Benjamin Low formerly served as the Regional Vice President at Milestone Systems, a world class Danish company specializing in Video Management Systems (VMS) software. In his role at Milestone Systems from 2015 to 2022, he successfully led the APAC team to secure the top position in the VMS industry.
This accomplishment extended the company’s reach across the Asia-Pacific region, including key markets in Japan, India, and Australia, as well as multiple offices throughout Asia. Presently, he is dedicated to assisting various software companies in establishing their footprint within the thriving APAC market.
Benjamin: I believe that the market will continue to experience year-on-year strengthening. Reflecting on the past two to three years, it is evident that the video surveillance market and the integration of video technology have exhibited remarkable resilience, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic spurred exponential growth in the use of video technology to address issues like augmenting manpower shortages, conducting safe-distancing checks, monitoring illegal crowding, and maintaining records of entries and exits, solely for registered personnel. In Singapore, there is a prevailing acknowledgment of video’s role in crime prevention and crowd control and we are seeing wider adoption of video cameras in public and private areas.
Although security will remain a central focus of the video surveillance industry, I think there is going to be an expansion into more pragmatic applications of video technology. Just like in the case of the recent childcare incident, where the absence or improper placement of cameras highlighted the need for enhanced surveillance. Consequently, the government is now mandating specific surveillance systems in childcare facilities to ensure the safety of both teachers and children. This underscores a growing trend of vertical-specific use of video technology in the market.
In the past, traditional businesses mainly viewed cameras as tools for theft prevention, often positioned at entry and exit points. However, this perspective is evolving, and I believe that video technology will be increasingly adopted in various industries, such as childcare, hospitals, healthcare, and retail. As a result, this diversification is expected to contribute to substantial market growth in Singapore and Southeast Asia in the coming years.
Benjamin: I feel that the business landscape in Singapore is particularly fascinating – during my tenure with Milestone Systems, Singapore has consistently held a pivotal role. This is largely due to the government’s proactive stance on adopting video technology. Video surveillance is prevalent on the streets, in car parks, shopping centers, prisons, and army camps, indicating extensive utilization of video surveillance technologies within the country. In contrast, markets outside Singapore seem to be primarily driven by commercial and broader applications.
While Singapore remains a vital and robust market, I anticipate that in the coming years, Southeast Asia as a whole will emerge as a prominent player. Given the sheer size and scope of the Southeast Asian market, it is poised to eventually surpass Singapore in significance.
Benjamin: Indeed. The level of citizen awareness and acceptance of being monitored by video technologies will, in some way, either impede or facilitate the progress of the video surveillance market.
Benjamin: Cybersecurity is undeniably a critical concern. It’s an area that should be of paramount importance for any company using surveillance systems to capture video data. The level of emphasis placed on the cybersecurity of video data should be on par with how credit card companies or financial institutions safeguard the data they collect.
In the contemporary landscape of surveillance systems, a majority of them are IP-based. With IP-based systems, they are inherently susceptible to hacking. It’s no longer the conventional surveillance setup where cameras feed into a recorder. Instead, everything is connected to the internet, and data resides on shared drives. This makes it a significant and valid concern.
Financial institutions and banks provide a notable example. They frequently experience incidents where customer data is exploited by hackers, and sensitive information is traded on the dark web. In the realm of video surveillance, we may already be witnessing, or are likely to see in the near future, instances where inadequately protected video data becomes vulnerable to hacking and theft.
It’s a legitimate area of concern, but on the flip side, it also presents an opportunity. Companies like D-Ron, which offer robust video surveillance systems coupled with cybersecurity expertise, can step in to assist customers and partners. Their role extends beyond just focusing on video technology; they also address the crucial aspect of integrating cybersecurity measures when designing a video surveillance system.
Benjamin: Absolutely, I concur. In the forthcoming years, I anticipate the emergence of purpose-built cybersecurity solutions specifically targeting IP and IoT devices, as well as critical infrastructure encompassing energy and grid providers and electric vehicle chargers. These solutions will be essential to fend off the rapid growth of cyber threats posed by hackers.
