Picture: Eric Fullerton, the new CEO at Vicon Industries
Late last year, Vicon Industries announced it had signed one of the premier players in the security industry, Eric Fullerton, to lead it into a new phase of growth and development.
Vicon as a company wasn’t in the best of shape. It had seen its share price on the New York Stock Exchange decline from over $6 a share in 2009/10, to less than $2 today. The company that had been on the cutting edge of innovation in the early days of the CCTV industry had slipped into the doldrums and was finding it difficult to power its way out.
The appointment of Fullerton happened just months after Vicon had acquired another struggling brand, IQinVision, a former leader in megapixel camera technology which had also seen its market position progressively slip over the years.
The fact that Eric Fullerton, formerly Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Milestone Systems, was willing to take on the job of CEO at Vicon – and to do so enthusiastically – speaks volumes to his faith in his own abilities and his belief in the brands.
Fullerton has enjoyed remarkable success over the years, not least the rampant rise of Milestone over 10 years from just another software VMS supplier turning over $1-2m a year to a $100m company that regularly features in the number one or two position in the global VMS popularity contest alongside its constant rival, Genetec.
“At Milestone, I was spearheading a change to open platform and openness in the security industry while driving growth in IP video management,” he says.
However, Milestone was acquired by Canon in June last year and within a few months Fullerton had left the company to join Vicon. Having given him time to get his feet under the desk, we decided now was the time to catch up and quiz him on his plans.
In an industry awash with young tech companies and start-ups, Vicon Industries is notable for being nearly 48 years old. Started in the mid-60s, it was a pioneer in CCTV, building the industry’s first pan-tilt-zoom enclosure. It was a big player in the market in the 1970s and 80s during which time its revenues peaked at $80m.
Fullerton says that the company began to lose its way approximately ten years ago when it lost a particularly large customer. From that point on, the company carried on but in a diminished way.
A big part of the game-changing plan for Vicon is the integration of the recently acquired IQinVision and its line of megapixel cameras.
IQinVision was one of the first megapixel camera manufacturers and in addition to manufacturing its own brand it also OEMed product to a number of other players. However as Fullerton explains, there were a number of technological innovations in the megapixel market and IQinVision was slow to make the transition, leading to a loss of traction in the market.
When the company began to be classified by industry analysts as a “boutique” manufacturer, it was an acknowledgement that IQinVision’s product offering was too narrow.
Notwithstanding, taken together Vicon and IQinVision have a comprehensive product offering, says Fullerton, and one of the first steps in the recovery plan is to consolidate the Vicon and IQinVision range of cameras to provide a comprehensive, end-to-end product offering that can cover a broad range of vertical markets.
The combined offering is going to be rebranded as Vicon-IQEye. Fullerton calls these the Capture products, and they will give customers a broad choice of resolution and performance, ranging from analogue to 12 megapixel cameras, including domes, bullets and PTZ cameras.
The former IQinVision location in California will be retained as the development centre for the Capture product line while Vicon’s New York office will concentrate on the ViconNet software and systems which can be sold either as a software solution or as part of a DVR/NVR.
A key development is the plug and play interoperability of the products. Fullerton calls this “self inflating” technology, basically a solution built around power-over-Ethernet (PoE) technology which will automatically configure new devices as they are attached to the system.
“The position of our company is that anything that’s ONVIF compliant can go into our systems, and we have a series of dedicated drivers for a number of cameras,” he says. “And our camera line can interoperate with third-party VMSs and appliances.”
All of the equipment will conform to ONVIF standards, ensuring that each component can function in an open standards environment. Some manufacturers have tried to hold back on true interoperability in an attempt to hold onto market share but Fullerton is highly critical of this, seeing it as short-sighted and ultimately doomed to fail due to end user demands.
However, it should be noted that, as with most manufacturers, the Vicon products achieve their full potential when connected to other Vicon products for the simple reason that they are able to use functions that are currently not included in the ONVIF standard and therefore won’t necessarily work between manufacturers.
The company’s VMS solution, ViconNet, will continue to offer the top line integration capabilities for the company’s products. A scalable solution, it can support anything from four to 32 cameras in standard configuration but in advanced mode can support thousands of channels.
“The time when you could think you were going to go out and capture your customer and he’d only buy from you and I’m going to deliver everything he needs – those are gone. No one company could fund the development organisation that could drive all the innovation that is going to happen,” he says. “In order for end users not to get captured into a proprietary solution, the vendors have to want to be open and interoperate with other companies to serve the end-user’s future. That’s where you get future proofing with vendors – they have to be open to interfacing with third-party products.”
Route to market
The merger of Vicon and IQinVision has created a channel conflict, both in the ways the products were developed and sold, says Fullerton.
The sales teams of the two companies have been rationalised so there is a unified structure and he’s hired a new director of distribution channels (but at the time of writing was not willing to name her).
Vicon is developing an up-to-date channel programme that will support its hardware and software offerings and provide a high level of support to customers through its distributors and system integrators. This will be launched by the end of March, he says.
The distribution channel will be a two-tier system, he says, with products going through distributors to system integrators and ultimately the end users. “That’s a structure that neither Vicon nor IQinVision used particularly well,” he says.
So Eric Fullerton, the new CEO at Vicon, has been busy restructuring everything from the company’s product line to its sales, distribution and support operation, building on his experience at Milestone but taking it all a step further. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out in the next year or so and whether he can return Vicon to its former prominence in the security industry.