MIPS 2019: Milestone Systems Expands its Platform and Community Approach
At MIPS 2019 in Copenhagen Milestone Systems has presented their new global digital platform, Milestone Marketplace, with the aim to increase the availability of community-created software applications, hardware, and services for integrators and installers. We talked to Chief Technology Officer Bjørn Skou Eilertsen about the new platform, Milestone’s approach to cloud technology and cybersecurity.
GIT SECURITY: The launch of Milestone Marketplace makes it easier for integrators to build a solution using the Milestone software and an application from one of your partners. Wouldn’t it be even more easy to develop such applications yourself and integrate them into your software as a Milestone solution?
Bjørn Skou Eilertsen: Milestone is the Open Platform company. We believe that Milestone together with the community can deliver the right solutions for our customers. If you look at Milestone Marketplace today you will find that there are several facial recognition applications available. It is not a one solution fits all. This provides our customers with the opportunity to get just what is right for them. From an innovation perspective this also means that the innovation muscle is bigger. Time to market is faster since any partner with a great idea can develop and market their solution. Milestone Marketplace makes it easier to find these many innovations easier and understand what is right for each customer. For a limited number of applications like LPR we offer XProtect add-on software to gain extra value and functionality, fully integrated with XProtect VMS and the Milestone Husky series. Unlike some of our competitors, for the vast majority of possible applications we do not walk this path. It might look like an easy way, if you create solutions from one single vendor, but there is so much change in software applications and in the end-user’s needs that one single company can’t cope with. Combined solutions are the proven way to get best-of-breed solutions that fulfill the customer’s needs, and yes, combined solutions mean more work for the integrator.
But it is also a chance to add value.
What is your way to educate the market to embrace the platform approach?
Bjørn Skou Eilertsen: We hear about many customers who don’t want to settle for an average solution. So the need and understanding is already there. Marketplace will support the co-creation of solutions, allowing our community to give the market’s best match to a variety of customer needs and expanding market reach. It is a win-win as it enables our technology partners to grow their businesses and at the same time helps simplify complex choices for our system integrators and end-customers. They get access to a rich and trustworthy resources pool from which they can build video management solutions.
You mentioned the importance of trust in the security industry. Can youexplain us what is the idea of Copenhagen letter initiative?
Bjørn Skou Eilertsen: Copenhagen letter started in October 2018 when more than 150 people, from entrepreneurs to designers to philosophers, have signed it calling for better practices in technology and design. The letter calls for a new renaissance in the future design of technology to put the human, and not just the user, ahead of business. Copenhagen letter applied to our industry will strengthen the idea of responsibility and trust in our market. Our CEO Lars Thinggaard and other key people at Milestone including me have contributed to the letter as a signal that we support the idea of responsible user technology. We have included a new “Copenhagen Clause” in our end-user licensing agreements. If a customer is abusing the software or gets in conflict with the Copenhagen clause, we can stop the contract.
Why are you promoting the Copenhagen letter initiative?
Bjørn Skou Eilertsen: Because we think that platform economy and responsibility are closely linked together. When you open-up a platform like ours for very large set of applications, you need to make sure that they meet the criteria for a responsible use of technology. Every application goes through a validation process on the technology side and we will check it against our ethics policy before it is launched.
In the last issue of GIT SECURITY, we had an interview about the SAST initiative to launch an App store for security cameras and their concept was presented at MIPS, too. Are there plans to connect their Appstore with the Milestone Marketplace?
Bjørn Skou Eilertsen: The App store that SAST is developing for the Open Security & Safety Alliance is limited to devices. With our engagement for OSSA we want to make sure that there is a connection. When a camera application is deployed, we want it to effectively work with our software. It is platform meeting platform if you want. There is a whole ecosystem around the edge and a whole ecosystem around the server or cloud or hybrid.
The use of cloud technology is another key topic here at MIPS. Can you further explain the hybrid approach Milestone is preferring?
Bjørn Skou Eilertsen: We have been investing in preparing for the cloud for many years while at the same time we invested to develop our client-server products further. We are now taking a hybrid approach to the cloud. End user solutions can use the amount of cloud that fits them – to the extent that it fits them. The hybrid strategy involves that we deconstruct our VMS and look at it in a more modular way. We want to run those services who are most applicable to be run at the edge on the cloud and those who are better suited to run at the server run there. Whether it is storage, data processing or management. With the great amount of data that is produced by a VMS system there are great benefits of doing a lot of processing closer to where the generation of data happens. Then use the cloud for more advanced cross sensor and cross site processing and/or use of cloud-based AI networks. We do not think that it is either or, we think a combination is the better solution.
What do you mean with “we deconstruct our VMS”?
Bjørn Skou Eilertsen: A VMS consists of several services like for example the recording service, motion detect service, event service, user management service or rule service. Some of the services are better hosted in the cloud, others better on the premise. We will advise the customer what services he could or should run from a cloud operated model. So, we are not moving XProtect to the cloud per se but allow the customer to run the elements that are better run in the cloud.
It is the customer’s choice which way he wants to go?
Bjørn Skou Eilertsen: Yes, we are offering a road to the cloud. The customer can move 100% to the cloud if he wants, but he has the option to move step by step or even stay with existing inhouse systems. Whatever the choice is, you will use and view video via the same smart client. This is a very pragmatic, less radical way to approach the customer. It is an approach that both resonates with our existing 200.000+ customers and prospective customers. We tell them that there is no need to say, “let’s just move everything to the cloud”. There are important factors like the question of bandwidth that needs to be reflected or the question, if you simply can store footage outside the country. Some of the customers have the perception that cloud is cloud and you can either go for the cloud or stay with server-based systems. The definition of cloud needs to be viewed in many different ways as it is not exactly well-defined. While the future of surveillance may indeed be in the cloud, we need to realize that technology within the security industry lasts for a long time and that it will take some time for the industry, especially in the enterprise environment, to make the transition. It is a journey, not a single step.
What measurements do you undertake to improve cybersecurity?
Bjørn Skou Eilertsen: There are three elements supporting our cybersecurity approach. Milestone has invested heavily in the software development and in the cybersecurity team and we have optimized the notification processes to build trust with our customers. Additionally, we proactively contract Cybersecurity consultants to perform penetration tests at a very high level, we update our cybersecurity website and we have developed a hardening guide for our customers and partners. It helps that every four months we update the XProtect software including the latest security updates. On the technical side it is an advantage in the system design that we use the recording server as the proxy and have segmented networks by default. As a result, the client network is not connected to the server network. Besides what we do on our side, there is a customer obligation to cybersecurity. It is important how an integrator hardens the system in a customer installation. They need to make sure that they have updated firewalls and secure their network.
Can you give us an overviewabout Milestone’s portfolio and how easy it is to upgrade to a higher version?
Bjørn Skou Eilertsen: We offer XProtect in the versions Essential, Express +, Professional +, Expert and Corporate. They are all on the same code base on the same binary, so moving between them can be done by simply changing the license. All of our Care customers that use the subscription model, can easily move to the next level of functionality and features. For customers that run an old version with a different code base we recommend to re-design the system with a new software version.