Standing Out From the Pack

Standing Out From the Pack

Korean security provider Argus set out to make stand-alone DVRs, when many vendors were making PC-based ones. It identifies product trends early, making it a leader instead of a follower.

Argus, a Korean DVR manufacturer, was founded July 2001. It aimed to get off the beaten track, working on stand-alone DVR solutions rather than the dominant PC-based solutions of the day.

"We were not the first company to sell stand-alone DVRs, but our first aim of development was for practical units of stand-alone DVRs," said Kyung-Yul Kim, VP of Argus.

Argus wanted a product that would distinguish the company. "We tried to design stand-alone DVRs different from others, by selecting unique chips in the market," Kim said. "We wanted to be different in terms of the price and features."

A customized solution took more time and money, but paid off. By the end of 2002, Argus had finished DVRs available, with sales of about US$1 million, Kim said. The company grew significantly, earning $32 million in 2007. It expects revenue growth of 10 percent for 2008.

Looking To the Future
The Argus DVRs strove to be different from others, down to compression format. While M-JPEG and MPEG-4 were all the rage, it developed a JPEG-2000 solution, cornering an undeveloped market niche.

"No one adopted this JPEG-2000," Kim said. "We wanted Argus to be different from other companies, including algorithm, price and picture quality."

Realizing that MPEG-4 was a short-lived format, Argus began developing H.264 before there were suitable components. "It had good picture quality, hard drive consumption and transmitted more images over IP networks," Kim said.

With no supplier being able to match their needs, Argus chose to design its own H.264 chips. "Our solutions should be high-end, unique and strong in basic functions," Kim said. "We wanted four-, eight- and 16-channel DVRs to record and play back all channels in real time at D1 simultaneously."

Argus customized its algorithm and drew up plans for a chip that fit its needs. Its H.264 DVR will be available this month.

Staying Power
Argus' forward-looking mindset makes it confident it will beat the slow economy. "The DVR is not a consumer product," Kim said. For consumers, they select personal electronic products independently, which they will cut back on in 2009.

However, end users typically do not specify vendors, instead paying installers to select solutions for them. "Security products will see less decreases in spending compared to consumer products," Kim said.

The company made a strong investment in technology and sound financial practices, as it is traded on Korea's KOSDAQ stock index. "Argus has full resources," Kim said. "We have engineers, management and cash flow."

As new construction decreases, the number of security installations will be negatively affected. "It means there will be more competition between Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese companies in the market," Kim said. "We have to make ourselves different from other companies."

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