Malou possesses an extensive and remarkable professional background predominantly focused on the telecommunications and IT sectors.
Currently serving as the Vice President APAC at Milestone Systems, based in Singapore, Malou is responsible for overseeing the business and operations for the Asia-Pacific region to make the world see by empowering people, businesses and societies with data-driven video technology.
Malou: My view is quite positive because the Asian region, in terms of video surveillance, is growing every year. And we’re still seeing quite a large growth across Southeast Asia, Singapore being one of the more mature markets. I think the growth would be relatively smaller, but the penetration in Singapore is higher. So, you can say we have fantastic business in Singapore, being a digital hub and role model country for many of the countries in the region.
But at the same time, if we look at the emergent territories outside of Singapore, the potential, because of the greenfield opportunities, is larger because the markets are entering phases of rapid growth which holds phenomenal potential from the sheer volume of people and land these markets have. We are expecting close to 10% growth just from looking at the overall market growth.
I think this is actually the number for Southeast Asia, I do not have the specific number for Singapore but I know that it’s lower. Let’s say the market is growing 8-10% in the Southeast Asia region, then I believe Singapore might be a little bit smaller because of the penetration of the market. That said, Singapore’s growth is two-way – in terms of breadth, but also growing in terms of depth with analytics and AI. In that sense, Singapore is more mature in enhancing technology adoption, like seeing beyond the use of video for surveillance. Many companies are now becoming increasingly aware that digital transformation is necessary for their long term future.
The need to optimize processes, improve feedback loops, and enhance their products/services applies almost to every company and all these call for the need to have more data from diverse sources. And we see this trend in more markets in Southeast Asia. In fact, many Singapore companies and organisations have already been looking into using video to enhance operational or business outcomes instead of just pure surveillance. Such progression will reinforce the growth of the video market in Singapore in the coming years.
So, Singapore is a very large market. It’s our largest market here in Southeast Asia.
Malou: In terms of new technologies, I think Cloud is the foremost one. It is difficult to talk about video surveillance without talking about Cloud-based solutions with regard to both storage and management for clients. So, to embrace scalability and opex-centric payment models, and generally buying IT as a service, I think Cloud definitely plays a huge part.
Cloud is also relevant in terms of rolling out video surveillance across many more sites. We have video surveillance at major train stations, in airports, in headquarters. If you need to consolidate video footage from hundreds of venues, then you need solutions that can actually be aggregated even though the videos are streamed from multiple locations. And that’s why Cloud deployment becomes more usual, and frequent, because you are actually able to set up smaller sites and still connect it to a larger install.
So, Cloud is obviously a huge trend. But there are also advancements within analytics— using video for providing insights in all kinds of shapes and forms. Because once we have the quality of the video that we have today, both from the software that we provide and also from the cameras, the opportunities that you have to actually handle the video live on the edge gives companies and governments a lot of new possibilities in terms of analytics, face recognition software, people-counting, fever screenings, density – everything from providing increased productivity to providing basic security to providing a better customer experience.
Of course, if I can see that the way that you move around in Orchard mall could be further enhanced if you change the layout of the stores; then that can also help the business optimise its footfall and basically increase its revenue per square foot. So, there are a lot of use cases where traditional video surveillance can be used across multiple areas of the company, going away from just the traditional security, and beyond that.
So, analytics in general is a growing trend and we can talk about AI as a further enhancement of this because you are with this vast amount of video data. Just like the same thing that you’ve seen with big data, video data is a type of data that you can now place inside your data lake as well. So, you can start to run some of your algorithms on your video data, and then, with that, make some predictive analytics with the same video— raw data that you have collected all along.
So, it’s a matter of modules, and it’s a matter of layers where you can basically use your investment to a larger extent.
I think for Milestone, with regards to AI, it’s an enabling game. Because we are creating a software platform, we work with D-Ron as a vendor of software. So, when we are coming into AI, it’s not so much about providing the newest AI ourselves, but it’s about enabling AI service providers to connect with existing video installations. We are the incumbent for software platforms for video surveillance here in the Asia Pacific, so we have a very very large install base of classic security customers from our open platform architecture.
At Milestone, we are an open platform system that enables the best-breed-in-class technology and advancements to be made over time. I think it’s an enabler of technology because if you’re a government, of course you need payback on your initial investment. Your cost of ownership has to come down and of course, if you can deploy new technology on an incumbent base of both hardware and software that is already installed, you have a much better business case for introducing new technology.
So, I think openness in terms of how technology integration is a trend that I believe is still super important because you cannot be the best at everything. You also cannot be the best AI algorithm for any use case. So, you need specialisation. And you can only take to the market with this specialisation if you have gateways and routes to markets that go through existing designs and existing architecture.
