While Canada has a much smaller security industry than its giant neighbor to the south (U.S.), it is highly focused. The well-educated and skilled labor force underpins strong R&D and innovation.
The security industry in Canada has estimated annual revenue of US$2 billion, with 70 percent coming from protection services and 30 percent from hardware. According to Industry Canada and Statistics Canada, the electronic security industry posted average annual growth of 10 percent, expanding from $690 million in 1996 to $1.8 billion in 2006. It is estimated that 24,000 people are employed in the Canadian commercial security equipment industry, which is highly export-oriented. The U.S. receives the bulk of exports (69 percent), followed by Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Canada has a strong commitment to R&D in information and communication technologies (ICT); it has a higher share of ICT investment compared with other developed nations. Research consortia and centers of excellence have been established across the country to encourage innovation. Canada also offers low R&D costs and the most favorable R&D tax treatment of any G-7 country. The nationˇs skilled labor force, which has been cultivated through high-quality education, is also a major factor behind the success of the electronic security industry.
Strong Education System
"The strong higher education system in Canada has helped foster engineering talent required by our industry," commented Pierre Racz, CEO at Genetec, a Montrealbased IP security solutions provider. According to Industry Canada, an independent U.S.-based assessment of university faculties has placed 10 Canadian electrical engineering programs amongst the top 22 in North America. Similarly, Canada's computer science programs also received high ratings; the report ranked seven Canadian computer engineering programs amongst the top 20 in North America.
Some 80 percent of Genetec's more than 150 employees are engineers. "Montreal is a technology hub. Less than 100 kilometers from our company, there are three good universities that supply a large talent pool," explained Racz. (See Box 1.) "Because of government subsidies," said Racz, "schools admit students on the basis of their grades and special skills, not their financial situations. This has provided fair access to quality education for all students, as long as they are academically competent."
The company has been very active in hiring co-op (internship) students. In Canada, many universities (in Quebec, all universities) offer co-op programs. Co-op students attend class for one academic term and then work in paid job placements for another term, until they have worked for three to five academic terms. By offering co-op job opportunities, companies have early access to talents and also have the possibility to employ them in the future at lower hiring costs. "We give co-op students challenging jobs. Not only do students get to learn through practical and problemsolving experiences, we also have the opportunity to see if a student would be a good fit within our corporate culture," explained Racz. The company then may take these students on full-time after they graduate. "Not all will be eventually hired by Genetec. Approximately 50 percent of our engineers have been co-op students with us in the past."
Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. A high standard of living and quality of life, coupled with facilitated entry into Canada for technology professionals, has attracted skilled researchers and professionals from all over the world. According to a report filed by Immigration Canada, the top skilled immigrant categories are computer programmers, and electrical, electronics and mechanical engineers.
A diverse demographic mix in the talent pool definitely helps companies, especially in the R&D stage. Take Toronto-based Visual Defence, a company started by immigrants. There, 60 percent to 70 percent of the companyˇs engineers are immigrants from China, Israel, India, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
¨The knowledge base of the whole organization is expanded with every new culture. This allows us to approach problems with a mixture of perspectives,〃 said Dagan Sadeh, CEO of Visual Defence. ¨Software requires innovation and cross-fertilization of ideas. The fact that we are multicultural allows us to brainstorm with people from different cultural backgrounds with different ideas and ways of thinking,〃 stressed Sadeh.
Skilled immigrants also provide companies with important language skills and knowledge of international markets. At Genetec, 31 different languages are spoken. "If a customer phones from anywhere in the world, we have a good chance of finding a native speaker to help," said Racz. "Also, our software has been translated into 17 languages."
Leading Security Technologies
Canada has a notable edge in telecommunication, network and optical technologies with niche strengths in software development and wireless technology. Video management and analytics, specialized surveillance technologies, and intrusion alarms are several areas in which Canadian security players are highly visible.
Video Management and Analytics
Video management is among the strongest markets in the Canadian industry. Racz pointed to Genetec's capabilities in metadata management and maintaining true open architecture. "Our software has the ability to connect 50,000 cameras. We not only manage pictures, but also everything in those pictures."
Genetec manages cash register transactions so users can look for suspicious activity," said Racz. He also stressed that while the term "open architecture" may be overused, Genetec creates different layers and levels of abstractions, which lead to a truly open architecture that makes cameras and DVRs from different vendors appear to behave the same way.
