Interview: Jakub Kozak, Genetec
Dear Mr/Ms, tell us a bit about yourself, your position at Genetec, what are you in charge of, and your previous professional and educational background?
Based out of Poland, I am in charge of managing sales for Genetec in East and Central Europe. I work closely with the Europe team, as well as the Executive team in Montreal to deliver on the company’s corporate and customer strategy. I came to Genetec from L3 Security and Detection Systems, where I served as a Sales Manager for Eastern Europe. I originally started my career in public safety and defense, but swiftly switched to physical security, where I have now been for over 18 years.
Genetec is a renowned, fast-growing security company. In numbers, what year-on-year growth and revenues did you achieve, how many employees and offices do you have, and what would be the reason (important milestones) behind this success?
As a privately owned company we don’t share year-on-year revenues. However, IHS Markit Genetec ranks us as the world’s number one vendor of VMS, having sustained a 24.1% CAGR over a three-year period. We’re also the only security and public safety solutions developer to hold top-10 global rankings across all physical security industry sectors, including VMS, Access Control and ALPR software.
Genetec has marked the beginning of 2021 with the opening of its 16th global office in Vienna. How will the new headquarters support the company’s expanding footprint in Central Europe? With a multilingual staff representing eighteen nationalities, does it serves customers in Southeast Europe as well?
Opening our Vienna office shows that Genetec is dynamically growing across Europe and see it as an important market. Vienna office will not be directly supporting ECE, although we are part of the same region called DACH ECE, so there will be some mutual collaboration between ECE and DACH.
Following the acquisition of Austrian video analytics company Kiwisecurity, will the Vienna-based R&D team focus more on areas like privacy and video analytics solutions?
Privacy is a strategic focus for our R&D teams globally, not just here in Vienna. Genetec believes respect for individuals’ privacy should be the foundation of responsible design and that organizations should never have to make an artificial choice between privacy and physical security. Privacy by design methodologies therefore provide an essential road map for every product we bring to market.
With regard to video analytics this is also a key strategic focus as they’re an important enabling technology in helping our customers to extract even greater operational value from their systems.
A center of Genetec’s success is Security Center, a collaborative platform that unifies all security applications and promotes an open approach to security. Why is it, as you stated on your site, a different type of platform than the others on the market? What are its key features?
The terms unification and integration are often used interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing.
Whereas integration refers to establishing some form of connectivity between two standalone security
systems (i.e. access control and video), a unified system is unique in that it refers to one platform that fully embeds all video surveillance and access control (ACS) capabilities. This not only means showing video feeds when alerts are triggered by the access control system, but also being able to see data from all related sensors in a single click, from anywhere in the system.
With a unified solution like Security Center, employees only have to get to know and use one system. Administrators save time configuring the system and only have one manufacturer to contact – Genetec – with any questions or issues. Another key feature is that in a unified solution, cybersecurity is already applied – and updated – across all physical security components.
The result of this open approach is a constantly evolving ecosystem of technologies, within which one can choose from thousands of devices integrated with your Omnicast VMS, a part of the Security Center platform. What brands and technologies are integrated with Omnicast?
We have more than 180 technology partners within our ecosystem so too many to list here. But they can all be found on our website. No single hardware provider could hope to have the best sensor technology for every possible user requirement. We therefore give our customers the widest possible choice of sensors such as cameras, door readers, intercoms, intrusion panels and more so that they can select the ones that best fit their budget and needs.
Omnicast offers hybrid recording, seamlessly combining on-premise and cloud storage. Do you believe more chief security officers will let go of the division between cloud and on-premises physical security systems and embrace a hybrid deployment model and why? For what applications would you find this to be the best solution at the moment?
Yes, physical security departments have been slower to adopt the cloud than other business functions but it is clearly the direction of travel. Cloud and hybrid cloud systems offer advantages with respect to data protection, system flexibility, performance and cost savings. They encompass near-term enhancements such as greater scope for monitoring and longer-term opportunities such as the addition of new functionalities.
There is no one-size-fits-all, each organization should explore the possibilities based on their own specific requirements. Though, for those just beginning this journey, hybrid cloud is a good place to start.
The other model, the one entirely based on cloud, you have offered via Stratocast. According to a report conducted by Genetec last year, only 20 percent of respondents had deployed cloud solutions in their physical security environments, which means the business possibilities are good ahead. What are the pros of video surveillance as a service?
We’ve since conducted another report with our Europe and Middle East customers that shows cloud deployments are picking up pace. Pre-pandemic, just 37% of respondents identified as well underway in their adoption of cloud or hybrid cloud infrastructure for physical security. However, almost two thirds (64%) reported the pandemic as having somewhat (51%) or greatly (12.5%) accelerated their cloud strategy in relation to physical security.
With an on-premises system, you can expect to see a higher initial price tag, with lower ongoing expenses. Other costs to keep in mind are those related to the purchase, maintenance, and replacement of recording equipment, typically every 5 years. Cloud-based systems have recurring monthly or annual subscription costs, which are based on your selected plan. And with no recording equipment needed on-site, you can expect a lower upfront cost with predictable ongoing expenses. A hybrid deployment is also a great option for those with a central site and multiple smaller, dispersed locations.
