Before this year, the last Milestone Partner Summit (MIPS) held in-person was February 2020 just before the pandemic hit, so at the recent event — held October 24-26 at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis — there was a lot of ground to cover in just a few short days. 

After arriving on a chilly, rainy Monday, Tim Palmquist, vice president of Americas for Milestone, greeted attendees Tuesday morning with a bright, “Welcome to sunny Minneapolis!” The choice of locations was later explained by Vice President of Technology Partners Keven Marier: “Why are we here in Minnesota? This was ground zero for the transformation from analog to IP cameras. We developed the first Milestone advanced training program here. We also co-created things here; the first power-over-ethernet encoder was invented here in Minnesota.”

As Milestone looks to transform itself going forward, Minneapolis was a symbolic choice.

The meat of how the company proposes to do that was teased by a panel on navigating the future, introduced and moderated by professional MC and the host for the event, Amy McWhirter. Milestone vice president of research, Barry Norton, Salatia CEO and chief AI officer, Dr. Daniel Hume, lead analyst and founder of Novaira Insights, Josh Woodhouse, and Dell Technology general manager of global industries-public edge/computer vision, Randy Lack, talked about a wide variety of topics including pandemic impacts, AI, privacy issues and ethics.

Following that lively discussion Milestone CEO Thomas Jenson took the stage to roll out the big picture strategy. Greeting the partners for the first time since taking the role of CEO on October 1, 2020, Jensen noted, “I’m shocked it took me two years and 25 days to be with all of you.”

Jensen began with the bold assertion that Milestone is going to revolutionize the industry. What does that mean? “Not everybody gets to say that, but we say it with confidence because we have done it before,” Jensen said. “We took a conservative industry and transformed it from analog to digital, and [helped] our customers utilize video technology in ways they had never imagined possible.”

Now Milestone envisions doing that again, this time around cloud, AI and a commitment to what Jensen called responsible technology.

“Our aspiration is to become the global leader in data-driven video technology software both within and beyond security. … We believe the quest we are on is a game changer for this industry, our customers and for society. Our aspiration is together with you to make society a better place to live via the utilization of video technology.”

What’s more, given the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jensen said this is the perfect time to set out on this mission: “There are a lot of dynamic factors out there, from technology to geopolitical, to the aftermath of learning to live with COVID. For us, we see this as a unique opportunity to act now when the world is already being disrupted. When the dynamics surrounding us are impacting our daily lives, that is the time to act and play from a position of strength and do that with true partnerships.” 

For Milestone the process began with a disruption of its own partnership ranks. This past summer, the company began cutting the number of integration partners by approximately two-thirds, Jensen told SDM. “Our first step has been to pare down our integration partners,” he explained. “We launched a new partner program July 1st. We had 11,000 partners in 2022 and when done we will end up with 3,600.” In order to narrow down the pool, Jensen said the company focused on those partners that were consistent, committed and skilled. 

“Milestone has been growing well above market growth, but we had not set the same expectations for our partners,” Jensen told SDM. Now, he described this recent shift as a way to end up with the “right partners, the ones with the right skillset. For us, we were spread too thin. We would much rather work with the partners who are willing to work with us.”

As Palmquist explained on day one, those partners in attendance this year were there by special invitation — with about 470 registered attendees including integrator and manufacturer partners, and others. 

Jensen also announced three major initiatives. 

The first is the January 2023 rollout of a new pure cloud-based VMS solution powered by technology partner Arcules: Milestone Kite, which will be an addition to the Milestone portfolio, primarily aimed at the SMB market or enterprise locations with a smaller camera count, designed to make things simpler and bring the benefits of cloud with an easy-to-implement solution. 

“I have been in the industry for two years plus, but I have been in technology for 25 years,” Jensen said. “I have heard over and over than on-prem is dead and cloud is the future. I don’t buy it. I do buy that cloud is growing and adoption will be increasing. But there will still be customers that require advanced, sophisticated on-prem solutions.”

The addition of Milestone Kite will give integration partners an additional choice of solutions from full on-prem, to hybrid (Milestone XProtect integrated with AWS) to now a pure cloud solution. 

Palmquist added that Milestone Kite will also take advantage of cloud-delivered updates and upgrades, improving and adding integrations over time. “What we launch in January with Kite will continue to innovate and get better and better,” he said.

The second major initiative Jensen announced is a focus on going “beyond security” using solutions that take advantage of advancements in AI. Milestone will roll out specialized solutions around segments of two critical industries: a healthcare solution aimed at improving patient care, staff efficiency and situational awareness; and another to come around the hospitality space to help with gambling addiction initiatives and other gaming-related pain points.

“Beyond security is one term I have heard consistently since I started with Milestone,” Jensen said. “It has become a buzzword but we have not really defined it. We will continue to focus on security and safety as one of the most important parts for our customers. But we will also invest in offerings and solutions beyond security. We believe there are business opportunities to seize and in order to more than double our business that requires us to think beyond our well-defined market.”

Jensen told SDM these two verticals were chosen very intentionally. “The two in question came based on a very thorough analysis on what is the need for video in those industries, their willingness to partner with video and their adoption rate, as well as is there a use case? We took those four criteria and matched them and came up with both healthcare and hospitality as very prosperous industries with a huge need for a better customer experience.”

The third initiative is not a product or solution, but rather a continued statement of purpose around responsible technology.

“This is a hot topic for us,” Jensen said. “If you look back at the technology industry it has been a little ‘Wild West’ especially with large tech corporations.” While acknowledging this “techlash” has primarily been felt outside the security industry, Jensen called this a warning for our industry. “It is time to act and protect current and future generations. … I will never argue it is not OK for companies to make a profit. But we are also here to ensure our society and our customers have confidence in what we deliver, even if it impacts our short-term profits.”

Jensen also told SDM this philosophy will extend to the partners going forward as well. “In an industry that has been severely scrutinized by legislators and the general population for exercising profit greed, especially the large tech companies, we feel it is justified. We have expectations for our integrators to have responsible technology programs. We anticipate that responsibility criteria will become part of the gateway to the highest partnership levels.”

What is responsible technology? Milestone has a history of championing responsible use, data privacy and human rights in its 2019 Copenhagen Clause. Going forward the company will be using AI tools to blur identities to protect privacy, or to create examples of video for sales purposes that use composite people in them rather than real people, as two examples put forward at the conference.

Jensen acknowledged to SDM that the topic of responsible technology is not one that he sees a lot of in the security industry right now — “which is why we want to put it on the agenda.”

On day two of MIPS, the focus turned the concrete steps Milestone is taking to realize its goals and a call to action to continue the conversation and partnerships.

Palmquist shared how, specifically in the Americas, the company has increased its sales team by 100 percent in the last 15 months and its technical staff by 200 percent. “We have increased the size of our America’s organization by around 75 percent overall and we are not done hiring.”

In 2023 Milestone plans to open an East Coast office, in addition to its West Coast presence.

Next, Chief Marketing Officer Christina Molt Wengel detailed some of the new marketing campaigns designed to reach customers more effectively, including new digital content and “partner campaigns in a box.”

The final presentation of the event was the much-anticipated keynote, “Never Fly Solo” featuring Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman, who gave a rousing talk about the importance of a wingman (or “wingmam”) to success. 

For attendees at the 2022 MIPS, the takeaway was clear: the way forward is through (revamped) partnerships and new technology, done strategically with a focus beyond just security, and responsibly with an eye on both ethics and privacy.