EXCLUSIVE: Trailblazing in video intelligence at ISS

Matt Powell at ISS

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Matthew Powell, Managing Director for North America at ISS (Intelligent Security Systems) explores what differentiates the company’s technology and how it has revamped its North American strategy.

Can you tell me about your role at ISS?

I joined ISS as Managing Director for North America last summer.

Many in the industry know us for our global presence as we are the largest video analytics provider, but questioned why we had not expanded more into the North American market.

North America has been the home of ISS for more than 20 years, with our headquarters in Woodbridge, NJ, and last year, our new manufacturing facility opened in Miramar, FL. 

The US is also where we have more than 30 patents and trademarks registered and protected; however, prior to the pandemic, our penetration into the North America market was limited as the company had more of a global focus.

The US and Canada are thriving technology markets but, in terms of analytics and AI acceptance, have had a more measured approach as the integration and distribution channel has focused on more time-tested, second wave-style technologies like CCTV and video management systems (VMS).

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a larger acceptance of third wave technologies like analytics and AI. The time has come for us now to replicate the success we have seen globally with our video intelligence products here in North America.

I came to ISS to lead this initiative, bringing my experience in manufacturing and integration to a company that was chomping at the bit to expand its presence in this market, but also wanted a leader that understood the dynamics of the channel and the challenges of solution creation in this part of the world.

What about ISS attracted you to the company?

In my years in integration there was always a bit of apprehension when it came to video analytics, but less so for more advanced technologies like artificial and augmented intelligence. 

This comes from a history of products coming to market before they were ready which resulted in disappointed customers, frustrated channel partners and distributors wondering where they fit in. 

What attracted me to ISS was experience; we have more than three million cameras in 56 countries running SecurOS (our video intelligence platform) across hundreds of thousands of sites. 

As end users adopt these technologies, experience matters and with two decades in this industry combined with the scale of our deployments globally, our neural networking capabilities are unsurpassed. 

In this environment of start-ups, ISS stands apart. 

I wanted to be part of the third wave, to bring my experience to the world of AI, but I wanted to do it with ISS – a company that would not let customers or partners down.

Why is a “lessons-learned, outcome-focused” approach important to you?

The world of artificial and augmented intelligence is a brave new world, one that is breaking the paradigms we are familiar with, even down to our terminology. 

Our customers at ISS are adopting these technologies at an exponential rate. 

As the market adopts these technologies, applying lessons learned will be critical to ensuring that customers have the outcomes they are looking for. 

At ISS, we need to be the experienced guides in this brave new world. We won’t get many chances at this and failure will drive clients to other sources of knowledge if we fail.

Having partners with learned lessons on a global scale ensures that customers won’t repeat mistakes and will reinforce the trust our industry and the market has developed in us over the decades.

This technology is being adopted whether thought leaders in our industry like it or not, so we need to make sure we deliver the outcomes that customers need – and that means not learning lessons on the customer’s dime.

Our customers are inundated with commercials on AI – our job is to help separate science fact from science fiction to help integrators and end users make better informed decisions about how these technologies can effectively be deployed in their environments today.

Can you expand on your leadership philosophies?

I am a big fan of Werner Erhard and one of our close family friends is Jim Huling. When things are challenging, I draw close to Erhard’s work or I call Jim to chat.

I think authenticity is a key component of leadership – being authentic in who we are as leaders and as human beings.

It’s getting past the imposter syndrome that so many of us have and recognizing we are where we’re supposed to be and making the most of the moment. 

Driving performance, being honest about who we are and what our business, teams and customers are, is grounded in authenticity. 

That is where we find the confidence to perform, from driving higher margins through consciously exceeding customer expectations and even to coaching our teams to be better at their roles.

My wife and I are big into the outdoors.

I spend a lot of my spare time backpacking, hiking, mountaineering and hunting, and there is a quote that I really like that I think applies to leadership that a mountaineering instructor once told me: “The wind blows hardest at the peak.”

In leadership, we have to embrace that hard wind and know that it is only there because we are close to the peak – but it’s important to have the authenticity to recognize that for most of our lives, it’s a false peak, there will be another one, even higher, with harder winds and to be ok in those moments.

If you can do that, then you can recognize that being a leader is a lot of moments strung together to give you the experience for the next moment you’re needed to help your team, partner or customer.

How do you think AI will continue to shape the security industry?

First, we have to define AI so we are speaking the same language. If you ask any of our North American team the definition of AI, they will answer what is in our training and presentations: “AI is an area of science using machines or algorithms to replicate a human action.” 

In terms of video intelligence, this is an analytic providing notification of an activity or behavior that a human viewing a monitor would see, or a data analytic gathering information that a human would once compile. I use this definition as a benchmark. 

Years ago, every business was told: “hire a person with a computer science degree.” So, every business did that and they brought the tasks of external IT companies in house with their own IT departments.

We are beginning to see a new trend of “hire someone that can write AI.”

It is the same challenge our industry saw when IT departments started becoming a critical stakeholder for security-related technologies.

Companies will soon begin to hire people out of school who can write AI and what many companies sell today, end users will look to bring in house.

For us at ISS, this isn’t a problem as we have two decades of footage we train from, along with numerous patents on video intelligence – so a company gaining that much footage to train algorithms is not realistic.

It is simply not financially feasible for a company to bring in house what ISS provides.

However, for other areas of our industry, this trend of bringing AI writing in-house will pose a real challenge.

Additionally, I think we will see outside companies come into what we traditionally think of as ‘our’ space and continue to disrupt. 

Integrators have begun to experience this with software-as-a-service companies and direct models and integrators have had to adjust their business models around these. 

Our industry, as a whole, will have to figure out how to become closer partners. Ultimately, customers will have alternatives, internally and externally, to replace failure with another way of solving their problem.

What does innovation mean to you?

A daily dedication to, as Buckminster Fuller wrote, building a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. 

We, as an industry, face a time when new models, be they how companies go to market or how customers look for solutions, are making the existing models obsolete. 

Every day at ISS I get to see the results of our more than 200 engineers working to make the existing models obsolete and it is awe-inspiring.

Sometimes I see them do something and I think back to my days installing analog dome cameras on roadside poles and I just chuckle at the joy of seeing innovation in real-time.

However, this progress also comes with a particular challenge – ensuring the transition from bleeding edge to cutting edge.

I often tell our engineers at ISS they are the knife in this process and how we relate to our customers and partners will make the difference between these two edges.

In your opinion, how do you think the security industry will evolve in the next five to ten years?

It will evolve how it chooses to evolve. AI is disruptive – it’s in everything we do, from our phones to our laptops to the internet. 

I think the innovation of the solutions development sector will continue because the market will create the space for solutions to thrive.

I think the challenge will be answering the question of who will deploy these innovations and who will service, update and maintain them as customers use them. 

Personally, I think our industry is up to the challenge.

Like North America catching up to where ISS is as a technology provider, I think a portion of our industry will meet the customer where they are going and that will pull the rest of the industry with it.

This article was originally published in the October edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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