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Israeli surveillance cameras help the US stay ‘vigilant’

Posted By Nicky Blackburn On February 5, 2006 @ 10:00 pm In | No Comments

Vigilant’s range of intelligent digital solutions are designed for a variety of different markets including airports, casinos, financial centers, prisons, town centers, and government or corporate buildings. When the New York Police Department decided to introduce a new intelligent digital monitoring system to Manhattan in 2001 to try to improve crime and terror prevention they turned to Californian company Pelco, the world’s largest developer and manufacturer of video security equipment.

In turn, Pelco, which had already carefully examined the players in this growing market, chose a small, at that time relatively unknown, Israeli company called Vigilant Technologies to carry out the high-end job for them.

Within a very short period, Vigilant’s smart technology had proven itself a major success, and the NYPD began enlarging their system dramatically using the Israeli solution. Today the NYPD has over 3,000 cameras dotting the streets of Manhattan in what is probably one of the largest digital monitoring installations in the world. And the system is still expanding.

Manhattan is just one of dozens of locations around the US now using Vigilant’s digital monitoring system to protect people from crime and terrorism. The Tel Aviv-based company, which signed an OEM agreement with Pelco in 2000 and began working in the US a year later, has installations at locations including the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, the Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah, Table Mountain Casino in California, and the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, where the company set up a 1,000-camera system.

One of the company’s most high profile installations was in August 2004 when Pelco secured the Republican National Convention in New York City, ahead of the US presidential elections. Vigilant’s digital recorder, the main product sold by Pelco, was the key element of the integrated video surveillance network set up across the city.

The company also operates successfully in the UK, where it has set up digital monitoring systems in town and shopping centers across the country, from London to Cardiff. It also sells systems in France, Germany, Spain and Greece.

While there are many players in the homeland security and crime prevention market, Vigilant stands out because of the cost effectiveness and sophistication of its high-end technology, says Moshit Yaffe-Blushinksy, the 35-year-old CEO of Vigilant.

“We can offer the same level of service for half the price of our competitors,” she told ISRAEL21c. “We also offer a higher level of smart features that we have developed in-house. We don’t just sell a solution for digital video recording, we sell a whole control room. It is a turn-key solution that offers customers the whole package, from start to finish. No other companies are doing this.”

Vigilant’s range of intelligent digital solutions are designed for a variety of different markets including airports, casinos, financial centers, prisons, town centers, and government or corporate buildings.

The company aims at the high-end of the market, recording in the highest quality to ensure that everything can be seen in the clearest detail. One of the most expensive elements of any digital monitoring system is the storage process. Storage normally costs around 60% of the price of the total solution. “We compress video in a very cost-effective manner, that still enables us to maintain the high quality of the video, and not to lose any data in the process,” says Yaffe-Blushinksy.

Security, she adds, is what Israelis do best. “We have extensive knowledge of both security technology and terror in Israel and there are many companies here that specialize in these fields,” she says. “Every country needs to do what they do best.”

Vigilant, which now employs 50, was first founded in 1999 by two brothers, Yoram and Ronen Sagir, and a colleague Adi Pinchas, who left the company three years ago. All three were engineers working at Comverse Technology.

Until December 2005, the company was supported by angel investors and VCs, including European VC fund, Syntec Capital. Together these investors injected $9 million into the company in three rounds. The last round was held in 2002.

Vigilant began selling its monitoring system in 2000, but sales really began to pick up the following year when Vigilant opened subsidiaries in both the US and the UK. Pelco’s decision to sell Vigilant technology was extremely crucial for the company.

“If Pelco chooses our product as its digital monitoring solution, then people know that it is the best technology they can get,” says Yaffe-Blushinsky.

In the wake of September 11th, a whole new awareness of terror prevention made systems like Vigilant’s more popular than ever before.

“Americans became very aware of the importance of good technology, particularly in the homeland security field,” says Yaffe-Blushinsky. She admits, however, that the real effect of September 11th was only felt two years later when funds were finally allocated to homeland security projects.

In 2004, Vigilant terminated the exclusivity agreement with Pelco, and in 2005 began setting up its own sales infrastructure in the US for direct sales. “We felt that it was time to set up our brand name,” says Yaffe-Blushinsky. “We have good sales and good references in the US. Now it is time to come directly to the market.”

Over the last five years, Pelco has sold $40 million worth of Vigilant equipment in the US. In January this year, Vigilant and Pelco extended their non-exclusive OEM agreement for a further year. No value was disclosed for the deal.

Overall sales have grown substantially in the last few years, and from 2003 to 2004, they leapt by 88%. In 2004, the company saw revenues of $6.2m., with a net loss of $800,000. In 2005, revenues are expected to be over $8m., a growth of about 20%, with profits of some $500,000.

The US is Vigilant’s largest market, with some 80% of company revenues coming from there in 2004. The UK is also a large market, however, and is a significant one for the company because Vigilant sold under its own brand name right from the start. Today, the company is well known in the UK, and has many blue-chip customers.

In December last year, Vigilant went public on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), in London, raising 10 million pounds at a company value of 24.3 million pounds. Since then, the company’s stock price has risen.

“We were still too small for Nasdaq, and considered AIM the best market for us at this time,” says Yaffe-Blushinksy, who admits that in future the company may well consider a Nasdaq offering.

At around the same time, the company also announced the appointment of Sir Trevor Chinn as the chairman of Vigilant’s board of directors. Chinn is the former chairman of AA and co-chairman of the Israel-Britain Business Council.

Vigilant plans to use the money raised in the offering to expand its sales and marketing infrastructure in the US, and to enlarge its blue chip customer base in the UK and Europe.

“Our goal is to start building ourselves as a global player. We have many plans, but it is too early to discuss them,” says Yaffe-Blushinksy. “In the US the skies are the limit. There is no reason why we will not see enormous growth there.”


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