Interview: Georgi Lazarov, Regional Sales Manager for the Balkans, Greece, Cyprus and the Adriatic, March Networks

Mr Lazarov, thank you for sparing your time to address to our readers. Could you present yourself, your educational and professional background, when did you start working for March Networks, what duties are your performing, etc.?

As far as my background goes, I have an MSc in Mechanical Engineering with a specialty in Transportation Technology – Aerospace. I spent my early career in security and communication systems, where I further developed my engineering capabilities, and expanded into product management, sales and business development roles in industries including smart buildings, utilities and infrastructure; transportation; smart cities; and automation.

Today, with more than 18 years of experience in information and communications technologies (ICT), security and IT working with global brands, I am able to help customers understand current trends and adopt best practices when it comes to their technology solutions. I am also focused on helping my partners increase their business opportunities.

I joined March Networks® – a global video security and video-based business intelligence leader – as the regional sales manager for the Balkans, Greece, Cyprus and the Adriatic. In this position, I am responsible for business development, raising brand awareness, managing local business processes and driving successful projects working with a network of experienced certified partners.

For nearly two decades, March Networks has been designing and creating professional video surveillance products. What were the most important milestones, what’s the current position of your company at the video surveillance market, are you increasing your market share, how many people do you employ, revenue, expansion, etc.?

At March Networks, we are proud of our deep roots in video and data networking. Our company was founded nearly 20 years ago in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – a region recognized for its high concentration of global telecommunications and data networking expertise. This Research & Development (R&D) knowledge base has contributed significantly to our ability to design and deliver highly reliable, highly secure networked video products and management software.

March Networks was among the first physical security manufacturers to introduce a purpose-built digital video recorder with a customized embedded Linux operating system (OS), as well as the most scalable, centrally managed video system in the industry. Our strong focus on IT-compliant products led to our early success providing enterprise-class solutions to some of the world’s largest financial institutions — a position that March Networks still holds. Today our intelligent video solutions are used by more than 600 banks and credit unions, more than 300 retail brands, and some of the world’s leading transit agencies. We operate offices around the world and work with partners in more than 70 countries. Our European headquarters is located in Milan, Italy.

Last December, you unveiled new brand identity? What does it mark?

That’s correct. We were thrilled to launch our new brand identity last year, which marks March Networks’ 18-year evolution from a video networking pioneer to a leader in video-based business intelligence solutions.

The updated brand identity – which includes a new logo, color palette, corporate typeface and design – aligns with our company’s mission to advance the true value of video. It also reflects March Networks’ enduring commitment to exceptional technology solutions that provide clarity, simplicity and unparalleled reliability to customers.

What are the most important March Networks’ core technologies and could you present your product portfolio? If you could select one, what would be your flagship product or product series and why?

March Networks is recognized worldwide for our enterprise-class video management, which enables organizations to easily manage and maintain hundreds – or thousands – of surveillance cameras and video recorders from a central location. Our Command Enterprise Software provides critical management capabilities, such as system-wide health monitoring, multi-level user access privileges, mass firmware and configuration updates, LDAP/Active Directory integrations, and shared case management in the cloud. We’ve evolved this software over the years to meet the demands of some of the world’s largest banks and retail organizations.

We also deliver the most reliable video recorders in the industry, with features including front-panel diagnostic LEDs for each hard-drive, internal battery backup, and real-time system health monitoring via Command Enterprise Software. Our recorders incorporate a customized embedded Linux OS, which eliminates unnecessary background services and frequent system updates. They are also simple to maintain, thanks to front-access hard drives and unique QR codes that work with our company’s free GURU Smartphone App to enable instant configuration audits, troubleshooting, warranty checks and other capabilities using a smartphone or tablet.

Our flagship product, however, is probably our Searchlight software. The intelligent application software enables banks and retail organizations to integrate their surveillance video with ATM/teller or point-of-sale transaction data for advanced fraud/loss prevention investigation. In addition, Searchlight integrates with other data sources including RFID, video analytics (e.g. queue length, people counting and dwell time) and IoT devices to provide valuable business insights on customer service, marketing and promotion, compliance, operational efficiency and more.

You offer purpose-built NVRs. What are their main advantages?