Benjamin: Firstly, I think it’s crucial to treat all collected data, whether it’s video recordings, credit card details, or personal information, with the utmost importance. All of this should be kept under tight lock and key. When you intend to collect such data, whether knowingly or unknowingly from the public or users, it’s imperative to ensure that it’s properly safeguarded using the right cybersecurity technologies, including encryption. In this context, the user becomes the most critical element. Often, people say that users are the weakest link, so it’s essential to grant users authorized access, ensuring that only specific and authorized individuals can access the data, rather than making it open to all.
In the realm of cybersecurity – an area I’ve previously worked in – major global breaches have demonstrated that vulnerabilities sometimes extend beyond customers to downstream partners. If you outsource data maintenance to a third party, collaborate with a cloud provider to host your data, or engage external contractors to maintain your system, all of these can be potential points of weakness and vulnerability.
Therefore, it’s essential to ensure that any partnerships or external parties you work with adhere to the same cybersecurity compliance standards as your internal staff. This consistency is vital in safeguarding your data and systems.
Benjamin: Indeed, there are numerous applications for video surveillance technologies beyond their traditional uses. Let’s take electric vehicle management systems (EVMS) as an example. There’s a growing awareness of the need to secure these systems with robust cybersecurity measures. Just like cameras, the majority of EV chargers deployed in the region are primarily IP-based. Any device connected to the internet or accessible via an IP address is vulnerable to potential hacking. The implications for systems like EV chargers are particularly severe.
I recently spoke with some end users and partners, and their concern revolved around the fact that if EV charging applications and systems were compromised, it’s not just about data theft. For instance, in the case of an EV charging platform, hackers could potentially manipulate the energy flow from the grid to the EV chargers. They could alter the energy supply, causing overloads and even potentially triggering explosions in EV cars.
Just last week, I had a conversation with a company that provides battery and storage systems for the EV industry. They discussed export controls for these systems, particularly in countries with sensitive security situations, such as Russia and parts of Southern Thailand, where there is unrest. I asked them why export controls were necessary, and they explained that energy storage systems can effectively function as bombs if not properly protected. If insurgents or terrorists gain access to these systems, they can potentially detonate a series of charging stations, causing significant harm and human loss.
So, this underscores the importance of ensuring that EV charging stations and EV management software are well-qualified and thoroughly secured with robust cybersecurity solutions. The consequences of neglecting cybersecurity in these systems are immense, especially if hackers gain access.
Benjamin: Well, it has occurred in the past. Particularly with the early generations of chargers, there have been reports of users attempting to tap into them to access free charging and the like. However, these physical tampering issues have become less common, largely due to advancements in the payment gateway and the overall design of charging stations. In today’s market, users often have to either use their credit cards or mobile apps to activate the charging process.
Yet, the landscape of charging and charging technologies is evolving. We’re now entering the era of “charge-and-go,” where you drive to a charging station, and you don’t even need to physically plug in connectors. Instead, you can use sensors on the base of the vehicle, akin to wireless charging for your iPhone. This wireless charging for vehicles is already in use in certain European countries and is particularly mature in China.
As we move towards adopting this technology, the ability to authenticate drivers and users becomes even more crucial. When someone drives in, and you no longer have to authenticate a person, it becomes challenging to identify the driver or the vehicle’s owner. Ensuring the right authentication, electronic Know Your Customer (eKYC), and “know your customer” practices become vital in this context, which relates to the cybersecurity aspect. It’s an essential part of the equation, safeguarding the charging infrastructure.
Benjamin: This is an important and complex question. It applies not only to end-users but also to us as technology providers, whether we are D-RON or system integrators. What’s needed is a greater focus on educating customers and end-users about deploying video technology solutions.
Often, when considering a typical installation, many customers tend to concentrate solely on the upfront investment costs. They ask questions like, “How much does the camera cost? What’s the price of the video management system (VMS)? What’s the storage cost?” Consequently, they often opt for the most cost-effective or cheapest solution, assuming it meets their requirements.
However, in a typical video surveillance system with over 10 or 20 cameras or video feeds, a common scenario unfolds: you walk into a security center, such as one in a condominium, and you see numerous monitors displaying camera feeds. However, nine out of ten times, the security guards are not actively monitoring the screens. They get distracted by phone calls, people entering the area, or their mobile phones, among other distractions.
