At the 15th annual Milestone Integration Platform Symposium (MIPS), held at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas February 17-19, Milestone sought to drive home a singular message, which was also the tagline for the event: The Power of Open. With a variety of general and breakout sessions — including keynotes by not one but two noted futurists — the company debuted some big news as well as discussed the future roadmap for both products and the larger scale trends, particularly cloud.

Welcoming the more than 700 live attendees (another 1,500 watched it livestreamed), Milestone Vice President Americas Tim Palmquist said from its start 15 years ago MIPS has helped its partners face change in the industry. “They were coming together to discuss how to navigate the changing situation they were finding themselves in. the IP camera was about 10 years old and having a disrupting effect on analog,” he recalled. “Ever since that year we gather with a purpose.”

This year’s purpose was to reiterate the company’s firm commitment to the open platform concept that has been at its core from the beginning, as well as to invite its partners and integrators on a journey to the cloud.

After futurist Gerd Leonhard took the crowd through a look at the future of technology and a philosophical discussion of what makes us human (passion, purpose, curiosity, imagination, foresight and critical thinking) and can’t be replicated by computers, Milestone Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Kenneth Petersen took the stage to talk about trees — specifically, the 2,200 trees the company planted in the Amazon Rainforest for each person participating in this year’s MIPS. But there was a larger message tying back to the futurist’s words.

“How are you going to grow your business in this future?” Petersen asked attendees. “We have never had as many choices as we do today. But you can get too many choices and with too many you get nothing done. … It’s like the saying that you can’t see the woods for the trees. …With the power of open you are lifted above the trees. If there is one thing to remember it is when things change fast, with the power of open you can make the right choice to grow your business faster.”

Petersen then announced the first big news of the event. “In the spring we are launching Marketplace 2.0, solution services for integrators,” he explained. “With [Marketplace 2.0] you will get a small but relevant amount of options and make sure they are optimized and verified by Milestone. This will give integrators the ability to … expand their footprint, go into new areas, verticals and also gives them great lead generation,” he said.

One of the most talked about events of the first day was the next presentation, by Milestone Director of Technology Business Development Keven Marier — not only because of what he had to say, but because of the lightning strike and brief power flicker in the middle of the presentation that called for an early break for lunch to get the computers and projection back up and running. His announcement was also one of the big reveals of the conference, which is that Milestone has become a member of the Amazon Web Services marketplace. “In July 2020 we will release the first two products,” he said.

Marier used a bridge analogy to describe Milestone’s approach to the cloud. “We are battling friction within security and battling for impact around cloud computing. Your business models need to be modernized to take advantage of that opportunity. … We are at this bridge from on-premise to cloud. Bridges have one way on and off, but they go in both directions.

“Our data starts on premise. It has to move to another location but we get a bit blind. We tend to think of it as moving the on-premise world to cloud. What makes today so exciting is that cloud is actually moving on-prem, too. The bridge goes in both directions.”

With the AWS announcement, Marier explained that you can now order cloud and put it in the private data center. It will also allow for a bring your own license model, he explained. “You can use the same license, business model and reseller you currently are using.”

Throughout the event there was also a lot of talk about reducing friction. The BYOL model as a concept is one way to reduce friction, Marier said.

The AWS model was one of two cloud solutions featured at MIPS. The other was the recent announcement of the partnership between Milestone and Arcules to deliver a hybrid VMS solution.

Arcules Chief Revenue Officer Nigel Waterton said, “It is a commitment we are making to Milestone as a partner. Launched February 11, the … partnership is a way in which we use Milestone Interconnect to allow our device to be seen inside XProtect. It allows Milestone to offer a true cloud solution with their current on-prem model.

“Systems integrators that have the traditional Milestone model can now more easily expand to cloud and gives them an increased ability to service a marketplace that is demanding and asking for a cloud-based solution.”

