IFSEC interview

Verint: Video analytics has been “overpromised” for years – but AI is a game-changer

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.
January 29, 2019

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Even with the rich promise of AI and machine learning, Verint’s VP of international sales says it’s not easy pitching the merits of video analytics.

Ayal Vogel, who joined the company almost two years ago, says this is the legacy of the technology’s failure to live up to the hype surrounding it.

Speaking to IFSEC Global, he also reflects on how few organisations have adapted structurally to the convergence of physical security and cybersecurity, the merits of working collaboratively with other technology providers versus delivering end-to-end solutions alone, and Verint’s ‘quality over quantity’ distribution model.

Vogel, who is based in Israel, also expounds the benefits offered by Verint Dispatch Manager, an integrated situational management system.

Founded in New York in 2002 Verint develops analytics software and hardware around customer engagement management, security, surveillance and business intelligence.

IFSEC Global: Hi, Ayal. Tell us a bit about your background and that of Verint?

Ayal Vogel: I spent my past 25 years in the US security industry but now I run everywhere [in Verint] except for the United States. Back in the US I represented both physical security as well as cybersecurity companies.

Verint has three divisions: a CES division – the customer engagement solution – the CIS or cyber intelligence solution division, and my division, the SIS or security intelligence solution division, which is physical security and video.

We’re starting to see demand in the market for convergence between the physical and cyber solution.

“You typically have a firewall between cyber and physical security divisions – they don’t talk to each other”

But for most businesses those are two separate business units. You typically have a firewall between the cyber and physical security divisions – they don’t talk to each other.

And I think that is really holding things back because you need to look at security holistically.

IG: Organisations perhaps need guidance on how to catch up structurally with these changes in technology and the attendant security threats?

AV: That’s really what differentiates us from others in the marketplace.

As things become more sophisticated, the industry is moving from a hardware to a software model.

[Our role] is really understanding the customers’ needs and helping them design the right solution. I think that in the United States they are more focused than even the UK, because they [typically] hire a consultant to look at security holistically.

In a lot of countries, specifically in APAC and some emerging markets, we work with the end user to understand their needs – not only in physical security but also in cyber – to provide them with the best solution. So I think that is quite unique.

IG: Verint and Thales announced a strategic partnership in October 2018…

AV: There aren’t a lot of integrators that really understand or have the expertise on the cyber side. But Thales really understands convergence and has the resources to go into some of the most challenging environments – critical infrastructure, transportation – and really understand how to provide a combined solution.

So we are eager to build those relationships and partner up with integrators that understand how to go in and provide the messaging – to educate the customer, show them the convergence, show them there is technology that can support their vision.

IG: Do you tend to work collaboratively with other companies to deliver projects or more often provide an end-to-end solution yourselves?

AV: I think you’re limited when you have to align yourself with other technology companies rather than have it all in house.

Milestone is a pure software company, for instance, but they have to partner up. Then the risk for the integrator is integrating a host of solutions into their software.

Even though we’re a software company, we’ve done the integration – whether with camera manufacturers, servers, storage or analytics

Whereas we take on and mitigate that risk by providing an end-to-end solution. So even though we’re a software company, we’ve already done the integration – whether it’s with the camera manufacturers, servers or storage or analytics.

We want to understand how various technologies interface with ours to maximise performance, so we do sell solutions, even though we are non-proprietary. We are open to any technologies, so we work with hundreds of camera manufacturers.

But we do sell cameras, so when the customer wants to mitigate his risk and buy an end-to-end solution, we can provide that.

But there is also risk for the integrators and ultimately the end users in locking themselves into one technology. They could be here today gone tomorrow.

But that is really where we stand out. As an example, we were just awarded a large school project in Kazakhstan. We were able to go in and understand their budget and design the whole system. And that was the differentiator between us and other technology manufacturers out there.

IG: What differences do you see between various geographic markets?

AV: The United States is a more mature market, with some of the largest retail verticals. We are very strong in the retail market. The US is also more of a VMS market, whereas I am seeing more [adoption] of our situation awareness platform internationally.

In London almost every street corner has cameras and most US cities have [many cameras in operation].

But internationally, one challenge is providing one platform for all these disparate systems and being much more responsive in [diagnosing a problem] and reacting quicker.

A trend you are now seeing is using the technology to be more proactive, rather than reactive, which gives you a better return on investment. It’s moving from forensics to a more proactive solution.

IG: How widely are your systems used in critical infrastructure and what are the key drivers for these markets?

AV: The driver there is really the cyber – that’s creating demand for a converged solution.

