So I'm typing this from my hotel room's balcony on Wed., Feb. 6, feeling a cool Caribbean breeze, overlooking a harbor off the Atlantic Ocean. Yep, I'm in San Juan, Puerto Rico for the Milestone Integration Platform Symposium (MIPS 2008). Life is good right now (as long as I don't think about the Chicago winter to which I'll soon be returning).
MIPS 2008 is one of two such events that Milestone Systems hosts each year (one in the Americas and one in Europe, and next year they'll add Asia). At this symposium, Milestone will be able to educate people about the latest updates and capabilities of its various XProtect surveillance management software versions, as well as give about 200 attendees, comprised of distributors, integrators, resellers and manufacturers, an opportunity to network and learn from each other.
Amidst the busy schedule today, I had a chance to sit down one-on-one with Eric Fullerton, Corporate Chief Sales & Marketing Officer and President, Milestone Systems Inc. Fullerton has an extensive background working at (and running) IT companies and had plenty of IP security experience before coming to Milestone in September 2004 to head up its U.S. operations.
Fullerton noted that Milestone's products are now in 87 countries and they have had 35,000 customer installations, which shows that they have come a long way as a company since their inception in Copenhagen, Denmark ten years ago. Milestone doesn't sell direct to end users, rather the company sells to dealers/integrators and distributors. He puts a heavy emphasis on quality training for dealers/integrators so that they can properly install (and explain) Milestone's surveillance management software for end users.
Â "We want to keep support calls down," said Fullerton, explaining that if end users have to keep calling for help on the product, the end user will eventually start to think Milestone is at fault rather than their integrator for not having explained things properly. He estimated that the company is currently training 100 dealers/integrators per month globally on their XProtect products, as well as attending 30-40 shows in the Americas and 30-40 shows in Europe.
Despite Milestone's successes, Fullerton acknowledges that the company does face its challenges in convincing some dealers and integrators that their product is the one to use.
"There is an inertia," he said. "The part of the channel that's not converging is selling yesterday's technology." He explained that the main challenge Milestone faces is getting dealers and integrators to see the value of an open platform, and so Milestone will continue to trumpet this message. He also noted that while Milestone offers an "open platform" which allows dealers and integrators to plug in "best-of-breed" solutions into their software, some competitors are also saying that they are an open platform -- but he says most are not really open. An example Fullerton cited was Cisco. In his view, Cisco doesn't decouple hardware from software, and he said such a decoupling is necessary to be an open platform like Milestone.
There also were a wide variety of seminars and workshops which attendees can choose from. Today I attended the Architectural and Engineering (A&E) track, which consisted of six presentations ("Video Analytics" by Mike Sherwood, channels director, Vidient; "Access Control" by John Moss, CEO, S2 Corporation; "Megapixels Per Foot" by Paul Bodell, vice president business development, IQinVision; "IBM Video Analytics" by Steve Russo, director of security & privacy technology, IBM Global Technology Services; "The Open Platform Vision" by Henrik Friborg Jacobsen, V.P. strategic alliances & co-founder of Milestone Systems A/S and Mark S. Wilson, marketing director Americas, Milestone Systems; and "Large Project Milestone Success Stories" by Fredrik Wallberg, marketing program manager Americas, Milestone Systems, and Courtney Dillon Pedersen, media communications manager, Milestone Systems).
I found all of the presentations informative. Both presentations on video analytics touched on many topics which I've already written about, however, when I spoke with some of the attendees they gave high reviews of the video analytics discussions. From what I can tell on this first day, people are finding the discussions to be worthwhile.
Uh oh, so now that cool Caribbean breeze has brought in the dark clouds of a rain front. I can even feel a few sprinkles. I guess you could say I've got trouble in paradise -- better get this laptop inside...
-Greg McConnell, associate editor, Security Dealer & Integrator