Bad Marketing Beware - Intransa is Back!

Author: John Honovich, Published on Mar 13, 2015

After burning $100+ million on a mythical 'secret sauce', quietly going out of business, dropping all warranties, could Intransa top themselves?

They are trying.

Reborn as 'Viakoo', the bad marketing is back.

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Comments (30)

Does 18 petition supporters = 18 employees?

And/or friends and consultants :)

You can be #19, go ahead, do it...

Fluff piece wisdom:

Simply, video is complicated.

The petition seems to asks that any DHS security grant to schools, whether video related or not, trigger a mandatory video reporting requirement.

The petition says, "We ask that DHS require that uptime of the video streams, what percent of video data met retention compliance requirements, and if there was any tampering of the video data files." This unclear language is more confusing than helpful.

Most companies have a formal review process which mitigates these sorts of issues for releases involving public exposure of this magnitude.

On the plus side, I encourage my pre-teen children to be active in commerce and business attempts, so I wouldn't want to discourage any similar attempts in this company.

On the minus side, is this the company's best effort at a petition to the U.S. government, read, agreed to, and signed by as many U.S. citizens as possible?

Whether for $5/camera/month or even for free, when you consider which companies to allow inside your firewall, do you give any consideration to the care they demonstrate with their own public persona?

Really glad I turned down the offer from them a few years back....

Agree they are self-defeating. Only going after customers who don't care about networking with a networking solution seems illogical. Someone who deploys $50 crap D-link switches isn't going to pay 5 bucks a month to hear they did a sloppy job.

Don't most NVR/DVR's have video loss detection alerts and can't you just run a report from the head end you already own?

Yes though Viakoo argues that their alerts are more in-depth and also cloud accessible by design.

[IPVM Note Added: Poster is from Viakoo.]

The system is pretty robust. It can alert you to issues from cameras, switches, servers and failed drives from any site you might have anywhere in the world. You can see uptime trend analysis for a camera, server, site or your whole company. It also is able to determine whether you are achieving your retention goals for each camera. All the performance measures you might get from a wireshark or other monitor are just being collected all the time without having to be onsite.

And it has a nifty phone app so you can get alerts to your phone and check in on your sites. If you have just one recorder or a fairly small site, it might not be worth it. If you have 1000s across many sites, its pretty useful and beats driving around or tunneling into different sites just to check on things.

Dear Undisclosed Viakoo poster,

You must be somewhat dense to post an undisclosed promotional comment in response to criticisms of bad marketing practices.

Thanks for the input.

Now that you are here, perhaps you can elaborate on a few points:

  • Which VMSes is Viakoo "able to determine whether you are achieving your retention goals for each camera"? Presumably this requires some integration with each VMS to know this, yes/no?
  • What if someone already has a high end VMS with built-in health monitoring (e.g., Milestone Corporate, Genetec, Exacq Enterprise)? Why Viakoo?

6 minutes. I was wondering how long it would take for you to see this and call out the obvious promotional comment!

You can change the name, but you can't change the soul...

You can change the name, but you can't change the soul...

You win 25 internets, good Sir.

For some reason, Viakoo is pretty popular with Genetec, Milestone and Exacq customers. It also has IndigoVision, VideoInsights, Avigilon, 3VR, AMAG, Lenel, ONSSI and more. The implication is that it offers something that these systems don't by themselves.

It is always good to be skeptical of vendor claims. The real issue for this industry is that video downtime continues to be a big problem. Setting them up correctly is not easy. Keeping them working is not easy. This technology helps in unique and scalable ways regardless of what you think of the marketing. Each customer has to determine whether they have things under control or whether they need help.

So the question is whether IPVM is a place for useful discussion or petty vendettas? If you want the former, let me know.

So the question is whether IPVM is a place for useful discussion or petty vendettas?

Why does it have to be one or the other?

Both and neither, depends on the day.

