Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
November 21, 2014

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Mobile access series #1: What you need to know

Roundtable with MOBOTIX CEO Klaus Gesmann: Part One – Decentralised VMS and Eschewing an Open Platform

IFSEC Global visited German surveillance innovator MOBOTIX in its rural Kaiserslauten HQ for a tour of its production facility and a roundtable discussion between journalists – including myself – and its new CEO, Klaus Gesmann – a truncated transcription of which you can read below.

Klaus Gesmann began his career as chair of Business Information Systems and Operations Research at the University of Kaiserslauten before embarking on a two-year stint as MD at the Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) Kaiserslautern.

Gesmann, who has also previously been CFO for software company TECMATH/Blue Order AG, was invited to join MOBOTIX after a two-year sabbatical to raise his two children, becoming CFO in 2013 and CEO in February 2014.

Discussing the company’s security misgivings over open platform technology and it’s unusual approach to distribution, Gesmann was refreshingly frank about the company’s mistakes as well as its strengths in our discussion below.

Headquarter LangmeilQuestion: Could you please give us a brief overview of your market position around Europe and the world?

Klaus Gesmann: An IHS research study gives MOBOTIX a market share of around 5-6% in the overall market for CCTV.  If we want to differentiate I would see us as a bit stronger in the high resolution area.

Our competition are companies like AXIS, like Hickvision, like Avigilon and so on.

Question: What are your strengths compared to those competitors would you say?

KG: We are completely, more or less, focused on the so-called decentralised concept [according to its website: “Unlike other systems […] a high-speed computer and if necessary, digital long-term memory (MicroSD Card) is built into every camera, providing several days of recording time. The PC and the video control center now serve only for viewing and controlling the cameras (PTZ), not for analysis or recording. This makes it unnecessary to purchase expensive video management software, as the most important and computer-intensive functions are already integrated in the MOBOTIX cameras.”]

If you look at our hardware and so on, the competition will increase over time and we will see Asian competitors who can produce that kind of stuff at a very low price, and we will get price pressure.

So we really have to take care of that. What will be the future in five to 10 years? What will be the differential of that?  I would say it will be – as in many products  – the logic, the intelligence behind the product.

Our cameras are centralised for a purpose.  We have launched the five megapixel series. We will go into six megapixel sensors and we will increase light sensitivity.

The next step for MOBOTIX is to increase the performance of our computers on all our central bases, which will give us higher frame rates. From the hardware side we are close to an end. No doubt, there will always be development but with regards to light sensitivity and frame rates and so on, we will make the next step within the next 12 months.

But then this new platform will give us the possibility to put more logic, more intelligence into our cameras – decentralised.

Plus, a huge development: we are actually making a new video management system. That is more outside of the decentralised concept, but software means reinvention of software on one side and the software we have on board the cameras in the future.

MOBOTIX thermal

The M15-D Thermal Camera in action

Question: Have you considered opening up your cameras, so other parties can develop software for your cameras?

KG: Actually we do have an app for accessing our cameras from anywhere in the world. One of the advantages of that solution is, again, the decentralised concept, because if you have only a low bandwidth you can tell your camera “I only have low bandwidth so give me a lower resolution image.”

I don’t think we have a huge range of apps. Our idea is to have, I would say, one point of access to more or less all our cameras, for example in the home automation area. Then you can log on with all your devices through the home automation server.  You can access it and get the same functionality you have at home on your device.

Question: But could you install apps within the camera, for example if you want a special filter to filter out things before you send the image?

KG: No we haven’t. We have discussed it several times, but so far we have no app store for our cameras.  The processes the cameras are running are very critical – it’s a security camera.

We know that some of our competitors have opened up their platform to those apps, so we will wait for a security leak…

I have heard about cameras in Asia that have installed heartbleed bugs so, we are a little bit conservative on that topic. But there is no reason we could not do that.

We are running LINUX systems so there is no technical problem, except the security issues. Maybe next year we will do it.

Question: Do you expose your APIs to third parties? 

KG: Yes we have many. We have a software development kit you can download on our website, we have documentation where all our APIs are documented.

Of course you need some basic knowledge of software development, but I would say a skilled engineer can integrate a MOBOTIX  camera within 15 minutes.

Question: What are your plans in terms of growth for the UK market and the wider European market?

KG: That is difficult for me to answer because MOBOTIX is a listed company.

The market we’re in is growing, I would say at two digits at least. We haven’t grown in two digits – last year we had an increase of 6%.

This year we issued a warning to our investors that for the first time in our history MOBOTIX  has had a decline in revenue, by close to 10%.  My general statement is that MOBOTIX is – at least with its technology –is good for two digits and that is what I’m working for day in, day out.

The MX LEO reduces motion blurring

The MX LEO reduces motion blurring

We want to go back to that kind of growth – and I definitely see the potential for that.

There is a lot of work to do to come back to that, no doubt, but we are preparing the organisation, preparing new products and forefront innovations which will bring us back.

Generally speaking, we are focusing on two main areas: sales and the sales organisation, and product development.  A lot if exciting things will come out of the next few weeks.

We are doing a lot of so-called NPCs [national partner conferences] and IPCs [international partner conferences] – national and international partner conferences – as one of our major sales tools. We got very positive feedback from the guys who attended.

From the product development side I would say we are in an excellent position. Over the last 12 months we have hired about 19 additional people in the sales team, because there are some areas around the globe where we are not present which we can conquer successfully I think.

Question: To sell products, the first thing you have actually got to do is sell the distributed system approach, because you are going into a market where there is traditionally, for all the wrong reasons, a centralised approach.  So the first thing you have actually got to do is sell that philosophy of what you are doing, before you sell the product.

KG: I totally agree.  That is why we are extensively using the MPCs and IPCs.

For us it is very important to get two steps to distribution. First of all, we are looking for the best distributors in a country, then for a lot of so-called two-tier partners, system integrators and so on.

The first step is to convince them of the decentralised concept, then get them motivated and trained. Then we will help them to win their first project and install those projects and so on.

The MPCs and IPCs are the most important tools to get new people into the community. It is really a MOBOTIX  community, because we’re a bit different to others, and that makes us outstanding as well.

Because whenever people come out to MPCs and IPCs for the first time, when they leave they say “that was amazing, that was fantastic, now I have the virus of MOBOTIX within me and I will go out and tell the people what their approach is”.

But it is important for our tier-two partners to make clear to their customers that that is something you cannot compare with a very cheap camera from the Asian market.

It is a tremendous effort to get this community broadened, getting partners on board.  We had 24 MPCs and IPCs over the last business year with always something like 100-150 participants.  It gives us the opportunity to see all our partners during one or two years, to get them updated, to get the latest technology to them and changes within our technology and so on.

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