Interview: Pierre Racz, President and CEO of Genetec
Genetec, a leading provider of open-architecture, unified IP security solutions, has its finger on the pulse of the industry, enabling it to continuously develop products that more than keep up with the latest trends.
a&s Adria: How has Genetec evolved alongside the industry over the past few years?
Racz: In 1997, when Genetec was founded, we created an internet protocol (IP) architecture based on off-theshelf network hardware, video compression, and camera equipment to create Genetec Omnicast 1.0, one of the first IP-based, point-to-multipoint, video management systems (VMS) in the world. Our technological intuition, our entrepreneurial passion and educated guess about IP turned out to be correct.
When world circumstances forced the security industry to build complex security systems, going IP turned out to
be easier to build, and provided more flexibility in the digital networking (point-to-multipoint) realm, than in the analog/telecom (point-to-point) realm. After the events of 9/11, organizations around the world wanted to have multiple control rooms; one for operations, and at least one other as a backup to guard against natural and unnatural disasters. To do this with analog technology was prohibitively expensive or topologically impossible. Digital (IP) technology made addressing these new complex architectures possible, compelling customers to adopt IP digital video technology over analog.
Today, Genetec is in its 20th year as an innovative team, and has grown from creating IP video management systems, to engineering the most scalable, open-architecture, unified IP physical security platforms in the world. We went from offering an initial IP system that could manage 100s of cameras (in 2000) to a system that can scale to manage millions of cameras (in 2007) — all built on the foundation of open architecture, packet switching protocols (IP), and anticipating that the unification semantics would overtake naïve integration semantics. We’ve also grown from 10 employees to 1,000, working in dozens of office locations around the globe.
a&s Adria: How is Genetec planning to maintain this growth in 2018?
Racz: In 2018 — Genetec will continue to pursue its strategy to offer a continuous flow of clever innovations. Some of these will be evolutionary improvements to our technology, and others will be created to automate security processes that were not previously imagined nor easy to automate. We are democratizing technology, which in the past was only accessible and affordable to bigger organizations.
Our desire to engineer reliable and highly available systems had led us to design for system failures that have either accidental or deliberate and malicious root causes. Software today is like an organism with a weak immune system. We do not think we can rid the environment of parasites; we just have to become more resilient to their attacks.
a&s Adria: What industry trends do you see taking shape in 2018?
Racz: Security trends and topics Genetec will address in the security industry will be:
Combining Structured and Unstructured Data
Structured data contains information that enables the easy separation of a complex stream of information into its
constituent component, and enables complex automated decision making. For example, in a long undelimited string of data coming from a retail point of sale system, without structure tags, it is not possible to know if the characters “20” represent the item quantity, the purchase price, the sales tax or the line number. Video is the ultimate unstructured information stream that contains a wealth of information that is hard to get at mechanically. Combining structured and unstructured information opens up new dimensions of insight.
Early in our 20-year history we realized that simply recording video was not enough. We had to index the video with structured information coming from a vast ecosystem of sensors: number plate readers, access control events, sorting machines (baggage and package), point of sales, weather and seismological, etc. We did not know that that sensor ecosystem would be called the Internet of Things (IoT).
Now in 2018, Genetec is offering many new applications and features that will further enable our users to make more sense out of the data gathered from cameras and sensors to create operational insights to help retailers and enterprise customers acquire analytical intelligence from their environments. For example, our users can view heat-map extracts (directly from the video) to better understand people movements and customer flow trends. Combined with cash register sales data, these two pieces of information can generate valuable, insightful analysis of conversion rates from outside store foot traffic, to browsing customers and conversion rate of browsing customers to purchasing customers. Even further, different stores can be compared for different times of the day, days of the week, seasonal trends, unusual events and even how weather affects customer patterns.
Privacy Protection and Compliance
Video surveillance has proven to be an effective tool to shape and displace undesirable and destructive antisocial
behavior. With these technological advancements, also come social considerations, such as privacy concerns. People want to feel safe, but not watched. This is where privacy protection technology plays a role in ensuring that the security professionals have just enough information to be able to do their job. A video with the faces blurred is enough for security professionals to see that a street fight has broken out. Only under such circumstances will it be warranted to unblur the faces to identify the perpetrators.
This technology will be very important for European end users who are preparing to comply with the coming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), starting in May 2018, and who must perform credibly in the public’s eyes in preventing or resolving criminal acts.
Our Privacy Protector software available in Genetec Security Center, was just re-certified for the fourth time with the European Privacy Seal, which is approved as “GDPR-ready.” We see these types of privacy compliance regulations being adopted globally.
Self Service Freedom-of-Information Portals
Along with protecting privacy at the video surveillance level, these solutions will also provide an additional layer of convenience to facilitate requests from the public in accordance to the UK Data Protection Act of 1998, and other
Freedom of Information Acts, mandated by many world governments. All non-redacted video data is only accessible via a court order and consent from the owner.
In many world governments, liberal democracies have enacted state Sunshine Laws (referring to the disinfectant power of sunshine) which govern openness and public access to records. As we continue collecting more sensor data to improve the management of public security infrastructures, we’ve also increased the burden of compliance when the public wishes to access these government records. It will be very important to have tools that enable our governments to automatically and reliably redact personally-identifiable information and allow citizens a “self-service” access portal for secure, convenient and expeditious access to information.
Good Stewardship of Sensitive Data
As a side effect of carrying out this growing collection of data (both video and static), organizations are entrusted with personally identifiable information. The benefits of the proper use of this information is easily explained to the public. Less so, are the societal costs when this information is stolen and used for unintended purposes or falls into the hands of individuals with nefarious intentions. In the past two years, well publicized massive data breaches have raised the awareness of what before was just an abstract threat to our way of life — and we are realizing that activities in cyberspace have real and immediate dire consequences in the real world. This realization is creating demands from the citizenry that governments enact laws mandating good fiduciary cyberresponsibility and castigating cyber-irresponsibility and cybernegligence.
As mentioned earlier, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), coming to the European Union in May 2018, is a good start. Cyber-negligence will be costly with penalties set at 4 percent of global revenue, or 20 million Euros, whichever is greater. Negative financial consequences and board-level liabilities are the only way of getting the attention of executives for whom data-breaches are too abstract and who dedicate an inadequate amount of resources to prevent. GDPR will have a huge effect in Europe, and will influence new compliance measures in other countries. Just like the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which mandated corporate and auditing accountability across all public organizations in the United States, holding CEOs accountable for financial reporting, the GDPR act will mandate executive-level oversight and a level of competence never before enforced. Executives will no longer be able to use “ignorance of cyber-complexity” to excuse reckless and negligent cyber behavior.
a&s Adria: What is your outlook for the global security market?
Racz: I am encouraged by the many positive ways in which our world will transform in the next 10-20 years. I am optimistic that efforts spent to reduce cyber-vulnerabilities will improve the reliability of software and reduce the brittleness of our complex systems. Executives will allocate an appropriate amount of resources to this end. Upcoming executives from the Nintendo-generation will do so because they understand the problem and the paleo-executives, because they understand financial penalties. More reliable systems will let us concentrate our efforts towards improving operational efficiency and making sense of the data that we are increasingly able to harvest.