Digital Barriers, the AIM-listed security technology company founded just five years ago in 2009, is enjoying rapid growth in sales helped by partnerships with leading players in the security market including BT Redcare and Axis Communications.
Created from the merger of 13 security brands, Digital Barriers, as the name suggests, focuses on surveillance and detection products and solutions. The company was created by the management team behind Detica, a UK technology consultancy that was sold to BAE Systems for more than £500m in 2008.
We put some questions to Digital Barriers about the company and received these answers from Dave Oliver, Director UK Enterprise Account Sales.
Q: Who created Digital Barriers and what was the impetus behind it?
Digital Barriers was established in 2009 by the management team behind Detica, a UK-based technology consultancy that was sold to BAE Systems in 2008 for more than £500m. The thinking behind Digital Barriers was to develop a leading specialist in the homeland security and defence sectors, bridging the gap between niche technology companies and large system integrators. By combining innovative technology with a heritage in national security and a practical understanding of our customer’s operational requirements, we have been able to apply unique perspectives to the surveillance and security needs of both government and commercial organisations.
Q: How much has been invested in the company?
The business has been funded by the three founders and four fund raisings on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange (LSE). The initial Executive Director contributions, fund raising and subsequent share placement raised £55m in 2010. This was followed by two subsequent fund raising rounds, the most recent being in November 2013, which contributed a further £28m. This additional capital was part of the strategy for growth, as the business has been winning a number of new contracts in the UK and beyond. This is expected to continue with the growth in global security and defence opportunities.
Q: What companies and brands has it acquired?
Digital Barriers has made 13 acquisitions since its listing on AIM in 2010. The most notable of these have provided the specialist products and unique technologies that underpin our key growth platforms. Essential Viewing Systems was acquired in March 2011 and brought expertise in bandwidth-constrained video transmission and TVI surveillance distribution technology. Zimiti followed soon after in June 2011, adding an ultra-low power radio technology and unattended ground sensor concept that has been developed into the RDC product. The acquisition of ThruVision Systems gave us a passive people screening system that incorporates unique Terahertz scanning technology. SafeZone-edge itself derives from a product that was brought into Digital Barriers with the acquisition of Keeneo, a video analysis business based in Sophia-Antipolis, France.
Q: What has happened with the companies? Are they still trading as individual companies or part of a group structure?
The business operates as an integrated group. An advanced technologies division includes surveillance transmission systems – both wireless and wired – and the ground sensor products, while an emerging technologies division includes specialist sensors, video/signal processing and facial recognition technologies. These divisions provide the product ranges and solutions that are sold into the UK and overseas markets through regional offices in the UK and Europe (UK, London) North America (US, Virginia), Asia Pacific (Singapore) and the Middle East (UAE, Dubai). To date, we have sold into more than 35 countries. The product divisions sit alongside our services division, which provides surveillance and security systems design and installation for specialist projects in the UK.
Q: What’s the plan for the brands?
Many of the product and technology brands that we’ve acquired have been retained, since many are recognised throughout the surveillance and security industry as representing world-class capability. For example, the TVI, COE, ThruVision and SafeZone brands have great heritage and customer recognition and are marketed as distinctive product and technology brands. One exception is RDC, our unattended ground sensor system for wide-area surveillance, which is a product brand that was created primarily from the assets and intellectual property acquired with Zimiti. We are now working with leading partners, such as BT Redcare in the UK, to bring our product technologies to market in increasingly diverse form factors for a wider range of applications.
Q: What’s the synergy or commonality between the brands that have been acquired?
We are seeing an increasing level of synergy in our products and technologies. This was part of the strategy from the outset and we expect this to increase further over time. For example, the combination of the TVI surveillance distribution platform and RDC ground sensor product has created an industry-leading wide-area surveillance and perimeter security solution. This is now in operation or trials with leading border security agencies and defence forces around the world. Similarly, SafeZone is bringing reliable motion detection and intrusion monitoring capabilities to the TVI platform, whilst the COE and TVI product ranges offer customers a comprehensive range of surveillance transmission and networking options for both wired and wire-free operations.
Q: How big is the overarching company now in terms of employees and turnover?
For the year ended 31 March 2013, the business reported revenues of £23.3m, an increase of 55% on the previous year. What we also experienced – and was extremely encouraging – was a doubling of international revenues, as sales were made into more than twenty countries. The headcount for the group is around 200 people, spread across the UK/European technology centres and regional sales offices.
