Jacob Hengel, Chief Technology Officer at YourSix, on Cloud Surveillance

In this episode, Max Clark talks with Jacob Hengel, CTO at YourSix on cloud surveillance. Jacob offers insights into the major concerns that business owners and decision-makers might face in a post-pandemic world pertaining to protection and maintaining their operations.

Episode Transcript:

INTRO: [00.00] Welcome to the Tech in 20 Minutes podcast, where you’ll meet new tech vendors, and learn how they can help your business. At ITBroker.com, we believe tech should make your life better, searching Google is a waste of time, and the right vendor is often one you haven’t heard of before.

Max: [00.18] Hi I’m Max Clark and I’m with Jacob Hengel, who’s the CTO for YourSix. Jacob, thanks for joining.

Jacob: [00.22] Yeah, thanks for having me on Max, I appreciate it.

Max: [00.24] What does YourSix do?

Jacob: [00.27] So YourSix is a physical security as a service organization, the physical security industry, which kind of makes up surveillance, access control systems, alarm systems, has been very capital expense driven recently, and we’re basically taking that same type of solution, leveraging cloud technologies, and delivering that as a service. So, more of an operational expense approach to acquiring and managing those types of services and solutions.

Max: [01.00] So are you focused on the surveillance or do you do physical access as well? How deep do you go within the customer environment?

Jacob: [01.08] Yeah so, in our space there’s a common acronym called VSaaS which is video surveillance as a service, and that’s probably the most common topic because it’s easy to talk about and it’s really interesting and it’s fascinating, but as a physical security as a service provider, we take all of those different facets and bundle it together from a single provider. It makes vendor management easier, it makes integrations a lot more fluid. So, we really take every aspect of physical security and deliver that fully as a service all from a single provider.

Max: [01.39] So we talk about visual surveillance and now surveillance as a service, I mean it’s topical. Today, we’re still in a COVID-19 shutdown in some locations, we’re in post-COVID environments, we’re talking about going back to work. You know, how does YourSix fit in all of this and what are you doing for your customers to help them through this process?

Jacob: [02.05] Yeah, there’s two really major struggles that organizations are facing today, and that’s — it all revolves around keeping assets safe and keeping people safe, right? So, health and then just getting the economy going, getting people back to work, those things are major, major topics, and there’s kind of two major concerns that business owners and decision makers have around those two topics. The first one is, how do I safely get people back to work, and for the organizations that can’t or that have to do it in limited capacities, it is, how do they keep an eye on those assets and those buildings and whatnot, and keep them safe during changing times while they are remote. Frankly, with all the  cybersecurity stuff that’s commonly in the news, how do you do those things, open surveillance up to the outside and do that in a manner that’s focused on being cyber secure? 

Max: [03.01] Why YourSix? There’s lots of vendors in the market that offer various surveillance options, I mean residentially you talk about the Ring cameras or Nest cams, and you know, companies typically have mounted cameras on their campuses… I mean, what do you guys do that makes you better at this than you know, other solutions? 

Jacob: [03.23] Yeah, I would never say anything bad about Ring – from a software standpoint and a capability standpoint, they do bring a lot of attention to our industry, the biggest difference is being able to deliver those types of solutions to the enterprise, like to a corporation and even small businesses, right? Ring isn’t a fit for small businesses. I don’t mean to speak poorly about them by any means but we’re not on the news every night for people getting their accounts hacked and things like that, we just take a very cyber security focused approach to how we deliver these services, and that’s… It’s critical, you know? We’re in a time where privacy is probably being impeded on more than ever, so protecting our customers, our motto – YourSix is military slang meaning we’ve got your back, and that’s what we do. We focus on privacy, we focus on delivering these things that people need but we approach it in a very – I hate to say non-commercial way, from that standpoint – we’re focused on truly having our customers’ backs. And that can be, again, for someone that just has one small building, all the way up to easing the vendor management of having, you know, dozens of locations and who’s going to go out and make sure this stuff is — the bearings are greased and the wheels are turning and all this stuff, every day, so. 