The other driver is analytics. We have a variety of analytics in house and again, we can provide them with useful information so they can react much quicker and be more proactive. And law enforcement cannot put resources throughout the city, but analytics helps them allocate resources better.

Internationally, as well as in the United States, we are doing quite a bit of government work with different law enforcement agencies.

“We’re using social media combined with analytics and video to give airports a much clearer picture”

We’re now using social media combined with analytics and video to give airports a much clearer picture. So when people land in an airport, you can see what conversation people have had, who they’re talking to and understand if they are person of interest.

Then they can tie that into facial recognition to have a video or picture of the individual all tied up into our situational awareness platform, which goes into the iSOC – Intelligence-Driven Security Operations Center (iSOC) – and gives them one pane of glass to understand what is transpiring.


Verint is exhibiting at IFSEC International 2019, Europe’s leading integrated security event, taking place 18-20 June 2019 at ExCeL London (stand IF635). Book your free ticket now.


 

IG: Are we on the cusp of a revolution in analytics because of machine learning and artificial intelligence?

AV: You have to look back to understand where things are going. Analytics have been around for 15 years but it was over-promised and under-delivered, so it really slowed things down.

And it’s still tough for manufacturers to see a return on their investment. We’re seeing too many technologies come and go.

The technology is there but the business model has to change in order for them to be successful and profitable.

AI and deep learning allows customers to get the information quicker, make it useful, turn it into something tangible.

Here in Israel, analytics are being tested, at very late stages, that can predict [where] stabbings [might happen] – [according to] certain characteristics, certain events, certain trends.

Obviously if you look at the video with the naked eye you can identify certain patterns, but analytics can predict certain events, and have shown they can even prevent them. It’s becoming more and more prevalent.

If you’re just reacting to events then that’s not good enough. It’s just not a clear return on investment and I think that’s what’s stifling growth in analytics.

IG: Given the technology’s inauspicious start, have you found it difficult persuading customers of analytics’ merits?

AV: So we’ve changed our model and done a lot of POCs lately. We really have had to work hard and prove to customers [that analytics can work effectively]. Analytics has been out for a while and really hasn’t proven itself.

So we’re looking at the metrics, the KPIs. We’re making sure we understand what counts as success to the customer, what they are trying to accomplish, and working that much harder to prove to the end user that what we are saying can be done.

The analytics is the driver, the door opener, but moving it from a demo to actually implementing it out in the field – there’s a wide gap.

That’s why we’re working with customers and end users to show them the value of the technology, even though, as I said, we don’t sell to the end users. We always bring in the channels to implement the solution.

IG: Tell us more about your distribution model then…

AV: Unlike others that sell through distribution, we only sell to certified integrators. So we don’t have hundreds of integrators in every city regardless of their size.

“Integrators must understand our technology and the value we provide, and they have to be certified”

We try to identify the right partners, in the right vertical, that understand our technology, the value we provide, and they have to be certified.

So they have to go through training to be able to install or purchase our products. So we may have two or three integrators in respective cities, but we try to identify which vertical market their strength is, then work closely with them to create opportunities.

Partnership is kind of an over-used word, but we don’t wait for them to drive the business.

IG: Any other products you’re particularly excited about?

AV: Verint Dispatch Manager or VDM allows you to assess and manage an event. It’s what some people call an ISM or integrated situational management system.

One of our retailers has this software, with the app on their phone. When they see a ‘slip and fall’, they can take a picture, then send that picture instantly to the maintenance department, who can react much quicker.

If there is an event, let’s say a bombing, then with GPS you can identify what resources you have in the area. You can then dispatch [resources] accordingly – maybe there are people with certain skillsets [for instance]. So you can identify not only where they are but what skills they have too.

Some executives use it. The iSOC can identify where their resources are all over the world. So if there’s an event they can quickly pull it up and say “Oh! I have three people in that area. Let’s activate their phone and mic, maybe take a look at their video and make sure they’re OK.”

That’s a growing area.

IG: How much of a challenge has GDPR been when it comes to selling into Europe?

AV: We have people focused on GDPR to ensure we adhere to the regulations and marketing has done a phenomenal job.

With facial recognition we needed some changes to ensure we did not store the video. It certainly was an education for us.

IG: Anything else to add?

AV: Only that we, unlike others, try to create the market and then develop the product. I think we are really doing a good job of working with customers and the end user to have them develop our roadmap.

We don’t just assume that we understand their needs. It’s really about listening to them and understanding where they want to see things go.

Verint is exhibiting at IFSEC International 2019, Europe’s leading integrated security event, taking place 18-20 June 2019 at ExCeL London (stand IF635). Book your free ticket now.

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