Opening up about Milestone and video management software
Tim Compston interviews Peter Biltsted, the director for the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, for Denmark-based Milestone Systems, which is perhaps best known for its open platform XProtect VMS solution.
Peter Biltsted’s association with Milestone Systems – a leading player in open platform IP video management software – stretches back a long way, in fact over a decade-and-a-half, to 2000 when he first joined in the role of sales manager for APAC and MEA. Fast forward to today and Biltsted is a well-respected figure in the security industry holding, as he does, the post of Milestone’s Director for the MEA (Middle East and Africa).
When we speak, one of the first things that Biltsted is keen to flag-up to me is the forty percent plus year-on-year growth rate that Milestone has posted for the MEA region. Asked what he attributes this impressive statistic to, Biltsted replies that Milestone is really starting to make in-roads into some large accounts across the public and transportation sectors. He reckons that the company’s ‘open platform’ proposition is definitely a pivotal factor which is coming in to play here: “Each vertical market has their own unique type of products [e.g. video analytics] that they want to integrate and, as an open platform provider, we are well placed to operate in each of those segments with our ecosystem partners’ specialities.”
A stable platform
Alongside this, he claims, another differentiator for Milestone is centred round the high level of stability in the XProtect platform. Although stability is vital wherever video surveillance solutions are employed, Biltsted stresses that this is even more of a consideration given the unique regulatory environment in the Middle East: “You have to understand that this region is different from anywhere else in the world. In the UAE – and other places – you have surveillance laws where they can dictate how many cameras you have, the camera resolution, how many days to record for, and so on, and at the same time if you don’t follow these laws there is a punishment. Should you lose images and if your system isn’t capable of recording what you have been asked to do you get fined.”
Cost of ownership
As we continue our discussion, talk turns to the value of looking at the total cost of ownership of a video surveillance solution, rather than simply the up-front cost: “On the utilisation of hardware most of the time we can run between 40 to 60 per cent more cameras on the same hardware unit than a lot of our competitors because we actually spend considerable time developing better efficiency and the total cost of ownership. If we put 60 per cent more cameras on for a customer then we end up being less costly adding hardware, even though our software might be five or 10 per cent more expensive. In an environment like the Middle East extra servers, extra equipment, also require more UPSs (Uninterruptible Power Supplies), more cooling and bigger racks,” he explains.
Biltsted is keen to single out a project which Milestone competed for and won recently, which he says, serves to illustrate his ‘cost of ownership’ point: “We were bidding for a one thousand camera project and we ended up having to install 22 servers to manage the cameras whereas our competitor went in with 81 units.” Even if the initial investment here is comparable the difference, says Biltsted, soon becomes evident when you factor in the total cost of ownership after every year of having to cool 81 versus 22 units, plus the power and all the other things that come with that.
Of course any conversation about recent developments for Milestone wouldn’t be complete without touching on perhaps the biggest shake-up to the company’s status since it was founded. Specifically this was the June 2014 announcement that revealed to the world that the, up-to-that point, independent provider was being acquired by Japanese electronics giant Canon. At the time Canon and Milestone said that the move made perfect sense for both parties given their complementary expertise, Canon with its innovative imaging technology and Milestone with its proven track record of video management software development.
So what sort of fallout has Biltsted seen in the MEA region post-acquisition, especially as this was a path that many in the industry hadn’t necessarily expected Milestone to take? According to Biltsted, the experience has been pretty positive a year-and-a-half on. Of course some of the company’s competitors, he laments, in the early days sought to gain capital by putting a negative spin on the Canon takeover: “They were saying that we [Milestone] were no longer the same, no longer independent.” However he feels that, despite the naysayers, things are definitely moving in the right direction: “Being part of a strong financial group shows, for example, that we are here to stay and I think that since the Canon takeover we have proven that we are in many ways still an ‘independent’ company.”
The proof of a continued independent spirit, concludes Biltsted, is that Milestone remains committed to working closely with multiple vendors: “This is on the camera side and all the other things as well. In fact we have actually been expanding our ecosystem partners [MEA] over the past year.”