The best evidence
By Peter Caulfield
Alexander Fernandes, president and CEO of Vancouver-based Avigilon knows a thing or two about running a successful tech company and identifying a market in need of a tool.
By Peter Caulfield
While running a company that designed and manufactured sensitive
cameras for microscopes, Fernandes was unable to find a surveillance
system that could adequately protect his facility. So he decided to
develop one himself. After selling the imaging company, Fernandes
launched Avigilon in 2004 and began designing and manufacturing
high-definition (HD) surveillance systems that capture, record and
distribute detailed images over a computer network. The company
launched its first products in 2007. Since then, Avigilon has deployed
more than 1,500 systems and enjoyed 200-percent revenue growth quarter
Led by someone with a background in advanced technology and staffed
with a team of young software developers, Avigilon is one of a
new breed of companies operating in a world where the traditional
security industry meets information technology (IT), as more security
products become IT-based.
Avigilon has developed a line of products that includes multi-megapixel
IP (Internet Protocol) cameras, ranging in resolution from 1 to 16
megapixels, and high-definition network video recorders (NVRs) that
capture and preserve surveillance evidence using “lossless
compression,” which means image detail and contrast are not lost when
video is captured and stored.
Fernandes says Avigilon’s HD surveillance systems have a number of
advantages over conventional, non-HD systems. First of all,
conventional video surveillance systems produce poor-quality images,
“like a fuzzy photo,” Fernandes says.
“They’re of no value in court,” he says. “You can’t prosecute a thief
who has broken into your car if all you have is a bad picture that
doesn’t show his features clearly.”
The systems are also competitively priced.
“The surveillance market wants better performance at the same price,” Fernandes says. “Avigilon is doing it cheaper.”
Fernandes cites a hypothetical car dealer who needs to secure his lot.
A conventional system would comprise 50 cameras ($25,000); poles, wires
and installation ($150,000); and three recorders ($15,000), for a total
cost of about $190,000.
An Avigilon HD system would include 20
cameras ($20,000); installation ($60,000); and two recorders ($20,000),
for a total of $100,000.
Fusion Security, a Vancouver-based integrated security provider, has
used Avigilon cameras, lenses, encoders, workstation and server
products for over a year.
“In addition to the traditional camera systems for recording history
and story telling, we’ve installed systems which our clients can
remotely access via the Internet to check on work scheduled for their
remote sites,” says Fusion president Bruce Marginson.
Despite the system’s myriad high-tech features, Marginson says it is very friendly to install and use.
“The system is pretty installer-proof.,” he says. “As long as you can
point and focus cameras, it runs by itself. I have been in security for
26 years and never seen anything this intuitive before.”
ATS Alaska, an Anchorage, AK-based systems integrator, has installed
Avigilon systems in mines and retail facilities in the state.
CEO Dave Rand says installation and start-up has been “really easy.”
“User interface is intuitive,” Rand says. “Camera quality is excellent.”
In June 2008, Avigilon launched a new product, HD license plate recognition software.
“We’re the only company that can automatically read license plates in high definition,” Fernandes says.
Avigilon has test sites in the US, Middle East, Canada and Europe.
In August 2008, the company added an automatic infrared (IR) filter
technology to its line of cameras. The new cameras incorporate IR
filters that are automatically calibrated, based on light conditions.
Europe and North America are Avigilon’s main markets, with secondary
markets in Australasia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle
East. The company has installations in educational facilities,
financial institutions, hospitals, retail businesses, seaports,
airports, border crossings, petrochemical plants, water reservoirs and
“All markets are hot now, but particularly educational facilities,”
Fernandes says. “Historically they have not had a lot of video
surveillance, but recent violence has led to governments putting more
money into it.”
Avigilon sells its surveillance systems through an indirect channel to
its security integrator customers. Some customers are traditional
integrators and some are, in Fernandes’ words, “emerging IT
integrators.” To those tech-savvy integrators who want to build their
own systems hardware, Avigilon sells software licenses and cameras.
The channel is managed by a network of regional sales directors and manufacturers’ representatives.