Max: [04.41] So I mean, who are your customers? What’s a typical profile in terms of like, size or number of buildings or square footage? Are you heavy in certain industries or geographies? 

Jacob: [04.51] Yeah, so we do have some core verticals, but we literally do have customers across every single vertical, all the way from a single camera that someone puts in their lobby and maybe they’re in the back and they’ve got that streaming to an iPad so they can keep an eye on stuff while they’re in the back, I mean very small stuff all the way up to people with thousands and thousands of cameras across hundreds of sites. We generally are targeting North America, most of our customers are headquartered in the US at least; we do serve global customers, so where there’s really not much limit to our reach in that regard, but I would say a bread and butter use case is people that don’t have IT resources at all of their buildings, right? This stuff all rides on the network at the end of the day, it does impact IT conversations, so… Generally, the more sites someone has, the better and better a fit we become, because we just get rid of all that complexity of managing… How do I get to and how do I control my surveillance and my access control systems, from kind of one single location, leveraging the cloud? We talk about – even on the access control side – if I have thirty warehouses that a regional manager needs to go between or anything like that, how do we get them securely in and out of those buildings without having dozens of disparate systems to maintain and patch and keep up on. You know, HR or IT people creating users in each of those systems, that’s a lot of work. If we can eliminate all of that overhead, there’s real cost savings by putting that user in the cloud once, and then saying, “Yeah, all of those different locations, here’s the time of day these people can and cannot enter these locations,” and just sort of building profiles around those employees and automating that, so that you know, a regional person for example can go to any site they need to go to and know that one single fob or one single credential or their fingerprint for that matter gets them into those areas, and it’s not a nightmare to maintain all that stuff.

Max: [06.44] Yeah, I mean I would also imagine that when you think about traditional corporate security, or of a person at a desk watching monitors and being relatively stationary, versus having the ability to look at this remotely… I mean, remote access has got to be a huge consideration for people right now. 

Jacob: [07.05] It is. I mean, we use this ourselves every day, you know? We have products coming and going, we have marketing materials coming and going, and for us, we get to know the people that are actually watching the cameras and stuff like that, we get to know who the UPS guys are and who the Fedex guys are and grant them access to our building even when no one’s there, right? If no-one’s on site, how do you grant access to a secure building? You know, we can let them in specific doors, basically via a secure intercom, kind of like a Ring, but a little bit more enterprise focused, a little more business focused, but then extending that call functionality to say, “Okay, I’ve visually identified who you are, I know what you look like, I recognize you, I can see there’s nobody else around you, I’m going to momentarily grant you access to a secure area, you can leave the packages and move on with your day.” So, we can do that without a single body at the office, that’s massive.

Max: [07.56] You know, we’re looking at massive financial disruption to people’s lives, increases in unemployment, desperation… You know, these are all things that are going to accelerate potential property loss and asset loss. Having a surveillance system that’s up to date and has access controls that are up to date, this has got to be a pretty major step for most companies and for most business owners, thinking about how they protect and maintain their operations. I mean, what have you guys seen in terms of trends or you know, expectations of the future from the industry? 

Jacob: [08.32] Yeah, that’s a big question. So, I mean frankly, being able to right now save people the upfront expense of generally getting these systems in, there’s a big cost upfront to get this stuff in generally… You know, we operate more in an as a service model, so there’s not a major out of pocket when we deploy a system for these organizations, so the good and the bad and the ugly of it is when times get rough, and times change and people have a lot of questions in their mind, they do things they wouldn’t normally do, right? Business owners still have to protect themselves, but cash is kind of king for some companies right now, so they don’t want to do large expenses out of pocket but they still have these safety and these security challenges, so we have ways to just literally turn that into an entire just, opex spend and delay that massive cash out of pocket, while still protecting their workplace, right? Keeping people safe, keeping people healthy. So we really get into a lot of frankly powerful solutions, driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence and really computer vision and things like that are really changing how we look at security. It’s no longer just safety via security, it’s safety via artificial intelligence. You can truly say, hey, a camera can enforce if people are social distancing or not, right? We can actually identify if people are keeping space from each other and guess what, we can trigger proactive audio alerts to enforce those kinds of things. So, instead of having site managers, plant managers whoever else trying to keep crowds dispersed and people — we’re social people natively, right? People just want to interact with each other. Unfortunately we all have to keep that in mind, but it’s easy  to just do it without thinking about it, right, especially when you are just getting back to work. So we can literally – outside of what’s going on right now – there’s all kinds of ways operationally that we can use computer vision to enhance operations and smooth workflows, but especially right now, there’s some really massive ways to help out with the challenges we currently face by leveraging these types of technologies.

