Industry Professional

Ahead of the Curve

Thirty years ago, maybe more, the dream of the IP camera was about to make its debut. The technology, as I remember it, wasn’t all that well received, but that didn’t mean it was a bad idea. It became an exercise of marketing the future to the here and now.

Martin Gren, founder of the IP camera, only saw this as an opportunity to make the new technology better and much more user friendly. In a few short years, the technology moved from a toe hold to a tidal wave of acceptance.

As of last year, Axis Communications is part of the Canon Security team, or at least 85 percent of it, but according to Gren, nothing is going to change, and he plans to keep on working. As you can imagine, he has been approached to sell the company, but chose to stay the course, until Canon came along.

“I didn’t want to do the deal, but the deal made sense,” Gren said. “Canon is a hundred times larger than Axis, and part of the deal means we get access to their technologies, including lens, image processing, manufacturing and procurement.”

It is not all about the acquisition, though. Axis Communications brings its knowledge of being able to sell and market cameras to the table. Now the goal is about focus—an interesting concept for two camera companies. They plan to focus on the IP video surveillance market as well as the maturing camera market.

None of this would have happened in such a timely fashion were it not for Gren. Of course, he wasn’t the only entrepreneur involved in the IP network camera. In 1984, Gren founded Axis with Mikael Karlsson and Keith Bloodworth. Back then, the business developed and sold print servers. In 1996, Gren introduced the first network camera with fellow inventor Carl- Axel Alm. The rest, as they say, is history.

Well, not so fast.

Gren, from Sweden, wanted to get into the U.S. market, which meant getting to know the industry and the personalities in North America. As dedicated as he is to the security industry, Gren brought with him a sparkling personality that reached all levels of interest. He is completely devoted to the industry and the Axis product line. He can share his story in a very serious tone, or with abundant humor. Gren meets every situation with the appropriate appeal. For instance, his server business was number two in the world, but he has also dealt with a cash flow crisis due to the promotion of the Internet, but is now charging forward with the number one company featuring network video. In 2009, Gren was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by a security publication in Europe. Recently, he was named one of the 25 most influential people in the industry.

The real Martin Gren, or the one he would want to be known as, even in Sweden, is an anonymous figure. However, he has no problem in expressing a differing opinion publicly, or in private, about his role in product development. Gren is a very interesting speaker, but in all instances, he throws in a bit of entertainment. To prove the durability of the camera, and to mix in a bit of comedy to his speeches, he often takes a baseball bat to the Axis dome camera, a ploy that often gets some laughs due to Gren’s less than ferocious swing.

Devoted to the people in the industry, Gren goes out of the way to bring the IP video camera story to the masses. A few years ago, during a Milestone presentation in Copenhagen, Gren left his home in Malmo, Sweden, for the quick drive to Copenhagen, Denmark. The two countries, at that midway point, are divided by the 5 mile Oresund Bridge, and the 2.5 miles underground Drogden Tunnel. A vehicle accident caused a traffic stop, but true to his word, Gren found a way to navigate the pileup and join a panel of speakers talking about networking security solutions.

Today, anyone who is anybody knows the IP video market is here to stay, including trends of megapixel cameras providing a focus on image quality and a wealth of detail where people and places can be easily identified.

“Picture quality is important,” Gren said. “With progressive scan, noise in the picture can be avoided, resulting in a sharper picture with more details visible.”

In the manufacturing industry, the competition is fierce but Axis maintains its top position in the market. Other manufacturers see Axis as the target to beat.

“We are very focused on our partners, and always have been,” Gren said. “We are solely a manufacturer and developer. The dealer is king with us and we stick to that model and don’t try to compete with them. This has generated strong bonds of loyalty between Axis and our partners, which is an important factor in our success.”

Despite the Canon takeover, Gren wants more of the same for the future, which means more research and development, and the opportunity to exploit the Internet of Things, and a world of rampant connectivity.

This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Security Today.

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