MIPS event gives inside look at Milestone Systems

Milestone Systems, developers of the XProtect suite of video management software products, held its Milestone Integration Platform Symposium (MIPS) this past week in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the symposium gave an honest look at the future of IP/network video.

The company, which is the largest provider of software-only video management systems, brought together a number of its integration channel partners, vendor partners, press and analysts to talk honestly and openly about integrated IP video. Kicking off the program, Lars Thinggaard, president and CEO of Denmark-based Milestone Systems, set the tone for the entire program.

"Of the five values that drive our company, openness is the most important," said Thinggaard.

His remarks referred not only to the open discussions on how to improve the product (and how to use the product -- for those who were in Vegas for the training aspect of the conference), but also to the company's intentions to be vendor-agnostic. The company's video management software works with over 500 IP-based security devices and can be run on common PC hardware like Dell servers, or it can be run as the VMS for an NVR -- as JVC has notably done.

The openness, said Milestone's Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Eric Fullerton, isn't slowing down. The company is already working on support drivers for 100 more IP cameras and other devices in 2009.

The challenge, said Fullerton, is that, "You can't just make a generic driver and give it to people. It doesn't allow the custom work that people need. The standards [such as ONVIF and PSIA] being developed are going to take some time before we see their impact."

In his opening address, Thinggaard said that Milestone was committed to supporting the standards being developed in the industry. But even with standards, said Fullerton, there is no guarantee that everything will work the same or not need custom drivers.

"H.264 [video compression] is a standard, but not one single camera vendor has implemented H.264 exactly as the standard," said Fullerton. "So we have to continue to produce drivers and tweak drivers to work with the variation."

Christian Bohn, Milestone's head of product development, said the company, besides working to release device packs every other month, is also tackling technology issues like video walls, automatic device discovery and encryption of the configuration process.

The advantage of regular device pack releases, said Fullerton, is that by having so many different devices supported, integrators aren't just cornered into one company's cameras, recorders and video surveillance management systems. They can pick from a variety of equipment -- whether that's a JVC NVR, a standard Dell box, or storage solutions from companies like Pivot3 and Intransa (both were at MIPS to support the symposium). The integrator can grab the camera that best fits the application -- whether that's a 180-degree-view camera like the 8180 from Arecont, an existing analog PTZ connected via an IP encoder, a network PTZ like Sony's RX570, a standard definition Axis IP camera, an IQeye megapixel camera, or any of the 500 other devices with which the Milestone software can connect and recognize. The same holds true with video analytics, with many of the vendors now interfacing directly into Milestone's software -- and more are on the way. And in the world of today's integrated systems, openness for video surveillance means more than just video. Also on hand were companies like access control firm Open Options which integrates with Milestone even though they're not video companies.

In testament to the openness concept at work during MIPS, two attending vendors -- Lextech Labs and JVC were able to find that seamless integration is indeed the norm when working with the Milestone software. Lextech Labs makes a software application called iRa which runs on the iPhone that allows users to access video surveillance feeds. Both Lextech and JVC support Milestone Systems, so when the Lextech crew found out that JVC's NVRs run Milestone, they decided to test out just how easily the integration would be. JVC's crew provided an address to one of its VR-N1600 NVRs -- a 16-channel NVR which runs Milestone XProtect Enterprise with a 1/2 terabyte of storage and the capability of handling 160 frames per second.

"We just typed in the IP address of the DVR, logged in, and it worked," said Alex Bratton, Lextech Lab's founder and CEO. "We proved that the Milestone software worked -- that it was already integrated."

The iPhone immediately pulled up the video video and all were immediately watching and controlling the surveillance cameras at a JVC location on the East Coast. An icon on the Lextech software indicated whether it was a PTZ, and with their fingers, Bratton and JVC's National Marketing Manager Geoff Anderson were zooming and panning a camera around a parking lot -- without much notable lag and with very good video quality.

"It's a testament to companies like Milestone and Lextech Labs that we can do this," said JVC's Geoff Anderson. "This is what MIPS is all about."