Q&A From the Top: Christian Laforte

Mobile video applications for Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry and other PDAs are a growing trend that is expanding the practical everyday use of video surveillance security systems. In a climate of tight budgets, the security industry is searching for new and innovative ways to make use of existing infrastructure and to increase the overall productivity of those charged with keeping us safe.

Feeling Software from Montreal is quickly expanding its product portfolio into this challenging area. We took a few minutes to talk to the CEO of Feeling Software, Christian Laforte, to get his perspective of this growing trend.

Q. Why do security facilities need mobile surveillance in the first place?

A. All facilities need mobile surveillance for the same reason they need surveillance in general—to increase awareness of critical security points and for use in investigations. What mobile surveillance offers is anytime, anywhere access to your company’s security systems. This means that more security guards can be visible and patrolling, because they have access to the surveillance system at the moment they need it. Mobile surveillance is enhancing all of the security hardware and software infrastructures and making them significantly more valuable.

Q. You’ve chosen to use the iPod Touch and the iPhone as your initial mobile application hardware. Why?

A. Our technology is designed to be scalable to other platforms, like the Blackberry or Windows Mobile devices, but we started with Apple devices because they are what customers and partners are asking for. iPod and iPhone have great specs for the service we provide and are easy to use. Also, many of the people we talk to, especially younger security guards, are familiar with the devices, so that cuts down on training time.

Q. Why are we seeing mobile surveillance getting more attention now than, say, five or 10 years ago?

A. A lot of that is because the infrastructure to get mobile surveillance up and running is in place today, and it wasn’t five years ago. Most modern facilities have extensive high-speed networks that reach virtually every part of the facility. Also, the cost of installing the networks and high-speed Wi-Fi has dropped dramatically in the past few years.

What this all means is that the upfront investment has come to a point that makes mobile surveillance a viable option in a broadening number of applications.

Q. What kinds of facilities would benefit from a mobile surveillance system?

A. Pretty much any facility with a video surveillance system and patrolling security guards stands to benefit from increased accessibility to their cameras and video. This includes schools, universities, airports, hospitals, retail stores, storage facilities, banks and seaports.

Q. How does your newest product, iGuard, play into this growing market?

A. iGuard is about adding accessibility and mobility to security. We will continue to grow and focus on any areas of security that can benefit from immediate notification and access to information. This includes items like alerts from video analytics and advanced mapping and tracking. We have strong relationships with our integrator partners, who often give us valuable feedback and ideas for future product development.

Q. What are the costs of this new mobile technology compared to other more traditional fixed video surveillance systems?

A. It really only makes sense to look at the return on investment on the entire video surveillance system, rather than mobile as an isolated part. One way to do that is to calculate the increase in valuable usage of the video surveillance system due to mobile accessibility.

If, for example, valuable usage of the system goes up 20 percent per year, and the total system cost was $500,000 for installation, software and hardware, then mobile accessibility would be adding $100,000 in total system value per year. A lot of video surveillance systems out there are underused right now, and accessibility is a key reason

.

Q. What are the trends that Feeling Software sees in mobile surveillance, or video surveillance in general, that are going to have a major impact on security systems in the next five years?

A. With iGuard, we’re trying to address the issue of accessibility, which we see as a key value driver for video surveillance.

Another issue is information overload: how do we understand the data coming in from 300 or 3,000 cameras simultaneously? With more and more cities adding thousands of cameras, this problem is growing in importance.

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