A purpose-built recorder is built for the environment you’re going to use it in. If you need to record video from inside an ATM, for example, then you’ll need a very compact recorder that fits in most ATM models and is able to withstand the daily jostling involved with opening and closing the unit to refill money etc. If you’re recording video on a bus or passenger rail train, that’s another challenge altogether. You’re going to need a recorder with broad operating temperatures and specific regulatory compliance for things like electromagnetic compatibility, safety, shock and vibration, and ingress (dust, water etc.). The recorder requirements for organizations like schools, hospitals, retailers etc. is different, and might focus primarily on video management, the ability to upgrade the recorders easily, and so on. Plus all organizations today are concerned about the cybersecurity of their networks.

March Networks recorders are built to address all of these considerations. They are extremely durable, reliable and designed with security in mind. That’s what our customers are getting with our purpose-built NVRs.

One of recurring themes that security vendors consistently played out during this year’s ISC West in Las Vegas it was how can companies do a better job of providing their integration partners additional revenue opportunities – and do it in the cloud. For Dan Cremins, Global Leader for Product Management at March Networks, the new opportunities translate into taking managed services to the next level. For that reason, you have introduced newly released hosted service called Insight. Tell us all about it? What are its benefits for both end users and systems integrators?

I’m happy to tell you a bit about March Networks Insight. As you’ve noted above, Insight is our new hosted service. It provides organizations with a visual overview of their entire video network, as well as valuable reporting capabilities in areas including asset control, system health, and service level agreement (SLA) performance management. The service is conveniently accessible via a secure, cloud-based platform.

Leveraging the proven expertise of our dedicated Network Operations Center (NOC) team, Insight leaves our customers free to focus on their business while ensuring optimum video system performance. It provides unique features and reporting capabilities that save customers time and costs, including:
• System monitoring and performance optimization
• Issue diagnosis, and remote resolution where possible
• Service tickets and closed-loop field service workflows
• SLA reporting
• Scheduled software upgrades
• Inventory and product warranty reporting
• Optional third-party device health monitoring
• Optional field-of-view (FOV) reports

For systems integrators certified to install our products and solutions, Insight delivers the tools they need to serve customers more efficiently. It helps them reduce costly truck rolls and easily document and track product warranty status, software versions and other information. And as you say above, the service is also an opportunity for our partners to build a new recurring revenue stream, working together with our March Networks professional services team.

An interesting March Networks’ solution is Searchlight for retail and banking. What are the features of that software?

As far as some of the software’s key features, Searchlight allows banks and retail organizations to spend more time on their core business by simplifying the task of locating suspicious activity and finding video evidence. It delivers multiple, user-defined reports and allows customers to schedule them to arrive automatically in their email inboxes.

The Searchlight reports include snapshot images and direct links to recorded video that let users analyze and compare:
• location and employee performance at one or a group of locations
• suspect transactions, such as all voids above a set amount (in retail) or one person withdrawing cash from an ATM using multiple bank cards (called cash harvesting)
• customer wait times, dwell times and other customer service metrics using integrated analytics
• operational performance, including how clean locations are, if promotional signage is correct, if employees are dressed properly and if procedures are being followed
• security audits, including a list of alarms and the ability to filter by specific alarm or location

March Networks offers solutions for a number of verticals, but the strongest focus is on banking, retail and public transport. Why is that the case? How many banks, shops, buses and trains have you made more secure? There is also an interesting „canabis vertical“?

March Networks’ success in banking, retail and public transit is the result of the high reliability of our video recorders and the enterprise-class video management capabilities we offer. Reliability is critical for these types of organizations, as is the ability to centrally manage and maintain video systems across multiple locations.

Over many years, we’ve also evolved our portfolio – as described above and below – to include valuable business intelligence applications that really help these organizations operate and compete more effectively.

Today, more than 600 financial institutions, 300 retail brands and some of the world’s largest transit agencies rely on our video solutions.

In terms of the relatively new cannabis market, early on March Networks recognized the security and operational requirements of this tightly-regulated market and evolved our offering to uniquely address those needs. Today, we are proud to provide our intelligent video solutions to dispensaries and cultivation facilities across North America. In US states like Colorado, where radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging from seed to sale is mandated by law, our solution delivers an enhanced level of tracking and compliance by correlating video with RFID data in the Searchlight software.

Related to the above, could you present some of the most important case studies in Europe?