So, I think that open architecture is still something that we hold as a very important principle because as an airport or a classic mall, you cannot just go out and change your entire infrastructure. You still might need to apply some new features that will help you count how many customers are in your store. You might need to figure out how to integrate with the cashier so that if there is a theft, then you can easily link the time with the camera and the register, and in that way, you are totally much faster in detecting the following: When did this happen? What happened? What was going on?
So, I think that openness is still a very critical enabler for technology to come into the market and the society. The last thing I could mention would be about vertical specialization. As I said before, there’s a huge need for increased specialization within video surveillance because there’s a big difference if you’re talking to the National University of Singapore versus the Casino of Las Vegas, or the Changi Airport, or even a hospital.
So, you need to cater to very different audiences even though it may all be rooted in cameras that are picking up stuff and telling you things that are important to you. But are you trying to increase safety for students? Are you trying to bring down the time that nurses have to spend in the ICU? And I think that kind of specialisation is also super-important when we look at how we can create technical designs that are very fit-for-purpose for specific customer groups.
Malou: First of all, it’s not easy. It’s not easy because cost is normally allocated for different cost centres in any company. So, the moment you start to mix facility management with customer satisfaction and cyber security, you are mixing units or departments that have traditionally not had so much collaboration. So, I think the best way is to bring in the discussion about data enablement and how you utilise your company data. You have to bring that to the C-level because you want to look at your business holistically.
So, because in the boardroom or at the C-level, you have an inherent obligation to look not only at what drives your business performance, your competitive advantage and your customer satisfaction, but you also have to look at that a little bit across borders and across silos.
And I think this does not only have to do with video surveillance, but it has to do with how companies that are going through their own version of a digital transformation phase become more data-driven. Many companies are now becoming increasingly aware that digital transformation is necessary for their long term future. The need to optimize processes, improve feedback loops, and enhance their products/services applies almost to every company and all these call for the need to have more data from diverse sources.
And you cannot just ask for data that is coming out of your retail stores to be data that is only going to help on that specific department, because you might have many sources of data that are going into your assessment of whether or not you are running your customer operations optimally. I think companies will do this if they take a holistic approach to how they want to utilise and orchestrate the data that they are collecting. At least, this helps and it’s easier if you then know what data you’re actually collecting; and how you intend to analyse it to create new insights from data.
The truth is, any investments to improve business performances inevitably come with costs. What’s important to take note here is the long-term value that could be driven from the investments. Investments to start adopting a data driven approach in the business usually goes a long way in maintaining or sharpening the competitive edge a company has and that is invaluable.
Malou: At least, they first have to subscribe to the idea that making data-driven decisions are better than not doing it. So, I think it has to start with that fundamental belief, and then, it becomes much easier to figure out where should the budget be for cyber security and video surveillance, because then, you also know what you’re trying to do with it.
Malou: First of all, the advice is to be curious and open to technology. Technology is not going to solve all problems in the world. I can definitely say that, but I think keeping some curiosity on how processes, or how customer experiences could actually be enhanced or more optimised – that’s a healthy approach.
And then, allowing stepping out of the silos that often exist in larger organizations, but that’s probably easier to say than do. However, I think a more holistic approach and a healthy portion of curiosity in terms of how technology could step in would probably be my best advice.
Furthermore, from a video surveillance point of view, I believe that most people are oblivious to the actual capabilities of video surveillance. I think most leaders would be surprised if they just took a moment and saw what they can use existing video surveillance for.
It also drives satisfaction in figuring out that you can get more out of an investment that you paid a lot of money to install for maybe just security reasons alone. But you need to have some time to look at it, because you might actually have a missed opportunity or gains that you have not harvested, but you have to take a moment and take an interest. But as with many things, as with everything in the company, I’m sure that a lot of people would love for their C-level to take a moment and think about many things.
But I actually do believe that video surveillance and video data management hold the key to making companies much wiser, at not very high costs. Because most of them already have a security CCTV sitting somewhere. Security cameras are one of the most common devices across many verticals and has richer data than most other sensors. Video images can instantly give you temporal information on demographics, occupancy, and behaviour of objects in the scene. Such data are gold in driving insights for most businesses So, in that way, it’s a great place to be in because you don’t have to start from scratch. You might already have something that you can build on and repurpose.
Malou: Absolutely not. I think for many companies, it would be an on-premise local server solution which is the best fit. For others, it is 100% Cloud, and for many, it is a hybrid where you have the ‘best of both worlds’ depending on what kind of business you have. So, that is really an answer that depends on the type of business, depends on the type of changes to that business, and depends on the requirements for data sovereignty.