Max: [10.39] It’s an interesting example. I mean, computer vision as you talk about spacing and automated alerts, my mind kind of goes to places. The technology is like, that’s cool, but the other side is that it’s a little Big Brother-ish. What would my reaction be if I was somewhere — but there’s — the other examples I’ve seen with this so far are infrared cameras doing temperature detection and variance, where lobby cams or entrance locations can have a sensor that’s unobtrusively monitoring, is somebody warm, is that an indicator that maybe they should not be there? I mean, how — are you seeing those roll out and customers asking you about these types of things?

Jacob: [11.21] Yeah, it’s massive how much demand there is for that type of solution, and we like to just be very transparent as an organization, you know? We are in a lot of spotlights so we like to just give, I guess… Tell people what it is and what it isn’t and be responsible about how we approach it. Thermal technology can be massively effective if done the right way, and organizations leverage that technology in the right way and they have honest partners consulting with them on how to deliver those solutions. You know, we see stuff out there that’s just looking for the highest point of temperature on a face and if it’s over a certain threshold, you know, they’ll give you a couple of spare degrees where there’s kind of some risk there but they don’t want to be too prohibitive, but they’re just looking for the highest temperature on a face, and that’s… That’s dangerous in a lot of ways, right? There’s a lot of environmental factors and a lot of things about that that can be very risky. We don’t ever just kind of knee jerk deploy solutions, we spend an immense amount of money in R&D actually testing these stuff and having beta customers and stuff like that. So, we’ve got a ton of feedback on how to do this properly, but again just looking for the highest temperature on a face and pulling people out of line for that… It’s dangerous in some ways for the organization, for liability purposes. We take it a lot further, we’re actually looking and leveraging and testing machine learning-based thermal technology that’s not just looking for one high temp on a face, but actually comparing and contrasting all the different areas on a face. So, what is the temperature on the ears, on the forehead, in the inner eye, the nose — all those different areas, and we’re using machine learning to look for patterns and trends that really can outline if someone is even pre-symptomatic, not just asymptomatic, right? We all know, even with this, the security part is someone can be contagious and spread it around… Most of the solutions that we’re seeing out there, people can be asymptomatic and spreading that out there and by the time they’re detecting it by just looking at the highest temperature on a face, they’ve kind of already spread that to everybody, and then you’ve kind of defeated the purpose, it’s kind of too late. Using machine learning and identifying different areas and comparing and contrasting numbers, you can get a lot closer to pre-symptomatic, which is really before I should be highly contagious and spreading something like this without knowing it. So there’s just a massive difference in how they’re deployed and unfortunately – I hate to say it – I’ve seen a lot of stuff that in my opinion just looks somewhat irresponsible, so people should be cognizant of that and aware of that, and make smart decisions and really understand what they’re doing, you know? We’re all very eager to get back to work but there’s liabilities and things to be very aware of, and just sensitivities, even in general about that kind of thing. So, there are great solutions, I’ve just seen some that are unfortunately not made for what they’re doing and there are some people that are… They think they’re helping, to me I would argue that a little bit.

Max: [14.20] So you mentioned, you know, as a service and moving from a capex to an opex model. Access control systems, keyfob integration, surveillance cameras, these are very expensive items usually for a company, so how — and they’re also complicated to install. This is something that requires a lot of physical, on site work. How do you actually — can you, you know, scope this with a customer, identify what it is they actually need or what they’re trying to achieve, and perform the installation? What does that process look like for you? 

