Q&A: Peter Strom, president and CEO, March Networks
SP&T News recently caught up with Peter Strom, CEO of Ottawa-based March Networks, to talk about their latest solutions, the role of analogue in a world filled with cybersecurity concerns, the potential for AI and a lot more. We began by getting an update on March’s parent company, Chinese camera manufacturer Infinova — an acquisition that was completed back in 2012.
SP&T News: What is March’s relationship now with Infinova?
Peter Strom: They acquired us about five years ago. We were the first acquisition they made. They went public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and raised a fair amount of money in that market. Their strategy was to really go out and acquire companies and grow through acquisition. Even though it’s an operating company with operations in China, they’re primarily a holding company. We’re a wholly-owned subsidiary of theirs. They [also] bought Swann Communications (based in Australia), which is really focused on the home market, and they’ve made a number of other acquisitions as well.
SP&T: Do you leverage any of their technology?
PS: We do. In our camera line-up, most of our cameras come from Infinova, and we have some other suppliers as well for more specialized kinds of cameras. We develop the firmware; they develop the camera itself, but they load our firmware in it. It’s all our software.
SP&T: Can you explain March’s vertical markets focus?
PS: The backbone of the company was really built on developing enterprise level solutions. We tend to focus on the banking market and retail market because, at the time when we first got our start, we didn’t feel like there was anybody doing a good job of allowing people with thousands of locations to manage their entire network, their NVR infrastructure, remotely. Everybody was doing it one to one.
People do a pretty good job today of building cameras and DVRs. To differentiate yourself, we believe that the future really is in developing applications which solve specific business problems for those customers. The only way to do that successfully is to understand the interoperations of your customers.
SP&T: Are you getting into any 4K product lines?
PS: We can take on 4K video in our NVRs today, but haven’t launched any cameras.
SP&T: There seems to be some hesitation in customer adoption of 4K solutions.
PS: It’s an industry that’s interesting. There are companies that enter the market space trying to make their position by leveraging the latest technology, as an example. That’s fine, but the reality is in our industry no customer wants to go out there and rip out whatever they have and replace it. There’s very little rip and replace — it’s not like an IT industry. We tend to focus on letting our customers migrate in whatever direction they want to go in. With [customers] that have a lot of analogue cameras — whether it’s financial or retail — you don’t have to take out the analogue cameras. You can bundle a combination of analogue and IP cameras with our solutions, as an example. We’ve launched a new NVR that also has HD over coax, which allows them to leverage their coax cable to ultimately get high-definition video. It’s a ‘tri-brid’ solution. It gives us customers flexibility on how quickly they want to evolve to an all IP solution. Some are deciding not to, to be honest with you. Some are deciding that, “I’m concerned about some of the cybersecurity issues out there. I feel pretty safe with coax. And if I have high definition video good enough to run my operation…” Some are choosing to continue on with analogue for a while longer.
SP&T: Are you getting a lot of questions from customers about cybersecurity?
PS: When we first started back in 2002-2003, the company was more of an IT company, coming from the Terry Matthews legacy. When I walked into the building — I was a guy from the video industry — I walked into a building full of IT specialists and I said, “OK, we’ve got a lot to learn from each other.” From the ground up, when we built this product, it was really built around cybersecurity needs — before cybersecurity became a “cool thing” — because we serve the financial industry. Most of the IT departments put our products through ethical hacks before they approved it to go on a network.
SP&T: How are you helping your customers and partners with their cybersecurity needs?
PS: We have an educational program based around cybersecurity that we offer to our dealers. We give them regular updates — they can access our website at any time for regular updates on, say, new viruses or malware that we come across or hear about. We also have a product called Guru, which was really designed for the integrators. It forces the integrator to go through a certain steps. Before they configure a product, they have to meet certain steps before they are compliant with the regulations. It’s really simple for the integrator to do this. We know some of the companies out there have got some bad press because they’ll use the same passwords that the box comes with and they don’t change the password. You can’t do that with our product; you have to change the password.
SP&T: How do you think artificial intelligence with affect the industry?
PS: What’s important about AI is, you can process an awful lot of data through a machine as opposed to human. What does [that mean] for security? Today, a lot of time is spent doing forensic investigations for a security director, as an example — with AI you’ll process data a lot quicker, so you can speed up investigations. Also, humans make mistakes and miss things. AI is a learning tool ... humans just can’t process the information fast enough. We think it’s going to pick up the amount of fraud that’s out there in banking as well as retail. It’s just going to speed up investigations dramatically.
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