March Networks, an IP video and business intelligence applications provider, draws upon a heritage in IP-based networking and video processing technologies. Peter Wilenius, Vice President of Corporate Development, pointed out that the company's core strength lies in "building reliable networks that can be deployed at thousands of locations, while retaining the ability to monitor, maintain and provide software upgrades as if one were at a local building."
With March Networks' management software, service technicians simply show up and install NVRs (networked video recorders); all configuration management can be done remotely. The company is also developing different types of analytics, particularly for the retail and financial verticals. "We have developed a series of data mining and exception reporting applications for banks and large retail chains," said Wilenius, "to investigate video and transaction activity for loss and fraud prevention."
March Networks is led by seasoned executives with considerable networking and security expertise and the company is located in Ottawa, a North American networking technology hub. (See Box 1.) Company Chairman Terry Mathew has been a long-term resident in Ottawa and has built a number of network ventures, including Mitel Networks, Newbridge Networks (a data networking provider sold to Alcatel in 2000) and another 30 companies in the network field.
Visual Defenceˇs command and control software integrates easily with cameras, DVRs and security subsystems from nearly any vendor; it works with both analog and digital components. Sadeh cited Visual Defenceˇs work on Toronto's Pearson airport: ¨Pearson was among the first airports in the world to adopt an IP infrastructure for security. However, it had thousands of analog cameras and the management did not want to lose their investment in that hardware.〃 Visual Defence installed a Virtual Matrix System at Pearson that allowed them to maintain their analog camera investment by encoding the analog camera signals, giving them the flexibility to control the cameras digitally.〃
A key differentiator of Visual Defence software is the built-in workflow tool. ¨Predefined best-practice procedures can be directly incorporated into the system,〃 explained Sadeh. ¨When an event occurs, operators are presented with step-by-step instructions for responding. Procedures can be automatic or require operator interaction depending on the situation or requirements of the organization. This reduces risk associated with human error in high-stress emergencies.〃
Aimetis, a Waterloo, Ontario-based software company, offers robust and easy-to-use open-IP video management platform with integrated analytics. "We have been involved in many pilot projects where potential customers evaluate our software against others," said Justin Schorn, Director of Business Development.
"Vendors all claim the superiority of their own analytics so it is difficult for users to choose without hands-on evaluation," added Schorn. The company was the pioneer in putting its video analytics software on its website for public download. "Users can evaluate our software free for 60 days in order for them to better understand where video analytics can add value while also understanding its limitations. This helps users to make the right choice." The core intelligence inside Aimetis products are the Video Engines (VE) Series analytics. "This is the piece where the math takes place," said Schorn. VE can be embedded in network cameras or NVRs and are responsible for understanding images and making sense of them in human-like terms.
"The Video Engines take raw video data as input and output XML metadata which describes the scene in easily understood text. The NVR reads the XML metadata which includes what types of objects are in the scene, their current location, and the NVR can record the event, raise an alarm, or cause any action it wants," explained Schorn.
Aimetis also develops video management software. "We offer a complete, end-to-end solution," added Schorn. "Our own Open IP-Surveillance software uses the VE Series analytics to understand what is happening in front of the camera. Based on rules the user sets, such as alarm zones, schedules, and any other exception, our software can raise an alert."
The company is located in the City of Waterloo, a Canadian technology hub. The Intelligent Communities Forum ( ICF) has recognized Waterloo as being the world's Top Intelligent Community. The University of Waterloo (U of W), which is close to the company's headquarters, has one of the largest and best mathematics departments worldwide. "We are able to recruit top talent in the field of computer vision. This helps us be a technology leader in our industry." While there is no official cooperation, Aimetis has informal interactions. "We send guest speakers to the school; we exchange a lot of ideas and information. Many U of W graduates are part of the team." University of Waterloo is also highly regarded internationally. "The school has attracted many talented students from abroad, and many apply for permanent residence after they graduate."
Canada also excels in optical and digital imaging technologies. Vancouver-based Avigilon offers high definition surveillance (HD) systems and surveillance software, as well as HD cameras, ranging in resolution from one megapixel to 16 megapixels. "Our president, Alexander Fernandes, was a pioneer in digital image processing technology; with more than 15 years of experience," said Pierre Parkinson, Vice President of Marketing Development at Avigilon.
