Open-platform surveillance technology could be vulnerable to hackers

Open-platform surveillance technology could be vulnerable to hackers

The CEO of German surveillance firm Mobotix has raised concerns about the headlong rush towards open-platform technology in the surveillance market.

Speaking to journalists assembled at the company's Kaiserslauten HQ Klaus Gesmann admitted that the company was undecided about running with the herd on security grounds. “We have discussed it several times, but so far we have no app store for our cameras,” said Gesmann, who was appointed CEO in February.

“The processes the cameras are running are very critical – it's a security camera. We know that some of our competitors have opened up their platform to those apps, so we will wait for a security leak.

“I have heard about cameras in Asia that have installed heartbleed bugs so, we are a little bit conservative on that topic.” But Gesmann, who spoke frankly about the company's strategy and challenges in a wide-ranging roundtable discussion, didn't rule out emulating AXIS Communications and many other manufacturers in offering third-party access to its cameras.“We are running LINUX systems so there is no technical problem, except the security issues. Maybe next year we will do it.”

MOBOTIX does open up its application programming interface (API) to third parties, Gesmann said. “We have a software development kit you can download on our website. Of course you need some basic knowledge of software development, but I would say a skilled engineer can integrate a MOBOTIX camera within 15 minutes.”

Defying trends
MOBOTIX is a company brave enough to defy a number of industry trends – not least its unusual approach to distribution. “For us it is very important to get two steps to distribution. First of all, we are looking for the best distributors in a country, then for a lot of so-called two-tier partners, system integrators and so on.

“The first step is to convince them of the decentralised concept, then get them motivated and trained. Then we will help them to win their first project and install those projects and so on.”

The company holds annual conferences to foster and manage relationships with its distributors. “The NPCs [national partner conferences] and IPCs [international partner conferences] are the most important tools to get new people into the community,” said Gesmann. “It gives us the opportunity to see all our partners during one or two years, to get them updated, to get the latest technology to them and changes within our technology and so on. It is important for our tier-two partners to make clear to their customers that that is something you cannot compare with a very cheap camera from the Asian market.”

It's not just MOBOTIX's approach to distribution that is decentralised, as its website explains: Unlike other systems […] a high-speed computer and if necessary, digital long-term memory (MicroSD Card) is built into every camera, providing several days of recording time. The PC and the video control center now serve only for viewing and controlling the cameras (PTZ), not for analysis or recording. This makes it unnecessary to purchase expensive video management software, as the most important and computer-intensive functions are already integrated in the MOBOTIX cameras.

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