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INTERSEC 2014: Axis champions IP cameras

Company founder touts value of IP versus analogue, applauds Middle East adoption rate

INTERSEC 2014: Axis champions IP cameras
Gren: The good thing about the Middle East is it is ahead of the world [in] IP camera penetration.

Network security camera vendor Axis Communications arrived at Intersec 2014 today and has been reaching out to regional customers to educate them on the value-add of IP camera solutions.

The company's founder, Martin Gren, is credited with pioneering the concept of a network-connected camera in the late 1990s, with the creation of the Axis NetEye 200. Gren took time out to tell ITP.net how an IT company came to invent a new category in the physical security space.

"Axis is a 30-year-old company and we were founded as a generic networking company, so we are not really a security company; our DNA [lies in] networking," he said.

"We began life connecting print servers to IBM mainframes and then switched to TCP/IP. So we had the idea of connecting everything to the network. In 1996 we connected storage to the network and then got the idea: ‘Why not connect cameras?' We developed [the first network camera] way before the Internet was mature."

Axis concentrates on cameras and connectivity, while partnering with analytics companies to provide the more exotic features associated with many current-day CCTV networks, such as the ability to recognise licence plates and faces.

"When it comes to more advanced analytics, we work with [partner] companies and let them upload their analytics firmware onto our cameras," Gren explained.

Where most companies' strategies are tailored to changes in the market, Gren believes Axis has been behind the changes in his company's operating sector.

"When we entered this industry as an IT company with a network camera, everyone looked at us as a really strange company... but we have been driving this change in the industry from analogue cameras to IP cameras."

But take-up of the technology has been relatively slow as companies and governments have resisted movement away from legacy systems.

"It is only [recently] that 50% by value [of cameras installed] are IP cameras," Gren said. "By volume, analogue cameras are [still] dominating. The good thing about the Middle East is it is ahead of the world [and has] a much higher IP camera penetration than most other markets."

The Middle East is a key market for Axis. The company's MEA marketing manager, Marwan Khoury, said he expected 25% growth in 2014 in the GCC alone.

"We are seeing a lot of this growth coming from the big government infrastructure projects," he said. "Transportation is huge with big expansion in airports."

While the cameras Axis provides are designed to tighten physical security, Gren gave a startling warning: the cameras themselves represent a security risk; by virtue of being network-connected the cameras become what classic IT security professionals call an "end point".

"One should keep in mind that cameras are typically connected in a closed network," said Gren. "Nevertheless they are a hackable device, so when it comes to larger installations we always recommend our customers use the same security measures for their security cameras as for any other IP-addressable device."

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