From AI to storytelling, MIPS 2018 addressed range of topics

Breakout sessions seek to help dealers with their businesses
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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

LAS VEGAS—For 13 years now, Milestone Systems has gathered a variety of dealers and partners at the annual Milestone Integration Platform Symposium to look at both key technologies for the industry and how Milestone will support its community moving forward. Below is an overview of 2018 event, held here Feb. 19-21, including some of the speakers, main themes, and conversations with Security Systems News.

In the first day’s keynotes, Tim Palmquist, vice president of the Americas for Milestone, focused on the idea of the Milestone community. He addressed that some people thought Milestone’s open platform design would change, become more proprietary, after Canon acquired Milestone in 2014, and then again after Canon’s purchase of Axis in 2015. “We can see those things didn’t actually happen,” said Palmquist.

Automate, aggregate and augment were three key words of MIPS Day 1 opening; looking at what can be automated, the data that can be aggregated, and the human capabilities that can then be augmented. Milestone Systems CTO Bjørn Eilertsen mentioned these terms as key phases for the industry, and highlighted them as areas of investment for Milestone.

MIPS’ first speaker, Tanmay Bakshi, made an impression when he took the stage. He designs algorithms specializing in neural-network architecture, in addition to being a published author, AI keynoter and TED speaker, visiting faculty member at Grad Valley Data Science, and IBM Honorary Cloud Advisor—all by the age of 14.

Bakshi approached how AI can be used in security—such as with the potential of facial recognition and technology in areas of medicine and therapy, and in detecting early warning signs of depression in teenagers. An AI system can flag the right signs and then forward the teen to a human being for further treatment, Bakshi said.

AI is not meant to replace people, Bakshi said. As with the case of using AI to help identify teens at risk for suicide, an AI system extends the capabilities of services—like help lines—that sometimes don’t have the people to properly answer all the calls they receive. Bakshi said that in examples like this, AI amplifies a person’s skills and starts to look like IA: intelligence augmented.

Adam Scraba is the global business development lead for NVIDIA, which makes GPUs, or graphics processing units. During the first day’s main session, he addressed what AI can mean for the security space in particular. Computers are now getting better than humans at detecting what is in an image, he said.

“AI is going to have a really major impact in the public safety space,” said Scraba, particularly when you look at metadata.

“If you take a look at our main stage presentations, it’s really geared at helping people see what exists out there, something that might not be right in their purview,” Eric Moe, Milestone’s director of sales operations for the Americas, told Security Systems News after the first day’s keynotes.

“The AI business, the machine learning, the big data discussion—I think—is one that can give people some heads up as to what’s coming from an industry perspective,” Moe said. “MIPS has always done a good job of showcasing what might be on the horizon.”

The MIPS event has definitely grown over the years, Moe said. “It’s always been a high-value event. The reason I say that is that we have our best partners here, our absolute best resellers come to MIPS.” This translates into a high-value environment for Milestone’s ecosystem partners, he said.

The majority of attendees to MIPS is made up of Milestone resellers, Moe noted, and as a result, the company “can actually craft our message in a pretty direct way.”

While the keynote sessions at MIPS covered high-level industry trends and road mapping for Milestone, the breakout sessions cover more specific takeaways for the company’s channel partners. MIPS 2018 hosted three different tracks of education, each with six sessions available—a technology track, a business track and an integration partner track.

The business education track at MIPS 2018 started with “Managing the End-Customer Experience and its Effect on Long Term Profitability,” presented by Moe. He opened by pointing out that there is a connection between profitability and user experience, and said that is one of the things he really wanted to address.

One aspect in profitability is the balance between gaining new customers and managing existing customers. Sixty percent of the orders Milestone receives are not new business, Moe noted, as it’s customers adding on to the systems they have. This is important for Milestone, as the company has built its business on scalable software, he said.

But, you can’t have a base of existing customers without gaining new customers, Moe added.

