Ohio Surveillance Firm i2c Wants Cameras to Go High-Tech

Jan. 1--From his office in Green, Jeff Doak pulls out his Pocket PC -- a cell phone-sized computer with a wireless Internet connection -- and dials up a camera installed on property he owns in southeast Ohio.

He instructs the camera to spin around 360 degrees, then zooms in tight on the Senecaville Dam three-quarters of a mile away.

If he were so inclined, Doak could program the camera to pick up any motion in the nearby woods, then call his phone so he could see what's wandered into view.

This is the next generation of video surveillance, a customized, interactive system designed by i2c Technologies on Boettler Road.

Doak, the company's president, has paired his expertise in software development with his vice president's law enforcement experience.

Bryon Taylor spent his last two years on the Perry Township force as a detective investigating property crimes.

Taylor estimates 98 percent of his cases were dependent on video evidence.

"The big breaking point would be if you could get a face on a security camera," he said. "But most of what's out there is completely useless."

That's because most surveillance cameras in use today are fixed, limited to taking in an overview of a large area. And despite what crime television shows like CSI suggest, clarity does not increase when enlarging a photo.

So even if the crime is caught on film, "I have to go before a jury and say without a doubt it's that person, and that's pretty tough to do," Taylor said.

Software in the i2c camera allows it to automatically pan, tilt and zoom in on activity using predetermined triggers, such as motion picked up by wireless sensors or the swipe of a key card.

Doak demonstrated how the cameras can zoom in on the face of a person entering a building, then automatically hand off to other cameras as the person moves from room to room.

The software can be programmed to call a number or send a text message when a triggered event occurs.

Live pictures as well as archived footage can be controlled or viewed from any Internet connection. But because each camera has its own Web server built into it, it can still be controlled if Internet service is interrupted.

Some clients are schools and universities, who use the cameras to keep a general eye on the campus while zeroing in on trouble areas.

Doak demonstrated the system's night vision capability, showing footage taken by a camera installed at the University of Akron. A car barely visible to the normal eye comes into view so clearly the license plate can be read.

Other clients include businesses of all sizes, and systems specialist Mickey Lavery said keeping an eye on the news helps i2c keep an eye on potential new markets.

For instance, a jump in copper prices has led to a rash of thefts at businesses where scrap metal is present.

"It's about keeping up on where the need is," Lavery said.

Those needs are also driving i2c to develop new product lines. One ready to be marketed is a wireless system that puts an emergency button, camera, outdoor loudspeaker, microphone and blue flashing light on light poles.

Someone in need of help can hit the button and be seen on camera. The blue flashing light and the capability for someone to shout a warning using the loudspeaker could keep trouble at bay, Doak said.

Doak and Taylor, both University of Akron grads, launched the company in the summer of 2005.

Doak, 38, a Steubenville native, had studied electronic technology. Until last year, he was the Akron partner of Genesis Technology Partners, a California medical equipment service company.

He had been tinkering with the camera surveillance software to keep an eye on his property in Senecaville, and when Genesis was sold, he got the seed money he needed to start i2c.

Taylor, of Massillon, his longtime friend and a graduate of UA's police academy, was a natural fit.

He guided product development, advising "here's what I could have used and here's what you need to make it work like it should."

He has also been invaluable determining where cameras should be installed, instinctively knowing where the best shots will come from, Doak said.

i2c now employs a dozen people -- most in software development or sales, and Doak said he's putting to use some important lessons learned from Genesis.

"It's not an inverted funnel here, where money flows up to the top," he said. "The goal here is to share it across the board with our employees and really treat them extremely well."

And unlike Genesis, Doak isn't interested in growing i2c in order to sell it to a competitor.

With Genesis, financial investors turned out to be "money-hungry venture capitalists," Doak said, "and I learned a very valuable lesson about getting in bed with financial investors who are motivated solely by money. That was a major wake-up call."

"This company will stay close-knit, privately owned," he said. "There are no private investors right now. It's completely owned by Bryon and myself and we want to keep it that way."

Copyright (c) 2007, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.