With the explosion of AI-driven cameras expanding and changing the shape of the European security camera industry, i-PRO EMEA President Gerard Figols looks forward to a year of exciting progress in 2022.
What’s on the horizon for the European Security Camera industry in 2022?
It’s an amazing time for the industry. We will see ongoing growth in the market. The development of AI-driven cameras will continue to open opportunities in both traditional security and new areas of business. The combination of good quality images and the ability to analyse data at the edge of the network using Deep Learning capabilities allows the cameras to be used in many new areas, from the automation of processes in industry to keeping shelves stocked in supermarkets and even monitoring the health and safety of shoppers in stores during these pandemic times.
I expect mergers and acquisitions to continue as the industry matures. The race to the bottom in camera prices that we have seen in recent years will slow and begin to stabilise for two reasons. Firstly, the latest generation of AI cameras is adding more capabilities and ultimately more value to the hardware than ever before. Secondly, costs of materials are rising, as are prices in the supply chain.
How will i-PRO fare in this type of market?
i-PRO is in a great position going into 2022 because our AI offering is the strongest in the market. Industry specialists tell us that our AI capabilities are ahead of our competitors. In addition, we have built an open AI hardware platform. This means that we focus on where we are strong – on the development of high quality and reliable AI-driven cameras – allowing software developers to bring their own ideas and easily develop their own specific applications to run on our cameras.
And lastly, we are building these capabilities into our cameras at no extra cost to the customer. By the end of 2022, we will have over 100 different AI camera models in the mid-market range and above, without raising prices. We understand that some businesses may not yet be ready to implement AI but they can invest in i-PRO cameras today that are AI-capable and future-proofed – at no extra cost. At i-PRO, we plan to hold our competitive pricing while continuing to add value to our line-up.
What would you like to see i-PRO achieve over the next year?
I would like i-PRO to be recognised for innovation and for our open AI platform to be seen as leading the market; for our products to continue to be recognised for their quality and reliability and our partners to see us as flexible and able to react quickly to market demands.
Above all, we want to make it easy for people to do business with i-PRO. For customers to clearly understand where our solutions can help them to innovate and for partners to feel that we are easy to deal with and supportive. What I mean by this is that although we are a global player, i-PRO will be flexible and close to the needs of the EMEA market and our partners. Ultimately, we want to be recognised as a manufacturer that can be counted upon by implementing tools, systems and means of communication that make their lives easier.
I recognise that these are ambitious goals, and they will not be easy to achieve but we have the determination and energy to succeed. It reminds me of when I joined the organisation 15 years ago as a young engineer with a background in telecoms. I had to quickly learn a new industry, both technically and commercially, and I had to rapidly improve my English language skills to be able to prosper in an international business. Some years later, I was heading up European engineering. I think my experience learning to play the piano as a child from the age of six to seventeen, with up to 7 hours intensive practise every day, taught me that dedication, never giving up and working smartly were the keys to success. We will be applying the same techniques with dedication and persistence to grow i-PRO over the coming years.
What are the important priorities to achieve your ambitions?
We must continue to help businesses and wider society understand the great benefits that AI can bring. Like many new technologies, it can initially be misunderstood and feared. AI is not about infringing on people’s privacy and personal freedoms. The GDPR regulations in the Europe will certainly protect us against that. AI is about Deep Learning – the faster and better understanding of human behaviours or sets of data to help make our lives better. For example, AI-driven cameras will be the basis for industry 4.0. These cameras can be used as intelligent sensors to replicate often repetitive and boring tasks – reducing costs and freeing up the time of the workforce for more rewarding activities.
Another critical factor will be continuing to attract the best software developers to work with their customers to build specialist applications for the AI cameras. We have the open hardware platform with the most sophisticated AI-driven cameras. In many ways, it is similar to the development of the iPhone. We must now continue to attract software developer partners that want to create applications for the equivalent of our app store.
Finally, we must continue to build strong partnerships with our distributors, system integrators and dealers in every country across Europe. We will be a strong business partner. We will listen to the market and meet demand with high quality, reliable and competitive products. We will ensure transparency and products availability when customers need them and that our partners have the technical and sales support they need. We have also made a commitment to keep our line-up price stable as it’s a critical point in the market at the moment. This will give our partners peace of mind, certainty and enable them to concentrate on their specialist areas of business where they make money – in service and added value solutions.
What excites you most about 2022?
i-PRO is effectively a start-up. A new organisation but with the great benefit of having a 60 plus year history of Japanese manufacturing and product know-how from our Panasonic roots. Taking on the role of President for i-PRO EMEA is an exciting and great personal challenge. I feel proud to be the person leading this great team and having the opportunity to create positive growth – helping to improve everyone’s lives. We will use our new agility and market-leading technology to help the AI-driven camera market reach its incredible potential. It’s going to be an incredibly busy but rewarding year!