David,

I asked you specific questions, you ignored them. I am trying to have a useful discussion but you're responding with spin.

To repeat:

  • Which VMSes is Viakoo "able to determine whether you are achieving your retention goals for each camera"? Presumably this requires some integration with each VMS to know this, yes/no?
  • What if someone already has a high end VMS with built-in health monitoring (e.g., Milestone Corporate, Genetec, Exacq Enterprise)? Why Viakoo?

You say Viakoo is 'pretty popular' but what does that mean exactly? You have tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of customers who use Milestone?

This is the Intransa / Viakoo problem - vague or overstated claims and a poor track record.

Please try to answer those questions directly and we can talk in more detail.

I didn't ignore you. I responded. You would like more specifics. There is a difference.

Also, you continue to position this is as Viakoo/Intransa when it is really just Viakoo. There is a clear agenda in you saying that so be honest about it. You didn't like Intransa. The investors in that company closed it down and it is no more. That created pain for a set of customers. Blaming Viakoo for that pain is misplaced. At the same time, credibility is earned so the only thing we can do is build a great solution that people need.

Many people don't believe we can do what we can do but I am not bs'ing you when I say it does work. There are limitations which are predominantly:

1) We currently only support Windows based recorders. Linux is not out of the question, we just need to focus on establishing ourselves.

2) The retention algorithm currently only works with windows filesystems.

3) It is IP-based so IP-cameras only. We can also recognize analog camera streams through some IP-based encoders look like multi-stream cameras to us (Honeywell/NICE).

VMS's where we can calculate retention currently are the following (and more are adding all the time):

  • Milestone Go, Enterprise, Corporate
  • ONSSI
  • Genetec
  • ExacqVision (Windows)
  • Verint
  • Pelco DigitalSentry
  • Lenel
  • 3VR
  • Video Insight
  • IndigoVision
  • Thrive
  • AMAG
  • Axis Camera Station

Historically, it takes us about two weeks to integrate another VMS. Some are easier than others and it depends on the level of partnership we get and the market opportunity (usually a sizeable customer).

Why do customers choose Viakoo if they already have one of your identified choices? I can speculate a few main areas based on my conversations:

1) They still have problems that aren't being detected by those systems.

2) They get a more sophisticated insight as to what might be wrong.

3) It gives them a better view at a global level of how they are doing.

4) It allows multiple parties to share the information without requiring a bunch of VPNs.

5) It has a workflow mechanism that lets them delegate to IT or local service providers to resolve problems.

6) It unifies what is currently coming from VMS consoles, systems management tools and network monitoring tools.

7) They like the UI. Some are delighted by the WebUI; some by the prospect of just working from their phones; some a combination.

We are a relatively new company and launched the service at ISCwest almost a year ago. We have tens of thousands of cameras currently supported by the solution. Go to the website to see some of our customers.

If you are truly interested, let me know. If you just angry at Intransa, I can't help you.

David, thanks, those are substantive details and help.

To be clear, I certainly believe it 'can work' since lots and lots of companies have been doing related things in general IT and in surveillance for years.

I am more skeptical about how broad the audience is for this offering, especially given the substitutes available and the $5 per camera price point.

Now, as for Intransa, Intransa is relevant because the core management team of Viakoo is from Intransa, including the CEO, yourself the CPO, the VP of Sales, marketing people, engineering etc.

Intransa and its key people have earned the industry's skepticism so when they bring back the band immediately, do not be surprised about resistance, especially when the new marketing claims / efforts are as bad as they are.

Again, thanks for the details above, they do help.

You should understand, $5 is a starting point. There are explicit discounts for prepayment and larger numbers of cameras.

In terms of Intransa, I was brought on to tee up the phone-home service in February of 2012. By September, it was clear there was an opportunity in supporting more than just Intransa equipment. We pitched the idea to the investors but they were tired and wanted us to just shut the business down. Bud and I purchased the unsold assets to start Viakoo. The strategic asset was the phone-home stuff we had built, but it also enabled us to service the Intransa customers to pay our people. Though Intransa customers were left in the lurch, if we hadn't started Viakoo, all those people would have had nothing at all.

