Monday, February 27, 2006
Interview with Robert Hagens, EnVysion
Our interview today is with Robert Hagens, CTO of EnVysion (www.envysion.com), a firm that recently raised a round of venture capital for its digital video surveillance systems. We spoke with Robert about the company and its take on the market.
Techrockies: Congratulations on your recent funding. Tell me, what is new and different about your digital video surveillance systems?
RH: Itís probably good to start with the history of company. EnVysion has been an ongoing company for a couple of years now, its current product is a digital video recorder. It is a product basically based on a high end computer platform, and is used for surveillance purposes and for business management purposes. What the current product does is that you put the device in a store, and you connect it to cameras, either existing cameras or new, closed circuit television cameras. It records this video onto its disk, and has lots of options Ė such as recording on motion, or recording constantly. One of the features of this product that is most appreciated is that you can connect remotely into the DVR over the internet. The companies that we sell to generally have broadband into their stores. So the DVR is connected to the broadband connection. A corresponding client is downloaded on a PC at the office or at a home, and those two pieces connect as a client-server connection so that you can do a whole lot of things remotely. Things such as viewing live video, multiple live pictures, view recorded video, search through that videoóitís a full featured digital video recorder. You can even connect it to the cash register system or cash register (POS as itís called in the industry) and transactions from the register are logged on the DVR as well. For example, if you are a convenience store owner, you can show video associated every time a clerk sells cigarettes.
Techrockies: The recording is tied to the time of the transaction?
RH: Yes, thatís right. You might do that, for instance, if you want to validate that your clerk was not selling cigarettes to minors, or a similar idea for alcohol sales. What our customers do is use this as a loss prevention solution but also to get quality assurance for their brand. One of our customers that owns a significant number of convenience stores and gas stations in the Denver area uses this to validate that their clerks are attired properly, and wearing the appropriate smock. They can also use this to look at the cash register itself, checking that there is not too much cash in the drawerófor example, if the clerk is not following proper procedures to put money in a safe. Itís really a way to monitor their business processes in addition to loss prevention.
Techrockies: Has EnVysion always been in the loss prevention area?
RH: The company has been in business of software and DVR for a number of years. Thatís our current product set. However, the funding we secured is designed to build our next generation product. What that product is all about is basically moving this to a hosted video solution. We are moving to a design where the video is still captured on premise by a device, but that equipment is much simpler than our current deviceócheaper, and less cmplex. The bulk of the processing is done in a hosted application model so that gives a bunch of benefits to users. It will make remote access even more seamless, it will give them updates to software delivered automatically. All we have to do is update the hosted application. And over time we plan to offer other advanced functions on hosting side that is difficult to roll out to if you have to touch every piece of equipment in the store. As you can see, the two themes are the existing business is continuing to move forward, and that the seed round of funding is being used for our next generation product.
Techrockies: I can imagine that itís pretty tough to make firmware and hardware changes with a device now.
RH: Yes, basically we want to use the Internet to provide a service-based model. Our customer donít have to worry about updating software, which happens automatically, and CPE (Customer Premise Equipment) is not a significant investment.
Techrockies: Do you have connectivity issues with a hosted solution?
RH: All that data is stored locally on hard disk. If broadband goes down, all you lose is the remote access. You wonít lose data. Iíve found Ė and this is more personal experience than anything else Ė broadband is more stable across the United States today. We couldnít have done this five years ago. Highly available broadband is now table stakes for providers. However, as we move into the hosted model we will still leverage local disk for storage, it woní t be that if your broadband goes down the whole video solution is out of service.
Techrockies: How did you hook up with the bear Equity and Columbia Capital?
RH: Bear Equity is a private investment that is owned by Dan Caruso. Dan is Executive Chairman of Envysion, and was also an angel investor in EnVysion. Bear Equity has investments in another company called ICG Communications, and Columbia Capital also had an investment in ICG. So Dan had relationships with Columbia because of the ICG work they have done. Dan is also CEO of ICG. Thatís how the connection was made--Columbia was natural partner.
Techrockies: Thanks for the interview!