Is ObjectVideo destined to be yesterday’s news in light of innovative competitors like ioimage, Mate and Vigilant? Maybe, but ObjectVideo still has a lot of fight left in it.

Consider the community college campus I visited recently. It is expansive, dotted with buildings, parking lots, outdoor common areas and athletic fields – all fun places for students, faculty and visitors to congregate, play and learn – and fall victim to assault. Muggings are not the only problem. Cars and property are vandalized and buildings – left open most of the day – are pillaged by visitors who have easy access to grounds, laboratories and classrooms.

Normally, my advice as a security expert would be to lock the doors, control traffic and distribute authentication and access credentials. The first question of security is “who are you?” so authentication controls are always the foundation of a security program. But in this case, with visitors and guests being the staple of the marketing and growth strategy for the community college, visitor badging would definitely inhibit business.

Attraction to Video Analytics

The new surveillance cameras installed last year have been helpful, but there are more cameras needed; and while budget for more surveillance technology is available, headcount to monitor the cameras is not. With more cameras to monitor than the current campus safety staff can manage, the school is turning to video analytics. Their hope is that analytics will permit the already stretched campus safety department to patrol the campus effectively, while a skeleton team at the safety office manages incident response.

The security executive on campus told me that a few years ago, when the first security cameras were installed, students complained, worrying about “big brother” and personal privacy. Now, however, with the crime rate creeping upward, the students and faculty are asking for more surveillance and video feeds that can be distributed to safety officers around the sprawling campus. It is a perfect recipe for the deployment of IP cameras and video analytics.

Flipping through the pages of trade magazines, a casual reader will come across some reference to ObjectVideo being in the video analytics business. Some months ago, the reader would probably have been broad-sided by flashy ads from ObjectVideo, but with the company cutting back on advertising that is less likely the case today. The fact remains, when surveying the video analytics landscape, most observers will note that analytics providers compare themselves to ObjectVideo.

But why? After all, most experts I speak to believe ObjectVideo does not have the best technology. Most customers I speak to have complaints about the cost. And most of the oldest ObjectVideo integrators I speak to have concerns about difficulties in deployment and configuration. Therefore, it is tempting to take a pass on ObjectVideo, and to call up, say, ioimage – a camera and analytics solution provider with high customer satisfaction ratings, state-of-the-art technology and happy resellers.

Keeping Up

What does ObjectVideo have to do to avoid becoming “yesterday’s solution?”

I think the answer lies in two strategies, the first of which ObjectVideo has already begun. But let’s look at the criticisms.

To hear the experts describe ObjectVideo, it is as though no one has been briefed on the product’s recent technological improvements. I fell into that category until recently. (Note to ObjectVideo: Do a better job of promoting technological advancements.) In fact, today ObjectVideo’s solution no longer relies entirely on the older architecture of central server plus video processing units for image processing, nor does an installation require heavy video streaming over cable in most cases. With the streamlined product re-design, the price for a full deployment has also come down.

Integrators who complain are commonly basing their opinions on the difficult technology and cumbersome configuration of previous versions. These integrators got burned and are still sore. But integrators who have signed up with ObjectVideo more recently don’t have the same complaints.

Customers who have strong negative opinions are often those being served by integrators who have not adopted ObjectVideo’s newest solutions, or more often, are expecting more functionality and performance from the system than it was intended to deliver.

Technology Improvements

So while each of the common complaints against the firm have merit, the company has notably improved on all fronts and cannot be dismissed as “old” or “bad” technology. On the other hand, innovators like ioimage set the bar pretty high, rapidly attracting resellers and customers and never suffering serious complaints. What is going to keep firms such as ObjectVideo from falling out of fashion?

Ioimage’s elegant integration at the hardware level is a differentiator today, to be sure. But someday the digital signal processor (DSP) in most edge devices will be powerful enough to run even crappy, inelegant code quickly. Moreover, technology does not sell itself – even really cool IP cameras with high end encoders like ioimage’s. So the OEM and reseller channel will determine the market leader – not the quality of the technology – and no one can deny that ObjectVideo has the largest reseller and OEM footprint.

It’s still holding a lot of cards and successfully fending off threats from more innovative challengers. But if you’ve ever watched Texas Hold’em, you know the game can change quickly and the cards may fail you. In my opinion, ObjectVideo needs to do more. It needs to find a higher level, communicate a loftier message of value centered on the entire eco-system of its partners. If it does this – if the company can elevate itself out of the technology arms race – it can maintain its brand dominance and perhaps win the really big deals that will allow it to grow. If it fails at creating this higher message, then the innovators will take bigger and more painful bites out of the “mind share” of the ObjectVideo brand.

The community college security executive will still likely favor ioimage over ObjectVideo because the ioimage reseller make the whole thing seem so easy and achievable. However, ObjectVideo is still an important company in the security industry, ever improving and learning from its mistakes, while also being the intelligent video company with the biggest bull’s-eye on its back.

SIDEBAR: Video Analytics Hot at ISC West

No surprise – it seemed like every one was displaying video analytics of some kind, ranging from decision-making built into a camera to centralized software to specialized systems at last month’s International Security Conference in Las Vegas.

Security Magazine’s Zalud’s Blog at covered news from ISC several times a day and there is video analytics content in its archives.

One Blog story covered specialized license plate recognition (LPR). Though this technology has been largely underused, recent price drops are turning LPR into a viable and powerful security tool for a wide range of applications. From parking access control to stolen vehicle identification, LPR combined with an IP video management solution can improve the safety and security of both streets and parking lots.

LPR is founded on optical character recognition (OCR), developed to recognize text within a scanned image. Combined with computer vision technology, automatic recognition of license plates is now a business-centric reality.

More information at Zalud’s Blog and on Security Magazine’s Web site