Jos Beernink, Director Channel Sales, Milestone Systems, speaks to Anita Joseph about how Artificial Intelligence is a gamechanger, being leveraged to process much more data in much less time, how the safety and security market is growing exponentially and how it will be a while before AI can replace human capabilities.
Tell us more about your company. How has Artificial Intelligence helped to consolidate your market presence and keep abreast of trends?
Milestone Systems is a leading provider of open platform video management software (VMS); technology that helps the world see how to ensure safety, protect assets and increase business efficiency. With its open platform approach, Milestone Systems is making innovations easily available to buyers – integrators, consultants and end-customers – enabling the industry to build intelligent solutions together and expand their reach. AI is delivered to our customers through our vast partner community, enabling customers to choose market leading solutions that fit exactly their needs.
We do believe that AI becomes a real gamechanger (if not already). AI systems can analyze massive amounts of data, which is very beneficial for reviewing hours of surveillance footage for example. By learning how objects move and what they look like, the AI applications can rank the data and make decisions based on it. Machine learning and artificial intelligence as provided by our partners, assist by analyzing data that has not been organized or labeled in advance, finding discernable patterns and helping to search for unknown output to solve problems.
What are some of the new age, cutting edge products and services that you provide?
Based on a true open platform, XProtect VMS enables integration with the industry’s widest choice in cameras and best-in-class business solutions, such as access control and video analytics. Milestone XProtect VMS supports more than 8,000 cameras and a vast number of hardware devices and is powerful, reliable, easy to use and proven in more than 150,000 installations worldwide.
By expanding our platform thinking, Milestone effectively acts as an ‘orchestrator’ in our business community and in the overall physical security industry. Through the recently launched Marketplace, we bring together companies who are brilliant in their respective fields and make it easy for them to work together to create pioneering solutions for the customer. We provide the environment for that to occur and work closely with them to ensure that the result is useful and effective.
How has AI helped to reshape and reinvent your product portfolio? What are the major differences in the pre and post AI phase?
The most basic definition of AI is the ability for a machine to learn on its own. The expectations are that it would provide actionable results and potentially even take intelligent action based on those results. Manufacturers in the security industry are fairly astute and aware of AI, its subtleties, and the applications thereof. After all, they need to be thinking not about technology today, but innovating the technology of tomorrow. Milestone believes intelligence has a huge role in that.
It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and consider anything “smart” as AI. To date, in our industry, most analytics are smart, not intelligent – meaning they can analyze video and conclude some fairly amazing things. However, most are simply algorithmic and not necessarily learning anything new over time.
It will be quite some time before AI has the potential to replace the capabilities of the average security industry end user. The more likely scenario is that AI will be leveraged to process much more data in much less time, empowering end users to make much better decisions more quickly.
In a post-event scenario (i.e. investigative forensics), speed has the potential to matter substantially. In a pre-event scenario (i.e. prevention), more data from more sources provides more intelligent decision-making regarding potential events. We still need people in the AI equation; we just want to give them better data with which to make their decisions. Today security officers are challenged and asked to constantly ‘do more’ with less budget. Milestone can offer great tools to contribute to that, as AI and machine learning start to play a significant role within our platform.
How would you describe the growth of the safety and security sector in the MENA region today? What has changed?
Generally, we see strong growth potential in the MENA region. Recent market figures released by 6W Research estimates that the Middle East market for commercial security will reach US$ 7,4 billion by 2024 achieving a sustained CAGR of 16,6%. (International Security Journal, JULY 2019)
Milestone Systems is well established in the market with a fast-growing team. The UAE early recognized the value of surveillance technology and is a well-regulated, relatively mature market. We see that the projects tend to be large and our local expertise means many projects are growing with us across countries as businesses expand.
The African continent covers diverse and vastly different markets. We have been established in South Africa several years and see our business take off in many areas, especially in North-Africa.
How receptive has the MENA region, especially the UAE been, to new technological trends and developments?
We find the UAE has been leading the adaptation of new technological trends and developments in the region. At a national level an example of this is the recent launch of a National Cybersecurity Strategy, with the aim to create a safe and resilient cyber infrastructure in the UAE following the EU GDPR initiative. From a business perspective we see a rising demand for bringing AI and business analytics into the projects, which we can deliver thanks to a strong partner base that integrate market leading solutions to our VMS.
What is your market strategy in this AI era? How do you plan to differentiate yourself from competition?
Milestone early identified the value of partnerships and we extended this approach to our entire business model, creating the partner community that has been the driving force of our success. Today, Milestone’s open platform community is a network of over 10,000 resellers and integrators who integrate their products and applications with Milestone Systems’ video software platform. Our solutions are available in most countries around the world, with regional offices and sales representatives in more than 25 countries.
We are also investing significantly in our development teams and will increase innovation capacity by 45 % by year-end 2019 to deliver on our promise to develop unique innovations that will meet future market demands in six key long-term innovation areas. The objectives of this investment are to increase development capacity of disruptive innovations within deep driver integration, advanced rendering, IoT and metadata sources, online services, advanced data management and Milestone Systems’ platform software development kit (SDK). It is our aim that this will accelerate Milestone System’s leading position in enabling the processing of video and data from solution partners who use neural networks, deep learning and AI technologies.
“Market trends are changing at accelerated rates towards device aggregation, artificial intelligence and visual intelligence augmentation. By increasing our development capacity within these disruptive innovation areas, Milestone Systems will enable our partners with new market growth opportunities,” said Jos Beernink, Milestone Systems.
What is the future of the safety and security sector going to be like? Where is it headed?
The global video management industry is seeing innovation like never before, creating new opportunities that transform the way video management technology is used – not only to protect people and assets, but also to help optimize business and improve the way people live and work.
According to The World Economic Forum, more than one trillion sensors will be connected to the Internet by 2022. Alongside the development of these market trends, the demands for smart solutions and machine learning technologies increase. Executives expect Internet of Things (IoT) and AI to bring about the biggest change; 73% say they are investing in IoT and 54% in AI (PwC Global Digital IQ Survey). As part of the long-term innovation investment, Milestone Systems will partner with leading technology companies on the development of Imaging of Things frameworks to connect, aggregate and secure the ecosystem of IoT devices and frameworks.
Milestone Systems wants to be part of every video installation in the world. To do this, we must be able, to offer the most innovative Video Technology Platform which can enable our partners to address the wide range of challenges that our end-customers are facing. We want to push our technology beyond security in areas such as smart buildings and cities where our video technology can play a vital role.