There are just so many things that are at play here, so I would say there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Malou: Exactly! If you are a pizza chain or you are the secret police, you have different requirements. So, I would say no, you definitely must not need do anything, you only need to do what is right for your type of company.
As I said before, I do see that there is a trend that is putting Cloud more on the agenda, but that also has to do with smaller installs coming into the market because the cost of high-tech cameras, and the cost of surveillance software that we, for example, are providing to get into this space. Consequently, the entry barriers have been reduced, and that also allows other types of companies – maybe smaller companies – to get the same kind of benefits from the highly technical solutions that we’re talking about.
And if you have a more scalable and maybe even more low-cost Cloud-based solution, this can contribute to the Cloud solutions filling up more. But in the larger enterprise space, I believe that we are going to see many years of hybrid solutions, we’re going to see a lot of on-premise solutions and we’re going to see some Cloud-first early movers. So, it’s also about the segments that are gaining access to video surveillance at the scale.
Malou: I think it’s a big thing almost everywhere. I come from northern Europe where the legislation and citizen perception of surveillance is different. So, I think it is going to be a topic for discussion for the coming many years — How do you bridge providing safety for citizens while at the same time not “big-brothering” them? I think it’s a fantastic question and it’s also one that I have no black-and-white answer for.
I believe that it is a conversation about responsible use of technology that we, as part of the industry and part of the vendors in the industry, need to keep having and keep starting (which is also what our company has pledged to do because we want this to be an ongoing dialogue to get there in a process). For Singapore, if you ask me personally, I see having moved to Singapore myself that there is quite a high tolerance for surveillance. It’s a more rule-driven society than where I come from.
So, I think the acceptance of controls is relatively higher in the sense that it’s cultural – it’s an institutionalised acceptance somehow. Maybe people are thinking something different but it’s more of a ‘no-questions-asked’ type of society than where I come from, and I’m not going to judge whether that’s good or bad, but I think there’s a high degree of trust, but that is also because there are controls.
Maybe it’s not worth the crime because it’s very visible that there are controls, and there is supervision in place from a surveillance point of view. So, I think Singapore is quite unique in this way. Also, at the same time, there is a relatively high trust in the government. So, I think Singapore is very unique in the world on this. Also, because of its size, there are many things that are root-causing of its uniqueness.
Malou: I think it’s difficult to say. I think there’s definitely going to be a discussion going on in all countries, at least in the ones where we operate. And I think the emergence of legislation is something that all of the ASEAN nations are looking towards, whether or not it’s from ASEAN or from the EU. I think, first of all, technology is moving super-fast. Technology is always moving fast, and legislation is always coming later. So, in that case, as with AI, as with cryptocurrencies, or whatever we are talking about, I believe that we are going to see an ongoing discussion regarding privacy.
And I don’t think that we have necessarily gotten there yet because the boundaries will also keep getting pushed. This is due to the even greater technology and bandwidth that is going to be available for us in the future – the massive introduction of IOT and narrow bands and so on. I don’t think we can see yet the things that we are yet to see. So, that also means that there are questions that we haven’t asked yet because we haven’t really envisioned them yet.
Malou: Of course. I’m part of the technology sector, so I’m also saying that from a company perspective. I’m trying to also play a role where I want to role model responsible technology design and deployment. Of course, legislation is something that has to come if you need to regulate. But at the same time, I want to also be the voice of the fact that companies can also decide to act in a responsible way and to apply values and ethics towards how technology is going to be developed and used.
And I think that’s a conversation worth having because everyone is playing a part in how this is being done, the industry level inclusive. And that’s also why, as a Danish company, it’s an important theme for us to discuss, and not just wait around for legislation to catch up because we actually want to facilitate more dialogue. We want to be part of the discussion and the solution because I think that is also what will serve the quality of life of people in this world.
That’s a super-philanthropic version of this but I do believe that this is something that is important for me personally, and it’s also something that I believe you will see in a continuous conversation that we — customers, legislators, governments, and companies — should take part in actively.
Malou Toft is Milestone Systems’ VP and company director for APAC, responsible for sales activities in 24 countries. Milestone Systems is a leading provider of data-driven video technology software in and beyond security that helps the world see how to ensure safety, protect assets, and increase business efficiency. In her 16-year career, she thrives on navigating disruptive innovations and driving growth across Europe, APAC and Southeast Asia.
Malou’s blend of technology and marketing acumen fuels growth and innovation within global IT companies and she excels at building winning teams and delivering value. She describes herself as a technologist and a marketer, emphasizing the blend of logic and creativity. You can check out her LinkedIn page to know more.