On the marketing front: The 30% claim is referencing a real customer who, prior to talking with us, had spent 3 months manually auditing a global infrastructure on the order of 20k cameras to discover this fact. Not everyone has let their infrastructure decay to this magnitude, but it is not a unique occurrance. Why this happens is because, as these infrastructures get large and distributed, traditional tools don't work and people are overwhelmed by the challenge. That is what we are helping people with.

When I look at the data I am collecting from customers, there are numerous problems of configuration as well as decay. Either people might not have understood what they were doing or they didn't have a way of auditing the infrastructure to make sure it conformed to design when they commissioned it. Then there are effects of people changing stuff, adding cameras, pulling too many streams, adjusting the configuration, adding updates, that inadvertantly break or stress the infrastructure. Finally, there is equipment that decays. Cameras, hard drives, power supplies all break. Software crashes. Firmware fails to stay incompatible.

The last audit I did, it worked out to a problem or event, per month for every 50 cameras of infrastructure. This figure is inclusive of both configuration issues as well as out right component failures. Some of our customers do significantly better than others. Their configurations are done well and they have a trained team. As a result their infrastructure tends to be more stable. However, disciplined you are, things get old and failure rates increase over time. The point is, this is the data I am seeing across many different verticals and across all the VMS's. If you extrapolate out that problem rate for people who don't have the ability to manage it, things can quietly get pretty bad.

I'll talk about Uptime as an issue related to risk protection versus exposure if you are interested. This posting has gotten long enough.

David,

You say, "On the marketing front: The 30% claim is referencing a real customer"

I certainly believe there are multiple real customers that have 30% of their cameras not working.

However, your marketing team is claiming far more than that. For example, in an email campaign Viakoo sent out, states "one of the 'dirty secrets' in video surveillance is that it typically works about 70% of the time" and in the DHS petition, "A shocking statistic reported about security video systems (or surveillance video systems) is that they work only about 70% of the time."

Viakoo's marketing team is engaging in fear-mongering and is wrong.

That said, I think the points you are making are more sophisticated and have merit. I'd encourage you to go back to marketing and sales and urge them to take a more responsible approach to communication.

Bud and I purchased the unsold assets to start Viakoo.

David, with all due respect, I hope you can see that on the surface at least, when top executives jump ship taking the jewel-encrusted Captains Wheel to use as a life preserver, it is only natural for people to be hesitant when hearing the next "All Aboard!"

It might take a little while...

To John:

When people spend millions to deploy multi-thousand camera infrastructures, it is to protect people, property and brand. Are you really suggesting that the status quo is okay? It maybe that any particular customer has deployed this infrastructure without really needing it, but most deploy it for sound reasons.

This is your platform John so you can control the microphone. Being a reality check is great. Are you advocating that the current crop of technologies are doing the job? If so, I have data that disagrees with you.

So when it fails, what is the impact? A camera over the cleaning closet isn't worth it. Cameras over the front door, school hallways, or remote facilities are a different matter. If you are flying blind, you can have a real problem. Subtle, highly nuanced messages don't get through. Look at your headline for this set of postings.

To Undesclosed B:

You may not appreciate it, but that is a pretty unfair characterization to say we "jumped ship with the jewel encrusted wheel as a life preserver." Jumping ship would have been leaving long before the investors gave up on it, taking the assets and people and letting the whole thing blow up after we were free and clear.

What really happened is we rode that ship until it sunk below the waves, looking for new investors or finding buyers for whatever assets we could until the last minute. Nor was it jewel encrusted; more like loose floating timbers. The service we've built is a far cry from what Intransa was doing before it went under. Nor was it a happy experience trying to sell services to disgruntled Intransa customers or going unpaid until we could get an A-round done nearly 8 months into it. If you want to be bored with more of the details, find me at ISCwest and I'll tell you over a beer.

