenton Williston: Yeah, absolutely. I love the idea there. It’s not just about maintaining law and order or securing facilities, which are some of the traditional things people think about, but there are so many things you can do to actually make people’s lives better in very tangible ways. We were talking about, just a moment ago, that one of the ways that these business outcomes are actually delivered is through systems integrators. I could imagine that all these new opportunities could be a bit overwhelming for some of your partners in the systems integrator space. So, what do you think they could do to manage all of these new opportunities, and really gain new value for themselves and their customers?
Thomas Jensen: Well, I think both our systems integrators and ourselves and our other technology partners need to reinvent ourselves in how we approach our customers. Today we are selling video solutions primarily for safety and security. And, for instance, if we take cities, in the example I mentioned before, tomorrow we would be combining all the safety and security with traffic-management systems, analytics. Instead of just selling the various elements that provide that safety and security, we should be educating ourselves on what is it that actually makes a difference for our customers. For instance, we could move into analyzing and predicting traffic patterns that could lead to less congestion by utilizing video data to optimize that. But we could also use it 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 idle vehicles standing on the road. That would increase productivity gains for society.
And, on a personal note, I’m sure many of us would appreciate the opportunity to spend more time with our families rather than sitting in traffic jams on the roads. So, when you look at it as a systems integrator, that’s a completely different mindset. We need to start looking at what is it we are solving for our customers, rather than just sending whatever product we have at hand. There’s a reason they call it systems integrators—that is because they actually take a system or a solution and integrate it into the customer use case. But we need to ensure that we bring much more foresight into that process. We need to ensure that we have the right capabilities in our channel. That could be from understanding different verticalized needs, understanding different sets of use cases, and understanding how technology can be applied in a different way. So, from my perspective, systems integrators need to cross skill in the sense of understanding what is it that we could do for our customers, instead of just closing a project that is a copy of the project we did last week.
Kenton Williston: So that’s really interesting. And I totally get this idea about how valuable the business outcomes are, but, of course, at the same time, the technology that’s underneath really does matter. And I’d like to hear what kinds of expertise and experience systems integrators need in these underlying technologies to actually be able to get to those business outcomes.
Thomas Jensen: It’s a great question. And I think it really varies from solution to solution. First and foremost, we bring a lot of expertise to the table. At Milestone, we offer our customers access to our technology, to our stack, and to our experts around the board. And they work closely with our systems integrators. We have numbers of technology partnerships. We have a close partnership with Intel on how we can actually 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. So, for me, it’s almost swapping around the traditional view of selling products and implementing products, and rather looking at how can we demonstrate the capability of the solution.
It’s not enough to talk to customers about this; you need to be able to demonstrate the value. It can be very specialized. And for the reason of simplicity, let’s stay with the previous example about a system that can recognize specific patterns in traffic that could really lead to less congestion. This is where the SIs would really be able to leverage those close partnerships—both with Milestone, with Intel, and so forth. But, for instance, also using our video-management system, the systems integrators can really add dedicated solutions that have been developed and tested by specialty software teams, without necessarily having to have their own software developers on board. But they would, of course, need to understand—how do we integrate it? How do we apply it? And how do we then bring that value in front of the customers? So, back to business outcomes, that’s a conversation that we wouldexpect our systems integrators to have with our customers, and, reversely, also challenging ourselves and our technology partners on how can we continue to make that happen.
Kenton Williston: I noticed you’ve mentioned Intel a couple of times here, and in the interest of full disclosure, the insight.tech program in this podcast is a production of Intel. I’d like to hear, though, a little bit more about how you actually do work with Intel to bring these solutions to market and help systems integrators succeed with them.
Thomas Jensen: So, I’ll give you the very broad statement, because I would leave the specialized elements around how we integrate our software components into the Intel technology and the platforms. However, when we select partners and when we select core strategic partners like Intel, we look at what are the capabilities at hand to support new product development in new technology areas—which may either be underutilized today, or where we can actually create that value in front of the customers.
So we have continuous briefings and exchanges with the Intel team and the Milestone team. Our teams discuss very closely together how we can continue to develop our platform—both utilizing Intel technology, but also how we ensure that smooth interlink between those technologies that makes it easier for the systems integrators to really accelerate our business together.