He addressed some of the tools that dealers have available to them, such as MyMilestone, Customer Dashboard, Care Upgrade Mapping and a new best practices guide for deploying solutions.

Greg Willmarth, Milestone’s director of learning and performance, told SSN that the guide will walk installers through a step-by-step process, which can be checked off and initialed by the installing technician, and also includes space for notes. “At the end of the deployment, they have proof that they can provide to their customers that they’re following the manufacturer’s best practice for deployment. This is something we’re getting a lot of buzz [about].” This guide is now available on Milestone’s website.

Milestone jumped off from the technical nature of the first day’s keynotes to address the nature of storytelling in business. Louis Richardson, chief storyteller for IBM Watson and the main speaker of the second day’s keynote session, challenged attendees to think “What if…”

Richardson told a story of how IBM researchers came to consider a “What if…” question. They were in a bar and saw Ken Jennings on television during his run on Jeopardy! and thought: What if we could build a machine to beat Ken Jennings?

IBM Watson, a computer system capable of understanding natural language, in 2011 competed on a special version of Jeopardy!, against the show’s top two competitors: Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. IBM Watson used its computing power to generate the most likely answer to the Jeopardy clue—and Watson won.

Watson has since been used in a variety of applications; diagnostic medicine and highlighting key moments in tennis matches were two of the examples Richardson highlighted in his presentation.

Richardson gave five pieces of advice to companies that wanted to define their “what if…” statement: look, leverage, leap, learn and last. Companies should look and define their path, leverage what other’s have done, leap into it, learn from their experiences, and aim to last.

Jesper Just Jensen, Milestone’s VP of products, and Jesper Raebild, company director of product marketing, came on the main stage to talk about what Milestone focused on in 2017 and some of the strategic outlook for 2018 and beyond.

Jensen and Raebild outlined Milestone's 2017 effort to increase product quality, including software quality and large scale testing. The company enhanced the product line-up of its VMS portfolio with the Plus products and emphasized cybersecurity with a web page hardening guide.

One of the things the company has planned for 2018 is improvement to its NVR products, Milestone Husky, with announcements specifically on that coming in April.

In the afternoon, Willmarth presented the last business-focused presentation at MIPS 2018, “Increase Profitability with Faster Installs.” The main premise behind the presentation is that companies should make the most of Milestone’s tools and training because a poor installation is bad for business. If a technician needs to call technical support, it wastes company time and looks bad in front of the customer, Willmarth pointed out.

Milestone offers a variety of education opportunities, including 47 elearning courses, instructor-led classes and certifications.

The company is also looking to branch into creating more video content on YouTube. A big benefit of which is that, as the videos will have subtitles, those subtitles can leverage Google Translate, allowing Milestone dealers and users around the world to understand the uploaded content. 

Willmarth also sees a business benefit in developing more Youtube videos. “If [our partners] don’t know about our products, know about the benefits of them, they don’t have confidence in their teams to design them [and] deploy them, they’re not going to sell them. You sell what you know. So, anything we can do to drive knowledge out into the channel, I think, ultimately, will result in more sales,” he told SSN.

Performance support is a goal for Milestone in training. “At the end of the day we’re about enabling job performance. Pre-performance training is good; it can help build knowledge, but if we can build better tools like this new deployment best practice, that’s really where we’re focused,” Willmarth said.

As of the MIPS conference, January of 2018 was the company’s biggest month for elearning course completions—more than 5,200 courses completed in the month—and that does not include the courses Milestone offers to end users, Willmarth said. 

“Milestone is a canvas, and the community makes the paints, the brushes, brings the artists. Milestone makes some paints, too—we’ve got some really nice paints. But, if you don’t have a solid canvas that can take the paint, that can last, that can be durable, you’re not going to keep your artwork for very long,” Willmarth told SSN. “That’s really the way I see us as the platform; … that we’re the canvas and the community is going to create the masterpieces.”