America Learns from School Of Hard Knocks

America Learns from School Of Hard Knocks

The American dream invites everyone to its shores to reinvent themselves. Anyone can make it in this nation of immigrants, as long as they work hard to earn their keep.

However, dreams of success became an obsession for some. Well-documented instances of greed defrauded countless victims, such as Enron's auditors covering up gross corruption. As Wall Street's fat cats cashed in on the American dream, the recession sent the global economy into freefall.

The US spirit of optimism is well-meaning, but not always able to accept failure. As the market boomed, there was no tolerance for “weak” performance, until lending spun recklessly out of control.

In flush times, America's greenbacks are welcomed — its market demands a never-ending supply of resources and finished goods. However, befriending the U.S. requires playing by its rules. The image of a self-seeking American cop bullying uncooperative nations into submission with trade sanctions and embargos illustrates how unpopular its foreign policy can be.

While foreign policy may have stoked the ire of America's enemies, it does not justify the deliberate attacks in 2001. The violent strikes on US soil increased security spending significantly, as the country sought to defend itself against further threats. In a country where anything is possible, America has to face the reality of an uncertain world that does not always go her way.

The can-do spirit of America encourages entrepreneurship. Top institutions attract the brightest minds from all over the world, with a clear immigration process to retain the crème de la crème. “The U.S. is unique for containing the high end for innovative R&D and utilizing Asian production capability,” said Bengt Christensson, Senior Marketing Director for Ambarella.

A commitment to innovation is what makes a company unique. “Manufacturing has the same costs, so the differentiator will be innovation, quality, and support and services,” said Fredrik Nilsson, GM for the Americas, Axis Communications. “That takes a lot of R&D and service.”

The U.S. is home to the most cutting-edge technologies, such as biometrics and video analytics. However, domestic production is not cost-effective, resulting in global partnerships. Even local players have their eye on overseas targets. “What's unique about US companies is they look more toward the global marketplace,” said Lance Holloway, Director of Technology Strategy, Stanley Convergent Security Solutions. “Before, they were content to be regional players, but a global outlook is now an understood expectation.”

Biometrics is an area where the U.S. has advantages, from iris recognition to multispectral fingerprint imaging. The latest multispectral techniques used red, green and blue lights to capture images 2-millimeter deep of capillaries that match the fingerprint, even through wet latex gloves, said Bill Spence, VP of Transaction Systems, Lumidigm.

Intelligent video is another strength. “Analytics were discovered in the last 10 years, which ushered its reach into the mainstream,” Christensson said.

Analytics have moved from military applications to being baked into mass-produced components. The latest Texas Instruments network camera and DVR reference designs both include intelligent features, placing smarts directly at the edge.

Security went from being “recession-proof” to “cautiously optimistic” in the wake of the financial downturn. “The U.S. is rebounding quicker than Europe, except for intrusion,” said Paul Everett, Research Director for Access Control, Fire and Security at IMS Research. “The U.S. was impacted before Europe.”

As the US economy suffered the Lehman Brothers collapse first in 2008, it has had more time to recover. “The recession eradicated a lot of companies,” said Roger Decker, Director Solutions and Marketing, Siqura Surveillance Solutions (a TKH Group company). “Now, it's picking up.” Optelecom-NKF was acquired by TKH Group in November 2010, going to market as TKH in the U.S. and Siqura in the rest of the world. Its business is “going through the roof” in the U.S. this year, compared to 2010.

Some players managed to beat the market, particularly smaller and more nimble IP companies. “The recession did affect our business, and some customers were considering purchases more carefully,” said John Szczygiel, Executive VP of Business Development, Brivo Systems. “Brivo still grew 40 percent in 2010, which was faster than the industry.” Its cloud-based access control economic model allowed users to pay for only the services they needed instead of purchasing equipment upfront, making it an attractive option in tough times. Larger companies were able to fall back on more diverse portfolios. “We changed our emphasis 24 months ago to focus on the government sector,” said Matt Barnette, VP of Sales and Marketing, AMAG Technology. “We had an early move into that, so it backfilled any loss of revenue from the commercial sector.”

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