How much of this whole conversation is that, without trying the service, people want to condem it by association and inuendo? Scheudenfeude? Or do people really believe there is not a problem here that needs a better solution? Is it just the price that is resented here?

There really is no risk in trying it out. Unlike package software solutions, you can try it out for free. It doesn't require any more infrastructure than what you already have in place. If you like it but fear the company may not last, you can pay on a monthly basis. Your exposure is limited to what you use. Of course, the more you use and are willing to commit to, the cheaper it gets.

If you don't have budget or aren't really a serious prospect, I respectfully would ask you to not waste our time.

Again, I'll be at ISCwest if you want to talk more or see a demo.

"Are you advocating that the current crop of technologies are doing the job? If so, I have data that disagrees with you."

I am 'advocating' that most security end users are satisfied with their current health monitoring approaches, especially at the price point you are offering your alternative at.

We have lots of our own data on what technologies industry people desire and what problems they want solved. Health monitoring is low on that list. The challenges of Vunetrix whose founder sold off / exited, reaffirm that.

"Cameras over the front door, school hallways, or remote facilities are a different matter. If you are flying blind, you can have a real problem."

Sure, but there are very simple, 'free' ways to deal with this. If the camera over the front door is out, why do you need Viakoo to tell you this? The guard / operator / manager will easily see this and can call for service. I am sure you have more nuanced points to make that are stronger but the 'how will I know if a camera is out' is not a particular strong one for most organizations.

"How much of this whole conversation is that, without trying the service, people want to condemn it by association and inuendo?"

I am condemning your marketing team. The DHS petition is simply embarrassing. The make believe 70% claim and using McCourt's dual role as validation is unethical.

Remember where this discussion started: a petition to create regulations mandating external reporting of video system status. If such a petition were initiated by a public service, consumer, or citizen organization, that would be one thing, but on the face of it, how is it out of line for one to infer an inherent organization conflict of interest within this seemingly reasonable and selfless petition?

Hi Horace,

My background is more IT based. In driving operational excellence, there is an adage that if you aren't measuring it, you can't manage it. The expectation is that when you figure out what is important and start measuring it, you can drive meaningful operational improvement.

When we turned our focus on Video Surveillance, we did an analysis of what are the key measures for this application which I've articulated in the "3 Must Have KPIs for Video Surveillance" white paper which you can get from our website to focus how we can help people. They really come down to uptime, retention and video quality/risk measures. If you care about the video surveillance application, these measures become strategic.

There are customers who don't prioritize video. Budgets are thin, teams are overworked and infrastructure decays. Invariably, there is an event that happens that causes people to realize the impact of not having their video surveillance infrastructure adequately supported. Because of the randomness of these incidents, there is a polynomial (non-linear) impact of exposure as you let infrastructure decay (i.e., a 10% outage rate among your video infrastructure exposes you greater than 10% of risk).

Environments that have a high probability of incidents tend to have people more experienced with the impact of these exposures. Hospitals, school systems, and universities have been good markets for us for these reasons. High-tech manufacturers, public infrastructure and ports worrying about protecting people and critical assets are also willing customers. CSO's who have had significant experience, IT directors responsible for surveillance find that these measures resonate with the desire to be under control of their operations. Not knowing is a scary, risk-blind situation for them.

Among security integrators, we've found two types: those who see this as strategic way to scale their abilities and deliver differentiation; and those who are threatened by the prospect of having historic mistakes exposed. What I ask the latter whether it possible to be perfectly successful if you lacked the tools to help you be successful. If you are pretending to be under control when you are not, time and events will be your enemy anyway.

