Questions and Answers From the Top
A conversation with George Lichtblau
- By Security Products Staff
- Jul 17, 2008
Have you every wondered if the entrepreneurial
spirit is still alive and well in
the security industry? Well, it is, and to
prove it, we talked with George
Lichtblau, chairman of newly organized
and recently launched ComNet. The company
is a fiber optic interface provider
that understands the best solution for
transporting video and data.
Q.In the 1980s, you started what
went on to become the highest
profile and most successful fiber optic
transmission product company in the
security and IT markets, International
Fiber Systems. What did you do differently
that allowed IFS to become so
A.IFS started as a fiber optic interface
provider to the factory
automation market in the mid-1980s. It
was a natural extension to the data transmission
and eventually the video transmission
requirement that was inherent to
the security market. Fiber optic transmission
is still the best solution for transporting
video and data. What we did as a
company was make what was considered
a technical product and make it easy for
integrators and dealers to adopt.
We took the mystery out of the product.
We were one of the first to introduce
a design center to show everyone how
easy fiber is to use, and our sales team
did a great job demonstrating how costeffective
a solution it really is. We
wrapped the company around a high level
of customer service and overall competence.
It was a great formula then, and it
still works today.
Q.IFS seemed to come out of
nowhere, and it grew to be successful.
It was the company the market
seemed to turn to for transmission innovation,
and it had a great reputation.
Then at the height of success in 2003,
you sold it all to GE Security.Why?
A.That’s all true, and looking back,
GE pursued the company and
made a tremendous offer. I was still
weighing what impact these big conglomerates
were going to have on mediumsized
companies and came to the conclusion
that it was in the best interest of IFS
and my employees to be a part of what
had the potential to be an industry force.
We had a great formula for a successful
company, and GE, already having
acquired what was Fiber Options with
their acquisition of Interlogix, would certainly
have a plan for the company that
would allow that recipe to succeed.
Q.How did that plan work out for
A.The formula for success was different.
There were numerous times
over the years that I even offered to buy
It’s hard to believe the big companies
jump into an industry and expect the market
to bend to the way they choose to do
business instead of adapting their ways to
the expectations of the people who actually
buy their products.
Q.You started another company,
ComNet. After being on the sidelines
for a few years, what made you
decide to get back into the market?
A.After watching the leveling off of
the advancement of fiber optic and
all transmission technologies for the
security market, it became easy for me to
identify why this was happening. It also
was surprising to me that no other company
really stood up and chased after the
opportunity. There wasn’t the new product
development the market expected.
After my offer to buy back IFS was
declined, it wasn’t that hard to see the
opportunity. This is capitalism at its
best. You identify a need in the market
and provide a solution, a place for
everyone to turn. So we started ComNet
in September 2007. The market for signal
transmission and communications
products has gone through a major evolution
over the past four years. Signal
transmission is turning from traditional
point-to-point to IP or Ethernet. While
Ethernet is a protocol, not a medium
like fiber optic, most of these Ethernet
and IP-based devices are best used with
a high-bandwidth medium such as optical
We are positioning ComNet as a total
communication and network transmission
product solution provider. In addition
to traditional fiber optic video and
data products, we’ll have hardened
Ethernet and wireless product lines.
Q.Now that we are in the middle of
this convergence of IT and physical
security, how does a new company
such as ComNet compete with the big
Ethernet and networking companies
from the IT sector?
A.Believing we can take on and compete
with these huge companies
from that sector is extremely optimistic.
Instead, I believe our success will be providing
network equipment that operates
on the edge—that is, out in unconditioned
environments where a hardened
product is needed. That is where temperature,
shock and vibration are factors and
reliability is critical. Our network products
will operate in those applications and
then collect and insert onto larger networks.
It also is one of the most complete
in the industry.
Q.Is ComNet primarily an
Ethernet networking company?
A.While Ethernet products are
going to be a large part of our
product offering, the ComNet engineering
staff is going full speed on developing
that line. There still is a big demand
for traditional point-to-point fiber optic
products. Looking back, a large segment
of the IFS product line comes from
designs we developed over the past 20
years. Our new line started with a clean
sheet of paper.
There are thousands of modern components
now available that allow ComNet to
deliver a modern product offering. The
ComNet product line is now 95 percent
digital, single fiber- and laser-based versus
the older analog AM and FM product lines.
By going to the one fiber design, you are
eliminating having to use two fibers, and
that is a big installation cost reducer. Using
lasers translates to better distances and
greater system design flexibility.
It’s been a great challenge and a lot
of fun designing this product line, and
now it’s easily the top-performing
and best value available. This line is
so strong that ComNet will offer a lifetime