Samsung Surging But Follower Or Innovator?

Over the last few years, Samsung overall has grown immensely, increasing total revenue by $60 billion USD from 2009 to 2012 (starting at ~$130 billion USD and now in 2013 over $200 billion USD). Obviously, their smartphone (and now tablet) businesses have been key drivers of that growth.

An interesting New York Times article describes this growth and future challenges in depth, raising some interesting questions for Samsung's surveillance business.

First, here's a few key excerpts:

  • Samsung has about "the same sales as Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook combined."
  • "Last year, Samsung shipped 215 million smartphones, about 40 percent of the worldwide total, analysts estimate; this year, it is expected to ship more than 350 million."
  • "Interbrand, a marketing consulting firm, ranked Samsung as the eighth-most-valuable brand in the world."
  • "Samsung is a well-oiled machine: If it spots a trend and decides to compete, it can outspend and outpace practically anyone. Its everything-included, research-to-manufacturing-to-marketing model allows it to obliterate the competition."
  • Innovation (leading / creating trends) and low cost Chinese competition are cited as both key risks.

As we recently tested, Samsung Wisenet III cameras have gained lots of ground against leading IP camera manufacturers with close performance and low pricing. There's nothing technologically innovative about their surveillance offering but, at least for surveillance, that may be good enough. Thoughts?

Recently Samsung Electronics has merged its Digital Imaging Business Division and its Wireless Business Division to create a better synergy and improved camera imaging tech for its mobile devices. Samsung Digital Imaging was one of the subsidiaries of Samsung Group, and it was spun off from Samsung Techwin's Optoelectronics part. And then it merged into Samsung Electronics.

Anyway, the Surveillance & Security part(Security Solution Division) is still with Samsung Techwin (one of the subsidiaries of Samsung Group but it is not Samsung Electronics). It would be one of reasons why they show an indifferent (unlike mobile devices of Samsung Electronics).

I'm guessing that demand for innovation in technology in surveillance equipment is probably nowhere near the level of demand required for consumer electronics that Samsung is typically known for such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, televisions, etc. Nobody I know uses an analog cell phone any longer, but analog cameras are still being manufactured and sold everyday for video surveillance.

One would think that a huge name like Samsung could bring some new technology to the forefront in surveillance, but the same could be said for other consumer electronic giants that also make surveillance equipment such as Sony and Panasonic.

In my opinion, the technology level increase of IP video surveillance has been rather stagnant over the past few years, aside from maybe higher megapixel imagers and better compression algorithms such as H.264. I'm not sure if that is due to economic times and cutbacks in R&D, if the market has matured, or if manufacturers are trying to remain cost competitive against newer Chinese manufacturers such as Hikvision and Dahua.

For Samsung specifically as Calvin pointed out, try not to think of them as one large company. Think of them as GE with multiple divisions (GE spun off all of their security, access and video product lines to UTC). The different divisions don't always play well together and share information. I think the NYT article is looking at Samsung as a whole. For Sony, Panasonic and Samsung, I doubt that surveillance makes up a significant portion of their overall company revenue, maybe a percent at most, but probably not a significant rounding error on the overall annual corporate financial report.

FWIW, I heard the exact same bullet points as mentioned in the NYT article come out of the Samsung reps mouth when he came in trying to peddle their cameras. I bench tested a few of them and found nothing unique about them technically but they were good cameras. Their big push at the time was their SCIP partnership program where we could be a "partner" and but at a deeper discount. The sales rep spent more time talking about that than he did the technology.

From previous conversations with Samsung employees, the impression I got was that innovation within surveillance was not a priority, as the market was just too small relative to their massive size to dedicate such focus.

On the other hand, given their increasing prominent brand, I am not sure they need to be the most innovative. If they can be around the same quality as Western brands but with pricing close to the Chinese, that's a pretty attractive combo.

My impression was that they were using their name recognition to open opportunities, manufacturing a product that was on par with most of the competition, and focusing on competitive prices, which is probably what most manufacturers are doing with the onslaught of Chinese brands that are infiltrating the market.

I think John Grocke makes good points. If anyone has the power to be a real contender it’s Samsung. But like other behemoth sized companies, not all divisions “play well” with each other and sometimes one will take a back seat to the others based on bureaucratic priorities.

I'm curious how much Samsung is knocking on integrators' doors. I've heard a couple of anecdotes about them making moves up here in the the northeast, but I haven't heard anything major.


In the past 6 months, a lot of integrators asked me about Samsung as a direct result of Samsung stepping up their sales efforts and RSM visits. I had never seen this before.

Btw, as an anecdote, Samsung just hired a former Axis director / NLSS VP.

We actually reached out to Samsung. Maybe they would have gotten to us eventually. We used them a lot in the GVI-analog days and heard about improvements in their IP product offerings. We hadn't seen or heard much of their marketing before hand, but they stumbled over themselves to communicate with us once we did reach out to them.

A local government tender specifically asked for Samsung cameras. I thought it was strange as one, no one in my area sells them, and second their SNV-6084R (the camera specced for the job) requires 24VAC to operate at -40C where soooo many competitors offer this via POE+ or High POE.

Other than that, I don't mind the idea of the samsung cameras, cheaper than Axis, but seemingly decent quality?

I would say Samsung is still a follower but they are making progress in IP. During a large analog project 6 or 7 years ago we had to run over to ADI to pick up a box camera to replace an old camera lost on the walkthrough. They had a Samsung box camera on shelf and that camera ending up looking better than the rest of the Pelco cameras. Since then we have mainly use Samsung's SCB- 2000 analog box cameras and that line has been a workhorse for us. They did deliver better a little picture quality than Bosch Dinion box cameras while being 40% less in cost. So I'm not surprised their new HD box camera is high quality and decently priced. I would say their pricing on their newer cameras is very close to Avigilon.

I am comfortable with the Samsung but dealing with their pervious line of cameras was the best. We tried a couple of their IP cameras back in 2011 but that's when it was confusing to what Samsung you were dealing with. I couldn't get their SCB-5000 to stream H.264 with Exacq. I had some older models fail out on the field on me so I have been a bit hesitant to go there again. We did pickup Panasonic since their integration with Exacq was a little better. I am open to using them again but I would need a demo unit of the SCB-5004 before I start quoting their IP camera again.

If you like the SCB-2000, try the Everfocus EQ700. Slightly truer colors, slightly less noise in low light, same price range.