Genetec didn’t stop at securing premises, but traffic too. High-performance ALPR named AutoVu gives your customers real-time insights. Is there more to this solution than just registering license plates?
ALPR systems include specialised cameras that capture license plate images and analytics that automate license plate reading, identification, and potential matching to license plates listed in a live database. But the incorporation of ALPR into video surveillance and access control systems has now given us smart parking, resulting in improved parking enforcement, management, and compliance.
ALPR systems can provide both on-street and off-street parking solutions. Mount an ALPR camera on an enforcement vehicle and it can continuously scan license plates and alert police officers in real time to parking violations or scofflaws. When parking rules and permits aren’t properly enforced, parking lots can fill up with non-paying customers, leaving paying customers without a parking spot and dissatisfied. ALPR can assist in off-street parking by recording vehicles as they enter and leave monitored parking lots, revealing off-street violations and lot occupancy in real-time.
For Parking Access and Revenue Control Systems (PARCS) that offer real time computerised parking systems for transient and credentialed customers, an ALPR solution can be an effective way to improve customer service and prevent crime. ALPR can track where people have parked, help long-term parking customers locate their vehicle, check how long vehicles have been parked in a lot, and identify vehicles that are wanted or designated stolen just as soon as they enter a PARCS facility.
For decades access control had this setback of being dominantly proprietary. You offer something else – an open architecture access control system. How does Synergis helps end-users to avoid the long-term setbacks of closed solutions and is the list of integrated devices with Synergis expanding? Do you feel that the new ONVIF’s Profile D for access control would help things moving forward to opened architecture?
Genetec’s CEO Pierre Racz recently mentioned several things our industry should focus on during these challenging times: “cybersecurity, architectural paradigm shift as people are accepting more hybrid cloud solutions, need for more accountability and governance for the stewardship of our critical telecommunication and computing infrastructure, need to understand the limits of machine learning technology, and last work on proper levels of reliability software engineering”. Can you elaborate on these points: why do we need to invest more in securing networks from cyber attacks and data from theft, what is implicated by reliability software engineering, and why is it important to understand the limits of machine learning?
I’ll give you some sobering statistics that put the need to invest more in securing networks from cyber attacks into context. A cyber-attack is launched every 39 seconds, we’re witnessing a 42% rise in exposed devices that can be accessed remotely and 90% of all IoT attacks go through routers and connected cameras. Most of these could be easily prevented.
Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility between the manufacturer, the installer and the end user so we all need to play our part in reducing exposures to vulnerabilities. For example, software developers must proactively monitor for vulnerabilities in their software and swiftly roll-out security updates when weaknesses are found. Installers and end users must ensure these updates are quickly and consistently applied.
With regard to AI and machine learning it’s important to recognize that computers are brilliant at performing specific tasks but display nothing like human intelligence. There’s a famous example in the medical field of an attempt to train an algorithm to spot tumors by feeding it lots of examples of healthy and cancerous organs. In every training photo of a cancerous organ there was a ruler and all the system learnt was that the presence of a ruler was a sign of cancer.
We should use machine learning to assist a human operator and to perform the heavy lifting. But a person must always decide.
When it comes to the aforementioned cybersecurity, for security businesses it’s even more important because much of what security companies do has a fundamental privacy component. Genetec recently pointed out that a secure IT perimeter no longer exists – physical security professionals must put measures in place to deter hackers and protect their businesses. Are encryption and multi-factor authentication important parts of this and what measures did Genetec undertake to make its software cyber secure?
Physical and cyber security are co-dependent. You cannot have one without the other. For example, if criminals can gain unrestricted access to your physical servers, then whatever cyber security precautions you have in place are redundant. Equally, if IP cameras are running out of date firmware, then they can present criminals with an entry point to the network. Encryption and multi-factor authentication are of course vital aspects but businesses can’t rely purely on technology to remain secure. Hardening an organization against cyberattacks means thinking about people, process and technology.
At Genetec we build our software from the ground up with cybersecurity in mind and regularly bring in external penetration testers to help us find vulnerabilities in our software. We also work hard to educate the market to ensure our software is correctly deployed and maintained by partners and end users.
Partnerships allow businesses to mutually recognize strengths and weaknesses and help each other improve. It can lead to valuable knowledge sharing, allow innovation, access to new markets, and increased customer loyalty. You have four types of partnership programs. What benefits can a company gain by becoming Genetec’s channel&consultation or technology partner?
Genetec has just launched its brand new Virtual Experience Center. Would you find that this platform will enable channel partners and end-users to easily and efficiently collaborate with Genetec employees in one virtual environment?
The platform will enable channel partners and end users to easily and efficiently collaborate with Genetec employees to discuss projects, view demos and access materials, in one virtual environment from anywhere in the world. This platform recreates the same personalised interaction of visiting the existing Genetec Experience Centers in Montreal, Paris, London, Dubai and Singapore.
In the end, Genetec’s in the Adriatic region. What are your plans in this area, are you looking for new partners, do you plan to open an office or employ additional staff in the region, etc.?
Our partners are vital to our success at Genetec, and we definitely want to grow our network of partners in the Adriatic region. We want to build a close network of strong local system integrators that are well trained, and aware of the threat landscape as it evolves.