With two different paths to cloud, Waterton praised Milestone’s open approach to the market. “I have been in this industry 23 years and I have seen a lot of proprietary models come and go. That doesn’t allow for flexibility in the marketplace. … Milestone’s model of openness gives the power of choice to the marketplace. It is a bold step that addresses the needs of the customer. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

This freedom to choose is a philosophy Milestone has had from the beginning, Palmquist said, opening day two of the conference. “We have chosen to partner versus going it alone. The freedom to choose comes from a rich ecosystem. … The nice thing about innovation is you can capture that as it comes to market. Being open and having lots of partnerships and choices creates rich opportunities to assimilate that.”

The second futurist of the event was TedX speaker Anders Sorman-Nilsson, who spoke about taking friction out of the equation. Weaving the presentation around his own family history in the garment industry, Sorman-Nilsson said, “Every business model is getting digitally disrupted. Ask yourselves in what part of your value chain or customer journey you have built is there still friction? Because that kills business. Things are about to get really hectic. When it comes to new technology, things are moving at a pace humans sometimes find difficult to comprehend.”

To illustrate that on a more industry-specific level, Josh Woodhouse, principal analyst-video surveillance for IHS Markit explained the methodology behind the numbers, including the prediction that by 2022 there would be 1 billion professionally installed cameras installed globally.

Next, a panel discussion represented the various interests of the channel from end user to integrator to manufacturer to discuss cloud deployment strategies.

“In the last day we have talked about friction a lot,” said panelist Clifford Cox, senior product manager, LenelS2. “I love that idea. To me, cloud solutions have the potential of being an industrial lubricant in the gears. To the degree that our partners have versions running in the cloud, imagine how easy it is to combine those things. Imagine the future solutions being available. … Integrators will have the opportunity to curate these services.”

Integrator Eric Edline, PMP, program manager, Convergint Technologies, added, “We have to be prepared. We are not going to get to 100 percent right away. There will be some mix of cloud and on-prem. But if you think you are going to ignore it or it will go away, that is a mistake. … You are going to have to be courageous. Expect to fail and keep your eyes on it. Push forward and learn from your mistakes and it will happen.”

This was the lesson Axis Senior Director of Sales Larry Newman also imparted in his presentation about the lessons his company learned from trying to implement cloud too early. While those early efforts ultimately failed, Newman stressed that now the industry and the world is ready for cloud.

“There are a lot of reasons the industry didn’t adopt early,” he said, citing in particular education as well as high-speed internet. “It wasn’t until 2016 that 30 percent of the U.S. had Broadband internet. Internet access needs to be usable for our industry. That is all about to change with 5G networks. It is not a matter of if, but when. And when it comes, look out, because then the options are even greater.”

Beyond the speakers, of course MIPS is about networking as well as showcasing the various integrations and there were plenty of opportunities for both. Breakfast, lunch and the first night dinner were held in the partner exhibition hall, allowing plenty of time for conversation as well as exploration. The exhibition featured many Milestone partners large and small, including the three finalists of the annual Kickstarter contest: Benoit Koenig of Veesion, who used gesture recognition to detect shoplifting in retail applications; Zeljko Tepic of Venzo Secure, whose idea was to provide seamless awareness of critical events by transparently displaying an intuitive “alert timeline” on top of the XProtect Smart Client camera views; and Jennifer Ivens of Canscan, who created a next-level shipping container checking system, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) called Virtual Checker.

On the final night, Milestone hosted a Texas-style BBQ awards dinner to announce the winner of the contest, as well as a host of other partner awards. Ivens of Canscan was given the Kickstarter prize, which included $10,000 plus development help and marketing support.

“This is the fourth year we have had the Kickstarter contest, said Jesper Raebild, vice president marketing, Milestone. “I was part of the judging and have never seen a stronger group. … It is not just about money but also how they can become successful in building up a solution and a business around it,” he said of the significance of the contest.

Raebild cited the cloud announcements and Marketplace 2.0 as some of the takeaways he hoped attendees would leave the conference thinking about. “I really hope the attendees believe we have reaffirmed our commitment to open, our commitment to our partner channel and that we are bringing our partners with us on this cloud journey using the skill sets they already have,” he said.