Thus, even if you have the best or the most affordable surveillance system, if the key aspects like monitoring and responsiveness are not effectively integrated, if there are no alerts for abnormal situations, the system doesn’t perform optimally. Using analytics software for generating alerts is often more efficient than relying on human attention since humans tend to have short attention spans and are easily distracted.
So, when an incident occurs, the combination of analytics and alerts can trigger the security guards to respond, investigate, or escalate the situation, either through mobile communication, email, or messages.
It’s crucial to have all these components in place, taking a holistic view of video surveillance, considering not just the initial cost but also maintenance and ensuring the right responses are triggered when needed. Furthermore, these functionalities should be part of the cost-performance evaluation, which is often overlooked, especially in Request for Information (RFI) or Request for Proposal (RFP) processes, except for larger companies who understand the value.
Unfortunately, the emphasis is often focused on “what’s the minimum we need” and “what’s the cheapest solution available.” However, if you opt for a low-end solution without considering all these factors, you may miss out on the full potential and benefits of the system in place.
Benjamin: Absolutely, education and continuous training are vital. It’s interesting to note that, even after a video surveillance system has been in place for a year, many end-users are often unaware of the full range of features available. They may only be using a fraction of what the system can offer.
The challenge is that organizations experience turnover, and new personnel come on board. Therefore, continuous training is essential to ensure that operators and end-users are aware of the system’s capabilities. Many software solutions offer a multitude of features, but if you’re not aware of them or don’t use them, you’re not fully maximizing the system’s potential. Education and awareness play a critical role in bridging the gap between cost and performance in the context of video surveillance systems.
Benjamin: Exactly, that’s a real challenge in maintaining knowledge and ensuring that the full potential of the system is realized, especially in organizations with high personnel turnover.
Benjamin: Privacy is indeed a sensitive and evolving topic. In Singapore, we’ve fared relatively well in recent years, especially given the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people in Singapore understand the need for video technology and its role in enhancing security, protecting their families, and ensuring safety.
However, questions do arise about how data is handled—where it’s stored, how it’s treated, and how it’s protected. Although we have some regulations governing the treatment of public and private data and data protection, there is still a lack of widespread public awareness. If you ask the average person on the street about the security of their credit card details or personal data, they might express confidence in banks and financial institutions because of regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). Yet, when it comes to video technology and security, many are less certain about the level of protection in place.
This lack of public awareness is an issue that needs attention, and there is room for improvement in this regard.
Regarding Southeast Asian nations outside of Singapore, there’s a growing market for video surveillance. Various countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam have diverse use cases for video technology. For example, Thailand has seen significant adoption of video technology following security incidents in Bangkok. While it might not be at the mass adoption level of countries like China or Singapore, the growth in these countries is expected to be strong in the coming years.
European nations tend to be more cautious in safeguarding citizens’ rights and data. Balancing the protection of individual rights and the nation’s security against external threats is a complex challenge. To roll out video surveillance on a larger scale, more education and awareness training are essential, helping citizens understand the balance between privacy and security concerns.
In my observation, while there are individuals who may express concerns, most people seem to be aware of the presence of surveillance cameras and consider it a positive measure. For instance, I recently sent my daughter to the National University of Singapore (NUS), where she started living in a hostel in her first year. NUS has experienced cases of intruders and security issues in the past. Given the hostel’s design with multiple access points and staircases, I was concerned as a father.
However, my daughter, like many of her peers, seems to have a more accepting attitude. She mentioned that there are cameras in and around the hostel, especially at the staircases. It appears that the younger generation perceives cameras and surveillance as a necessary means of protection. Personally, I believe more can be done, but I consider this acceptance of surveillance by the younger generation to be a good starting point.
Benjamin: All right. Thank you. That was a delightful conversation. I appreciate it.
Benjamin Low currently serves as the Vice President overseeing Driivz’s expansion in the Asia Pacific Region. He brings a wealth of experience from his past roles with prominent companies in the security and software technology sectors, including Guidance Software, Cisco and McAfee, where he held director-level and VP positions.
With a background in both sales and software development, Benjamin is a seasoned professional with a unique blend of business acumen and technical expertise. He leverages his knowledge to drive significant growth and transformation in the companies he works with.
Benjamin is known as a change-maker who prioritizes a people-first approach to achieve business success. You can learn more about Benjamin by visiting his LinkedIn profile.