Q: What is SafeZone-Edge?
SafeZone-edge is our newest product launch. It’s a world-leading, edge-embedded automated intrusion detection system that combines performance, simplicity, resilience and cost-effectiveness. It can be installed onto devices from leading manufacturers and is launching on the Axis ACAP platform. SafeZone-edge uniquely combines accurate detection performance, false alarm mitigation, simplicity of deployment and low cost of ownership. The idea was to create a product that excelled in comparison to both server-based and other edge-based video content analysis applications.
Q: What are SafeZone-edge’s USPs?
When designing SafeZone-edge, we realised that the customers often face an underwhelming choice when selecting an automated intrusion detection system. They can opt for the low cost video motion detection (VMD) approach, in which case variable detection rates and persistent nuisance alarms are common. Alternatively, they could spend a significant amount of money on server-based intelligent video analytics (IVA), which involves complex camera calibration, costly licenses and a complex back-end server infrastructure. We believe that SafeZone-edge offers a compelling alternative for both installers and operators. Its exceptional detection performance is equivalent to server-based video analytics and is suitable for deployments on challenging external perimeters as well as internal sterile zones. An innovative, automated camera calibration function and simple approach to installation and setup is designed to minimise deployment effort, complexity and cost.
Q: Has SafeZone-edge been certified?
SafeZone-edge is certified by the UK Home Office i-LIDS® scheme as a primary detection system for operational alert use in sterile zone monitoring applications. This means it can be used as the sole measure for monitoring sterile zones in critical sites. It also makes SafeZone-edge one of the very few video analytics systems to achieve this level of accreditation and one of a handful of truly edge-based systems to receive the global benchmark of primary certification.
Q: Is SafeZone-edge based on another product, and if so what is its relationship to that product?
The ‘edge’ product is based on the original SafeZone video analysis engine that was developed for server-based deployment. This engine was specifically designed to overcome the limitations of conventional video analytics systems, by mitigating the common problem of persistent nuisance alarms that are caused by lighting and environmental changes. This ensures more accurate detection results. The server based version of SafeZone was ported to edge devices by reducing the processing requirement by a factor of 400, whilst preserving the intelligent scene analysis. At the same time, the approach to camera calibration and the editing of detection scenarios was completely redesigned in the ‘edge’ variant to transform the ease of installation and operation.
Q: Where did SafeZone come from? Which company? Is it from an acquisition or is it an OEM product?
The product and intellectual property behind the server version of SafeZone was acquired with the Keeneo business. SafeZone has been deployed onto thousands of cameras on sites that include industrial complexes and secure government locations. Following the acquisition, the original server version of SafeZone was also certified as a primary detection system for operational alert use in sterile zone monitoring applications, under the UK Home Office i-LIDS® scheme. This is the internationally recognised UK Government benchmark for video analytics (VA) systems.
Q: Digital Barriers will be exhibiting at Counter Terror Expo alongside Axis – what’s the relationship between the two companies?
From the initial conception and development of SafeZone-edge, Axis was the obvious choice of camera platform for the first product release. Digital Barriers is an Axis ACAP development partner and some of our other applications were already available on the ACAP platform prior to SafeZone-edge. We are working closely with Axis to ensure that SafeZone-edge meets the needs of consultants, system integrators and end customers in the critical national infrastructure sector and beyond. This collaboration and support, underpinned by the Axis commitment to its ecosystem of partners, has been a central pillar of the efforts to bring SafeZone-edge to the market. Exhibiting and presenting with the Axis team at Counter Terror Expo, where the product will formally launch, is a reflection of this cooperation – both for SafeZone-edge and our other ‘edge-intelligent’ applications.
Q: What’s the future for Digital Barriers? Where is the company going next?
We’ve recently been able to report some strategically important international contract wins, with particularly strong growth in overseas product sales. These include some landmark sales into flagship customer accounts, from US Federal Government agencies to major telecoms partners and other leading government and commercial organisations around the world. We’re now seeing the tangible results of the product development work we’ve been doing over the past 12 months, which is very encouraging. We’ve consistently demonstrated to our customers around the world that their mission-critical operations are uniquely supported by our innovative surveillance technologies.