Upping the Ante on ‘Unification’
February 16, 2016
There is something special about Canada in the winter. It’s cold, yes. But on a recent press tour of Genetec’s world headquarters in Montréal, which included a pre-stop in the beautiful Winter Carnival city of Québec and a tour of that city’s airport before a day-long headquarters tour and sneak peak of the company’s direction and new products, the feeling was one of excitement and innovation. With a new product called Mission Control and a doubling down of its stated purpose — to be a leader in unified IP-based security solutions and earn the respect and loyalty of customers by delivering outstanding value and quality — Genetec demonstrated to members of the world trade press how the open and unified approach is truly winning over customers, as well as benefitting its integration partners.
“A lot of the more ‘saurian’ access control companies like to have their closed architectures and want to capture customers and surf on high transaction costs,” Genetec Founder and CEO Pierre Racz told SDM in an exclusive interview on the train to Montreal. “The types of innovation we are providing are very compelling — so compelling that when [customers of other systems] come to end-of-life they are turning to us.” Racz reported a 35 percent overall growth as a company last year, with closer to 50 percent on access control.
One of these customers is the Jean-Lesage International Airport in Québec City, which is currently using Genetec’s Security Center unified security and access control system and plans a major expansion of both the security system and the airport itself. The airport served nearly 1.6 million passengers in 2015 and is on an aggressive expansion schedule to double in size by 2018 and become one of the 10 busiest airports in Canada by 2020.
The tour of the airport took press into the control room, where operators simulated an event that would trigger an alarm. In a bit of foreshadowing, Genetec made sure Christian Labrosse, director of the Security and Operations Control Center and David Robin, manager of security and safety pointed out the “book,” a multi-tabbed large binder that tells operators what to do in a multitude of situations.
This is precisely what Genetec’s new Mission Control is designed to automate, we discovered back at Genetec headquarters.
“Mission Control is basically a piece of software you put on top of other software to manage undesirable situations,” Racz said. “We don’t want security operators to have to decide things on the fly. That can be arbitrary. We want them to be able to make structured decisions. I am a scuba diver and we say, ‘Plan your dive, dive your plan and scan your logs.’ This is exactly what Mission Control does. It says, when something bad happens, this is what you are doing to do. Follow the script, and at the end of a period of time you can see how you performed against those plans.”
Francis Lachance, director of product management for Genetec, added, “When you start installing systems you might think people are just looking at cameras and opening doors, but the reality of security is to manage a situation. If you have a critical threat the people in the control room might get a bit stressed and not necessarily know how to react. Our system provides a bunch of information and provides tools to the user to make the right decision at the right time…. The next step is how to provide information to the user to properly react to the situation. At the Quebec airport they showed the SOP (standard operating procedure) logbook, which is a big binder. When a situation happens they have to find the proper page, which could be time consuming. They might not be able to find the right information at the right time.”
Mission Control is not a PSIM, the company stressed. PSIMs take existing systems and add a layer on top to offer functionality to situation management. Mission Control is built into Genetec’s flagship Security Center unified system, which the company said is resonating well with its channel partners.
“Their concerns are how to maintain this,” said Jimmy Palatsoukas, senior manager of product marketing. “Just like our messaging around unified, this will be the same over time with Mission Control. A lot of these capabilities like case management and incident reports will flow into other products.”
Mission Control is in beta testing now at several global airports and aimed at enterprise-level applications. The company described it as a “soft launch” between now and ASIS.
“Our integrators are very keen on this because it not only solves customer problems but they can show their chops and their expertise to the customer,” said Andrew Elvish, vice president of marketing and product management. “We are now talking to channels about it and actively bringing on new clients. These are big projects that allow us to become white label integrators alongside our integrator partners to help build workflows and operating procedures.”
At company headquarters, Genetec leaders also touched on a variety of other themes and directions the company is taking in the coming months, from “the security of security” to smart cities, and the growing importance of the cloud in physical security.
“Over the last 15 years or so, Genetec has been about open systems,” Palatsoukas said. “Now we are about the security of security, based on the requests of our customers. We are jumping on the market need and developing a vision for security of security.”
This vision for cybersecurity includes embedding claims-based authentication into its products to consider encryption of data, authentication of users and authorization of who can see data. “What we are doing with this vision is taking the topic and breaking it up into components,” Palatsoukas said. “It is not just about encryption. We are embedding into the product the authentication that it is talking to a legitimate user, as well as giving the administrators the power to control who gets access and what they can do from the system.”
What this will look like on the video side, for example, is the ability to encrypt video both in transit and at rest. In transit is from the edge device to the archiver, while at rest is the archiver. “We are trying to build out an encryption that truly runs from the edge device all the way to at rest,” Elvish explained.
The company is also changing its sales structure to incorporate a “cloud first” approach, which will allow integrators to sell and lease systems from large to small.
“We started the cloud thrust about two or three years ago,” said Christian Morin, Genetec’s vice president of cloud services. “It is the next big shift in our industry and is not a question of if but how fast. It is a lot like going from analog to IP. At North American events we are going around and talking to end users and in the last year we have started to see the lightbulb go on. Now they get it. They understand what it is all about. The cloud is starting to stick and pick up a lot of momentum.”
Genetec’s cloud initiative is designed to eliminate the complexity of setting up solutions, Morin explained. “The integrator can focus on how to configure and provision the system to meet customers’ needs and eliminate the complexity from the get-go. Born-in-the-cloud solutions are going by the mantra of no training required, simple and easy to use and scalable.”
One of the first services using this approach is Federation as a Service, a Security Center head end with Federation capability in the cloud, which allows the integrator to view the health of their customer’s systems as well as to update systems easily, similar to a Windows update.
Also at ISC West, Genetec will have a new version of its Citywise initiative, which was designed to leverage the Federation as a Service to promote sharing of information across departments for a smart city environment.
To help with this initiative, as well as lower the cost barrier in general, Security Center will now be offered as a compact edition, which will provide a new path for smaller sites to be part of the Citywise environment. It lowers the price-per-camera range to approximately $5 a month and also benefits integrators for whom the 1-25 camera site is still the sweet spot.
“We want people to start seeing Genetec as the solution from the smaller systems all the way up to enterprise level and smart cities,” Elvish said. “Where we are going over the next year is a big focus on how people can own our products, the value of these products and the different ways of doing that, from on premises, to subscription on premises, to in the cloud. From our perspective this is the way we will see a lot of the industry move in the next two years.”
For Genetec, the answer is more unified systems and new ways to sell, service and operate them. Racz concluded this could be a big opportunity for integrators.
“Access control is a hard business. Because access is so hard and physical, the ‘trunk slammers’ are unable to pick up that business and do a good job of it. For our integrators offering a unified solution this is good news…. Video is driving decisions and access control is hard. Anyone who can do both well will be in a good position — like a musician that also knows electrical engineering.”