Ahead of the Curve
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Feb 01, 2016
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
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
“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.