Kenton Williston: Thank you. That makes a lot of sense. And, of course, you’ve got lots of other partners that you work with. Can you talk about some of the partners you have been working with? And, especially, ways you’ve been working with them to expand the uses and the capabilities of video systems.
Thomas Jensen: I’ll stay with the traffic-pattern example, because it is one of the most fascinating things I’ve seen. And we have a partner with whom we have collaborated in the US, and where we have an American city that is basically utilizing our technology together with the integrations and all of the API technology that our technology partners, together with our systems integrators, have developed to support their city infrastructure. One of the things that they realized very early on is that it’s very hard to intelligently predict traffic patterns, and to understand how is it that we can actually optimize the productivity of the city. With our technology, with the cameras mounted on the streets, they started addressing it, and accessing the traffic patterns—that could be north-south patterns or east-west patterns—looped it into the time stamps, and started analyzing all the elements that we could see from a day in the life of the city—understanding that there’s a huge difference in what the traffic movements are—how much traffic is going eastbound-westbound versus north-south during the morning hours and during the afternoon hours.
And what they actually were able to do was to reprogram all of the city traffic lights to follow the traffic patterns. So, if people are approaching the city from south and from west, then they have the ability to keep the green lights open for longer driving in that direction 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 the productivity in the society for the same reason. And, back to my previous example, we all get more time with our families. And, on top of that, especially in these environmentally conscious days, idle traffic generates pollution. So when we can reduce the amount of our traffic, we can also contribute to reducing the pollution from that traffic. So, all in all, that’s four great outcomes that video has never previously been part of solving.
Kenton Williston: That’s a really good point. And something that’s really coming to mind here, as I’m listening to you talk about how video is changing, and the ways it’s used are changing, is I keep hearing a lot about your partners and the importance that they have to Milestone. And I’m wondering, maybe we could take a step back, Thomas. Can you talk to me a little bit about, in a bigger picture, like, how you view the partnerships you have, and why they’re important?
Thomas Jensen: Absolutely, Kenton. And the thing is, partners for us is our foundation. It’s our entire business model. We do not do business with our partners for a couple of reasons. First of all, managing modern technology solutions is an extremely complicated task, and the stack that you would need to integrate in order just to do an entry solution for a customer built on business outcomes—that requires a lot of expertise, and to believe that we can be the jack of all trades and be able to do that seamlessly in all industries, in all use cases across the globe, would simply be naïve. So, for us, 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—that’s our systems integrators, our resellers, and so forth.
So, every business we do goes through partners. We have decided we will be experts in our field of the technology—that’s the data-driven video technology. It is within security, and beyond security. 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 can we ensure that collectively we provide the best end turn solutions, rather than believing it’s a one-man show.
Kenton Williston: There are, of course, a lot of companies you could partner with. So how do you identify who a good partner is? What do you look for in a company before you partner with them?
Thomas Jensen: Well, first and foremost, we obviously look at the capabilities. And capabilities—we are thinking both technologically, we are thinking visionary, and we are thinking commercially. But more importantly—and 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.
And that may seem logical and like a no-brainer. But the fact is that we have a habit in this industry to really be in love with our products and focus on products, rather than solutions and outcomes for our customers. So, our partner’s ability to think in business outcomes and deliver value creation and solutions for customers is equally important. We do not partner in order to take all of the pie. We do not partner to take the gain, and we do not partner to take all the credit in front of the customers. So, for us, through partnerships, it’s about a win-win approach.
We increasingly require our partners to act responsibly—both in how they produce, how they sell and integrate, and how they use the technology stacks that we offer to our customers. We believe that we have a responsibility to both our customers together with our partners to really create technology that benefits our customers and the societies which we are part of. So, those four areas—the capabilities, the ability to do business outcomes, win-win partnership, and responsibility—are really the core of our partner selection.
Kenton Williston: One of the things that I notice you keep talking about are the, kind of, new and unexpected ways these technologies are being applied. And it strikes me that for all the novel kinds of use cases we’ve been talking about already—like, not just managing traffic flow for the sake of issuing fines and tickets, but actually making people’s lives better—there are so many new ways that video is being applied. Are there some other areas you could highlight where you see video technology showing up that it wasn’t used before?