In each Avigilon high-definition surveillance system, components are optimized to preserve image quality. Avigilon uses high-grade sensors that see better in the dark, capturing more detail in scenes with bigger contrast between brightness and darkness. "Our camera sensors are extremely sensitive across the entire visible spectrum and into near infrared wavelengths," stressed Parkinson. Use of progressive JPEG-2000 lossless compression technology also helps capture image data exactly as it is produced by camera sensors. "Additionally, our software has built-in image enhancement features to reveal details that normally would remain unseen," he explained.
The use of available optics, continued Parkinson, allows users to have better images because Avigilon uses standard digital SLR lenses, which have high quality, but are inexpensive. "Actual total cost of ownership is lower using high resolution cameras such as our 16 megapixel model because it takes more than 50 conventional surveillance cameras to get the same resolution."
Seon Design, a Vancouver-based mobile surveillance provider, designs systems to withstand all vibrations in mobile environments. ¨The entire system, including both DVRs and accessories
ranging from all the wiring peripherals and infrared illuminators to GPS receivers and microphones
all need to be rugged, reliable products,〃 said President Ian Radziejewski.
Harsh, mobile environments affect all aspects of products
mechanical, environmental and electrical. ¨Mechanically, we need to design a product that accommodates mobile environments,〃 said Radziejewski. ¨Environmentally, we need to have a product that withstands large temperature and humidity fluctuations. Electrically, we need to have a product that can withstand electric transients.〃
Radziejewski went on to explain the companyˇs competitive edge. ¨Because mobile products are all that we do, we are able to offer several types of DVRs with much more specific designs. As school buses are smaller than transit vehicles, the number of cameras required is somewhere between one and four, so it does not make sense to use an eight-channel DVR. In addition, the electrical interface used to record signals requires analog inputs, but a lot of transit DVRs have digital interfaces. There is no point charging a school bus for something that the user does not require.〃
Multiculturalism has certainly made Seon Design an interesting place to work. "At one point we estimated that more than 20 languages were spoken by our staff. As we expand and find international contractors and suppliers, the direct international experience of our staff provides invaluable insight and contacts, this helps maintain communications and understanding of Seon's goals," said Radziejewski.
Senstar-Stellar, a Canada-based outdoor perimeter security manufacturer, and a member of the Magal Group, offers a wide array of perimeter products, both overt and covert, including buried ¨leaky〃 cable technology (sensors). Strong commitment to R&D has led to success. Keith Harman is known as the father of the leaky cable. " He invented this technology while he was doing his PhD from the Queen's University 26 years ago. At that time, the idea of applying leaky cables to security was a novel idea," said Brian Rich, President of Senstar-Stellar.
Senstar-Stellar ˇs predecessor, Computing Devices Canada gained solid technical experiences working for the military. ¨Military programs are more rigorous than commercial ones,〃 said Rich. ¨The military demands much higher specs and standards and it usually has more budget for R&D. Since we wanted to make commercially viable applications, Senstar was spun off from the mother company.〃
Senstar-Stellar has one of the largest outdoor privately-owned test site facilities. ¨Our 10-acre test site in Ottawa,〃 said Rich, ¨allows us to install our sensors in real-world environments, ranging from minus 30 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius, and to test and monitor 24-7.〃
Then, there is ADT Security Services
North America's oldest and biggest electronic security system installer and monitoring service provider for residences and businesses. ¨The Canadian alarm industry is not well-regulated; anyone can start an alarm service company wi thout a common credential,〃 pointed out Sophie Lavery, Manager of Commercial Marketing and Francophone Public Relations at ADT Security Services Canada. ¨The alarm market in Canada is extremely fragmented and filled with many small service providers. I would not be surprised if some of the smaller companies are actually operating from someone's basement.〃 In contrast, ADT has seven monitoring centers across North America (two in Canada) and ADT complies the strict ULC (Underwriters Laboratory of Canada) standards.
Seven monitoring centers act as backup for one another. ¨At ADT, we have a comprehensive network of dedicated Customer Monitoring Centers backed by powerful equipment and trained professionals,〃 said Lavery. ¨If connections to a monitoring center are interrupted, one of our other centers takes over promptly, giving us the ability to offer continuous security.〃
Because of access to higher level of education, Lavery observed that in general, Canadian service technicians adapt better to IP products or technologies that require the use of software. ¨Some of the overseas system integrators specifically asked for ADTˇs Canadian team to install projects for them.〃