March Networks has many customers across Europe – most of which we’re not permitted to name publicly, unfortunately.
Some examples we can name however include: Denmark-based Danske Bank; Serlachius Museum, Kultaranta Resort Marina and Turku Castle in Finland; Carlsen Fritzoe, Torp Sandefjord Airport and Olav Thon Group in Norway; and Chateau Monfort in Italy.

An increasing security concerns are related to cyber attacks. How do you battle them? For instance, what is the advantage of using custom-built Linux operating systems in recorders, do they restrict access to the unit?

March Networks takes a 360° view when it comes to the security of our products, involving all areas of our business – from product development and source code management, to operational processes and customer data privacy. Our Network Operations Center, for example, incorporates extensive physical access and networking controls and restrictions to ensure the security of customer data. We also participate in comprehensive security audits initiated by large banks and other enterprise customers seeking to confirm the security of their video solution provider.

In addition, we take a proactive approach to identifying potential vulnerabilities in our products. Our Security Updates and Advisories program involves regularly tracking US-CERT reports on identified vulnerabilities, conducting in-depth investigations when required, and alerting customers and partners to any necessary software updates via email alerts and information posted directly on the March Networks website.

March Networks is also Cyber Essentials certified. The certification is awarded to organizations able to demonstrate good cybersecurity practices and an ability to mitigate risks from Internet-based threats in areas including: boundary firewalls and Internet gateways; network configuration; software management; access control; and malware protection.

As well, March Networks maintains a Product Hardening Guide, which is available on our website. The guide provides recommendations for technicians and system administrators installing March Networks products within a customer’s network to help ensure security.

Your opinion on Adriatic region security market? What are your plans for this area, are you looking for a regional partner, how do you plan to expand market share?

At present, the Adriatic region has considerable expansion capacity and project potential. With additional countries joining the European Union (EU) the last few years, and more EU candidates in waiting for membership, the level of confidence in the region is increasing. As a result, investments in successful businesses offering proven solutions and high-end products is also growing. We’re seeing that companies and end users are getting tired of cheap, low-quality products and are now looking for more reliable options. They are raising their expectations, and allocating higher budgets to meet more stringent requirements.

As far as March Networks’ plans, our company is currently active in most of the Adriatic countries and we are now focused on growing our presence step-by-step in the remaining countries. At the moment, we are working with certified solution providers in Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus and are developing business relationships with experienced partners in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Romania.

You will attend Adria Security Summit this September. What do you expect from largest Adriatic region security conference and exhibiton?

We are looking forward to the Adria Security Summit this year, as we expect to engage with many existing and prospective customers and partners at the event. We are always proud to showcase our enterprise-class products and solutions and demonstrate how they can benefit organizations.

What are the most important global trends that will definy security industry and what can we expect from March Networks in years ahead? What are you working on at the moment?

As a forward-thinking company, we are always tracking the industry’s important trends and how emerging technologies can be applied practically to benefit our customers and partners.

Some of the trends we expect to influence or disrupt the industry are artificial intelligence, computer vision and other content analysis technologies. Most would agree that our industry has only scratched the surface in terms of their potential. While many companies are focused on how well these technologies work, there’s been less discussion about how to best leverage them in real-world applications. Ensuring the accuracy of these products is, of course, important but there’s still a lot of work to be done identifying the real benefits for customers. Until that’s done, and customers understand how those benefits will apply to them directly, we anticipate that adoption will continue to be lower than all the marketing ‘buzz’ would suggest.

Another trend is the push toward centralized cloud storage, particularly in enterprise organizations. Most organizations considering a cloud solution today are focused on leveraging cloud storage as a backup to on-premise storage in the case of a hard drive failure, or for archiving video for an extended period. But that’s only the starting point for the power of centralized data. The real benefits will be clear when organizations start applying cloud-based analytics to enhance business intelligence and improve operations including inventory management, marketing and customer service. Expect to see more hybrid solutions on offer, incorporating both on-premise storage and cloud storage for the retention of critical data for longer periods.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is also shaping our industry. GDPR has impacted not only European organizations but most organizations doing business in Europe. It’s now clear that the regulation is casting a much wider net that some anticipated, and we’ll continue to see product enhancements and new features to help customers meet GDPR compliance.

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