Controlware operates as a system integrator and managed services provider in Germany and a value-added distributor worldwide. A&S talks to Rolf Didion, Director of Operations for Physical Security, about the company's development and where it is headed.
What is Controlware's business model like and how did it fare in 2010?
Physical security has been part of the Controlware business model since 1997 when Controlware's owner Helmut Woerner invested in a German company called VCS. VCS was a developer of IP video products known for Videojet encoders, network cameras and Vidos management system, so this was a natural progression for us. IT security and communication solutions are still the core of Controlware; the introduction of physical security solutions was more of an extension to the core products and services than a transitional move, since both sit happily side by side.
We are all about adding value to both worlds. Controlware is not a “box shifter,” but with value-added services and support engineers. The Controlware ethos is about helping installer and integrator partners to deliver advanced systems that meet customer expectations on all levels. With our specialist IP skills, we aim to assist partners as much as possible and make them look good in the eyes of their customers.
In 2010, although we have seen a few projects put on hold, we anticipate continued growth in the physicalsecurity sector as the market continues to move to IP-based systems. We are positioned with the right business model, the right skills, and the right people and experience to help installers and integrators take advantage of the benefits of converged technologies.
How have Controlware's inventory strategies or policies been changed or improved after the 2008-2009 recession?
Controlware's internal strategies and policies are highly flexible and constantly adapted to meet actual business requirements and conditions. Inventory levels have not had to be altered as a consequence of the recession, since agility in the back end of the business has been a fundamental success ingredient for Controlware from day one. Continuity and long-term customer loyalty, as well as our varied/extensive know-how in information and communication technologies, are crucial to ensure that we have the flexibility to meet challenges head on.
In a market with diverse needs, what is the best or quickest way to find out what is really demanded?
Building long-term relationships with customers and understanding user requirements allow Controlware to identify the products and solutions that are truly needed. This is achieved chiefly through our value-added services that include design and consultancy. By working alongside installers and integrators and adding value and support services, Controlware gains a better understanding of the solutions that users require than if we were a box mover, since our model brings us closer to the end customer and their technical requirements than traditional distributors. Controlware also maintains close relationships with suppliers, by understanding what our solution partners' products can do and how they fit into the overall project while meeting the needs of our customers.
What makes Controlware stand out from the competition?
Dedication to IP-based security systems and the specialist IP knowledge and experience we have developed over the course of more than a decade set Controlware apart from the others. We do not have our own branded product range like some distributors, which allows us to be more agile and provide independent, best-of-breed solutions for installers and integrators.
Not only does Controlware provide products from leading developers such as Axis, Bosch, Cisco, JVC, Samsung, Sanyo, Optelecom-NKF and Genetec, but it also adds value with system design and support services.Controlware also has IT specialists for networks, security, IT management, applications, operation and service.
The transition to or adoption of IP is not as smooth and quick as anticipated, largely due to current economic conditions and integrators'/installers' reluctance to learn the IT /IP language. What can be done?
Obviously, adoption differs from region to region. In high-density markets such as the U.K. which have large amounts of legacy analog equipment, adoption is slower due to equipment churn. In other markets where there is no existing legacy equipment, we see IP adoption is much faster. Also, we must be realistic; IP-based systems are not for everyone. For very low camera counts, there is still room for cost-effective DVRs, but for the majority, IP-based systems and the benefits they bring are the way to go.
Educating the market about IP is important, especially for traditional CCTV installers and integrators. It can be a big step up for them to understand the benefits that IP can bring, but you also have to understand what you are doing if systems are to be successful.
Last year, one manufacturer claimed that IP surveillance systems are expensive and unreliable compared to analog/hybrid CCTV systems. They claimed that an IP-based system for 750 cameras would cost US$2.9 million, and the hybrid system proposed would only cost $1 million. Controlware put these claims to the test by developing a new system based on the components and products specified in the article. We ended up bringing in a much more cost-effective IP system than the proposed hybrid system, with a new control room fit-out on top.
What are some key IT /IP integration and standardization issues that still need to be addressed?
ONVIF is making good headway, but there are still issues that need to be resolved. Too often, we have manufacturers blaming the bit of kit that does not have that manufacturer's name on it, like the switch for instance; so, we would like to see more interaction between complimentary manufacturers such as switches and servers/storage on one side and camera manufacturers on the other, for approved/certified compatibility.
Other issues are global deployment standards concerning image display, recording profiles, compression and so on. There seems to be no standard that sets out what a recorded image should be defined as to guarantee its validity in a court of law. This would stop poor-quality or badly designed systems giving the whole of IP a bad name.
Another area to look at is the 16:9 versus 4:3 display ratio and the VGA/4CIF versus HD image size. There is a challenge on how the image looks when displayed in a conflicting environment. For example, we now supply 1,080p, 16:9-ratio screens as standard, but then you have an issue with displaying the video because unless the image is a 16:9, most software systems will insert two bars either side which can irritate end users and make systems look unpolished. It would be better if either everyone agrees to 16:9 as a standard on new products or the recorded image retains the correct aspect ratio. Right now, live view is either cut back or scaled to fit the screen resolution in the way that television automatically does.
Also, IP-based video surveillance must become more plug-and-play as sometimes manufacturers make products too complex or add too many features, and they think that is the only way to make the products stand out from the crowd. There should be more interaction with other IP devices, as too often security systems drop into silos of their own fields rather than thinking about how better they can work together.
What are Controlware's 2011 plans?
We expect to see revenues grow in line with the general growth of the IP market share. More projects are coming through with IP being specified as the technology of choice. Users are starting to see the benefits of IP but are not being given clear guidance and direction due to a massive knowledge gap in the industry from some consultants, system integrators and installers.
With our experienced team of pre- and postsales support engineers and designers, Controlware is well-positioned to bridge this knowledge gap by assisting installers and integrators with our range of valueadded services. The Controlware IP product line will be expanded through the additions of IP access control and other IP-enabled technologies, such as ALPR, VCA, intrusion detection and unified management systems, so that we continue to ensure that the needs of our customers and our customers' customers are met.