Thomas Jensen: Yeah, absolutely. And I mentioned traffic, so I’ll give that a rest for now. Let’s take a look at healthcare elements—like full detections, or the capability of providing doctors the opportunity to provide virtual consultations, which has been very important during the COVID-19 pandemic, is increasingly important. If we look more into the hospitality industry, and look at integrated resorts and casinos. Obviously casinos are all on video and securing their property—they have a huge cash equivalent going through the property on a daily basis. But we also use our technology, together with AI elements and analytics, to actually provide compulsory gamblers access to a voluntary blacklist. So we have use cases, for instance in Australia, where compulsory gamblers update it to get on the blacklist, because they know they have a challenge and they don’t want to get into that casino, even when they get the temptation.
Our video technology, together with our partners’ technology, is enabling those individuals that have a sincere wish to stay away from gambling not to get into the casino. And the casino is opting in as responsible customers of ours to provide them that option to stay away. If you take retail as a last example. Not just theft and burglary and so forth—no, it’s also about how do we make a customer flow optimization? How do we improve the customer experience for customers? So we can actually guide them through the shop, but also open more cashiers when we can see that customers are gathering in the aisle and wanting to exit and pay. So there’s a lot of elements there that are beyond just security. And it’s really a matter of how we apply that technology and think about what is it that really makes life easier or better or more prosperous for our customers.
Kenton Williston: So, those are really some powerful examples. And I have to say the example of the casino voluntary blacklist really speaks to me in particular, right? Because that’s something where the casino is definitely not making more money from that. I mean, it’s really just about benefiting the individual human beings who are involved, and treating them as valuable human beings. I really like that.
Thomas Jensen: I agree. And it was a favorite example when I heard about it, because it also shows that casinos are willing to step up and take the responsibility. However, I would also add in the healthcare example with full detection—there is a lot of discussion about how video can be used, for instance in elderly homes. And I’m sure we can all agree—none of us would like to have a camera pointed at our elderly citizens 24/7. However, by using our software together with sensor technology, without necessarily having video enabled you can have the full detection combined with heat sensors.
So you will actually be able to see if one of our elderly citizens would’ve tripped on the floor of their apartment, and you will be able to see, if there’s 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. And by having that with automatic alarms, nobody would sit and look at a video of our elderly citizens, but they would trigger an alarm based on movement sensors and heat sensors that would save lives, basically.
Kenton Williston: So, one question that comes to mind though, thinking about this—we’re talking about a lot of emerging applications, using different kinds of sensors beyond even video. How do you futureproof your technology to ensure that it can scale and adapt to all these new applications?
Thomas Jensen: It’s an interesting question. The cynics would probably say you can never futureproof technology. 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. So we keep challenging our own minds: what is it that we bring forward? And focusing on true business outcomes and customer value. So, really strong partnerships. 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. Challenging the status quo, and really focusing on business outcomes and customer value—that’s the three things we do. Technology moves very fast, so we have to keep the pace up.
Kenton Williston: And, speaking of time going by quickly, we’re getting near the end of our time together. So I’d like to give you an opportunity, Thomas, to give me sort of your big-picture vision of where the future of video technology is heading, and where you see Milestone playing a role.
Thomas: I will actually finish where I started, because our aspiration at Milestone is really to support our societies to make the world see. And I mentioned the ability to use video technology historically to understand what has happened, or to use live video feeds to understand in real time what it is that’s going on and react accordingly.
And in the future, 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, that can actually see—based on traffic patterns of what happens in real time now—that there is an accident that is bound to happen within the next five minutes, and thereby activate their red-light signals so we can avoid these things happening. That’s what future technology and video technology can really bring forward. And, for us, we honestly and genuinely believe that both technology and video technology in particular should serve humanity, and 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—it is data-driven application of our technology, of our platforms, in a responsible way.
Kenton Williston: Excellent. Well, I’m very excited to see where this all goes next. So, with that, let me just say, thank you again for joining us today.
Thomas Jensen: My pleasure. Thank you.
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