A recurring problem that people in this industry express, and is echoed to some degree by John's objections, is the absence of budgets which prevent people from adequately resourcing infrastructure upgrades and putting adequate procedures in place. What government regulators have found in telecommunications, banking and other industries with mission critical infrastructure is that creating regulatory requirements with significant enough penalties creates the business justification to implement proper procedures. Having sold into these industries, a bank that has a $100k penalty per hour of service outage will then have the business case to put in the proper redundant infrastructure. Without that, institutions will be torn between this quarter's slightly better profit number and defending against what some might perceive as a black-swan event. School systems around the country should recognize that they have an exposure to active shooter situations which are rare, but sadly becoming more prevelant. But many don't. If you are putting in this infrastructure, you may not understand what it takes to make it work and keep it working. Rather than leaving it to individuals with conflicting priorities and varying degress of experience, regulations give guidance and incentives to put the right infrastructure, resources and procedures in place. That is why advocating for this, while correlating with some self interest, does have merit.

I disagree with John that this is somehow unimportant or not needed. People are putting in cameras as a way to reduce human guards. Having guard hours then allocated to auditing this infrastructure doesn't work over time and scale. Aside from being an expensive way to solve the problem, humans, at best, are only capable of 3-sigma of accuracy in manual procedures. That means roughly 1 in every 12-14 steps will be a mistake. Moreover, people regularly confuse being able to see live video feeds as evidence that everything is fine when actually the system isn't recording for one reason or another.

I also disagree with John that Vunetrics failure is evidence that there isn't a problem worth solving. What they offered was a tool which gave you measures and they charged you by the measure. This is completely the wrong orientation in my view. People, especially if your background is law enforcement or military, can't make sense of a thousand blinking lights. Moreover, understanding what to measure is not obvious for people. The potential for false alarms is very high. If my CPU is loaded, is that a problem? Not necessarily as these systems saturate networks and storage and can use significant amounts of CPU, but if every video stream is recording successfully for as long as you need, there isn't an issue. Finally, I've found that people with enough experience will have an anecdote of how some obscure measure proved to be important in one situation or another.

Our approach is completely different from Vunetrics. We collect as much as we can to answer the question if the video is okay. The more we collect, the more accurate we can be. Also, by being a cloud service, as we collect more data and scenarios, we can improve our analysis and recommendations. As we improve our analytics, every customer benefits. This stops putting users in the position of having to know what is important to collect and watch. Instead, we let them know when something has happened, how important it is and what to do about it. They can use the interface to verify or further diagnose the problem if our analysis is incomplete. And we have experts on this application which can help if needed.

It is quite possible that we have over-engineered a solution for this marketplace. What I don't understand is why this group wouldn't want this problem to be solved. At the very least, it is a model for what is possible you could hold all your vendors to. Is it possible that the noise from the Intransa experience is clouding people's judgement?

Is it possible that the noise from the Intransa experience is clouding people's judgement?

Yes.

Can you recommend a competitor?

"That is why advocating for this, while correlating with some self interest, does have merit."

David, Viakoo is free to advocate what they want, but:

  • Government regulating video surveillance uptime is an incredible long shot.
  • Posting it on change.org is tilting at windmills.
  • Getting just 18 signatures is embarrassing, even after we had 2000+ reads on this post.
  • Basing the petition on a demonstrably false claim ("they work only about 70% of the time.") is unethical.

Next:

"I also disagree with John that Vunetrics failure is evidence that there isn't a problem worth solving."

My point is that Vunetrix demonstrates that end users and integrators are just not that interested in paying for a new solution for this problem. And our readership stats show a similar pattern. This does not mean your solution is inherently good or bad, simply that I believe you will face a lot of resistance to scaling up customers profitably.

"What I don't understand is why this group wouldn't want this problem to be solved."

There is no objection to trying to solve this problem. The core objection is that Viakoo engages in bogus marketing, unfortunately continuing the tradition Bud and your team started at Intransa.

Viakoo Co-founder Mark McCourt has taken a day job.

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