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Swiss start-up rides security wave

Visiowave proposes internet-based surveillance systems

VisioWave, a Lausanne-based, digital video and networking equipment manufacturer, has announced it is expanding its operations to North America.

This expansion comes as demand for new digital video surveillance systems is rising, driving the growth of this four-year-old company.

After winning significant surveillance systems contracts at Toronto and Ottawa international airports, VisioWave has now gained an all-important foothold in the vital North American market.

The company had already made a name for itself in Europe and further afield, with systems being deployed in subways, airports, football stadiums, train stations and other public places.

VisioWave's products are based on Internet protocols, which make them easier to access from remote locations. They employ powerful compression technology developed at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne that enables high-resolution video over relatively low bandwidth networks.

Last year, turnover was over SFr2.9 million ($1.96 million). Market growth is estimated to be between five and 25 percent, and the firm expects revenue to reach SFr13 million this year.

Tough competition

VisioWave makes a complete video surveillance system, including a server appliance rack, inputs for analogue video cameras, hardware encoders, management system, storage server, and web centre.

The system supports video camera protocol from eight manufacturers, such as Ernitec, Panasonic, and Vicom. Others can be manually configured, according to IT Automation, an industry trade publication.

It competes with a Telindus Belgian subsidiary, Cellstack, a company whose cameras are watching drivers across Switzerland and in many large installations across Europe.

The difference between VisioWave and Telindus Cellstack is that VisioWave runs on a PC platform. Telindus has its own proprietary architecture.

The Swiss start-up sells only through value-added resellers and network integrators, including Tyco Group, Ascom, Siemens, Cap Gemini, Alcatel, Spie, Stentorius, Thales, CS-Telecom, Eolring, ETDE, Sagem, Steria, Satelec, EI Atlantique, and E-Wan.

Greater access

VisioWave's products cross the gap between traditional analogue and digital systems. Analogue systems use cameras connected to cables and monitored at a central location. Digital on the other hand means the end of bulky tapes and rewind buttons in favor of hard drives and computer menus.

Use of the Internet for access also means more potential users. Once a digital video system is in place and hooked into the multi-service network, just about anyone can theoretically access the camera.

A police, security, or emergency force can therefore access the Internet address of the camera in case of an emergency.

"The owner of the networks also has access," said Carmen Cordier, director of video surveillance solutions at Telindus, one of the market leaders in this segment. She adds that the camera addresses are stored in a highly-protected addressing scheme aimed at protecting people's privacy.

Move to canton Vaud

As a two-year-old start-up, VisioWave was enticed by canton Vaud to move from Paris to Ecublens. Shortly afterwards, the company, which was founded by the French engineer, Yann Guyonvarc'h, raised SFr13.8 million capital from the French private television broadcaster, TF1.

Two years later, the company is ready to expand into North America. Its base will likely be in New York or Washington, according to the CEO. The company now employs 72 employees. It has offices in France and manufacturing in Taiwan.

The majority shareholder in the Swiss firm remains TF1, whose CEO Jean-Pierre Morel is on the board. The television broadcaster has invested close to SFr30 million in the company to date.

Valerie Thompson

Key facts

Increased demand for digital surveillance systems has boosted the Swiss start-up's growth.
The software for the system was developed at the Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne.
Majority shares are held by French TV station TF1.
The French-founded company moved to Vaud in early stage.

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