Jacob: [14.52] Yeah, so we have a dedicated team of design engineers that will generally – along with an account manager – engage and understand what are all the challenges, what does the entire business look like top to bottom? We do everything from gathering floor plans, taking measurements, we understand — we look at pixel density, which is ultimately, we can break it down to be really simple… Do I need high details of a face, am I just trying to recognize somebody that I know? Now that I know Max and I’ve interacted with him, now I recognize him, or am I just trying to detect movement in an area where it shouldn’t be, am I trying to detect that two people are too close to each other? Those are all very different solutions that are delivered and they all have different costs and benefits and different things like that. So, we have a team of design engineers that understand the entire organization, basically soup to nuts, and in a centralized place they’ll meet with stakeholders to understand, okay, what are the needs, what would be a good to have versus what’s realistic in many cases, and then work towards a standardization. It can be really tough to just take everything on in little bits and bites, but work towards achieving those organizational goals from a higher level, and then create that standard that can be rolled out from the first site to the next five hundred, if needed, or the next three if needed, and really take a standardized approach to that… That goes a long way. I’ll give a lot of props to my design engineers, they work day and night to help people kind of unravel some really complex stuff, and then another shout out to our partner network. We have about a thousand installation companies across North America that are locally licensed in each state, they know how to get permits from each city, all that kind of stuff, and they’re certified on how to properly install this stuff, right? Cameras are not like most electronics, most electronics you’re not trying to keep out of the wind, and the rain and the sleet and the hail and… You can’t really take those installations lightly, we see – for lack of a better term – guys that work out of their vans installing some of this stuff and it’s like, man… Is that thing really going to run for ten to twelve years, because that’s really the life expectancy out of some of this technology. Maybe the technology lifespan is shorter, so we have life cycle conversations with customers on, yeah, that camera might last you twelve years, but for technology reasons, bandwidth savings, storage savings, cost savings, maybe refreshing every five, six years is more advantageous. Those are all conversations that we just pull together, be very transparent, show to the  customer, you know, identify their problems and then work through those things, and it’s executed very well.

Max: [17.36] This is a big ‘it depends’ question, I’m sure… Can you give me a ballpark on what this costs? I mean if we’re talking about access control or surveillance, how would somebody under — you know, make an initial decision, is this a path they want to go down or not and what they should be expecting to get into?

Jacob: [17.51] Yeah, so… It depends. You’re certainly correct there. I will say – let’s just take it from a capital expense approach because sometimes that’s easier to understand, but there’s cameras as low as a hundred and fifty, two hundred dollars that people would generally buy. And then we work in some critical infrastructure and industrial spaces where they’re buying explosion proof, thermal cameras that are twenty-five to thirty thousand dollars per camera, right? So, it really depends, but you know, you can look at… We speak with storage, let’s just say cloud storage for example, instead of going out and buying expensive storage arrays and keeping that onsite and worrying about hard drive failures and all these other single points of failure, there’s a lot of single points of failure in a traditional on premise system… How long do you want that footage in the cloud? Frankly, the cloud’s not going to lose data like an on-premise appliance can be, nobody can just take it. We get calls from customers all the time, “Somebody’s stolen my recording box, and now I have nothing.” They took a bunch of assets and guess what, the recording went with it. You can’t really steal the cloud in that way, so we talk about, is there a compliance, right? Is there some kind of PCI compliance where you’re looking at sixty, ninety days or longer term storage? Some customers have had long histories of slip fall litigation, where they’re concerned about keeping footage for a year, and for them if it keeps them out of court it’s totally worth doing it. Well, you talk about that amount of storage, that is far cheaper in the hyperscale than it is to buy those boxes, right? Especially when you have ten sites where you want to do that at, don’t buy those ten boxes, leverage the cloud — The most common storage time is two to four weeks, so a month, we hear that all the time. How much is it to keep stuff for a month? Again, it does depend greatly on the endpoint – how complex does that camera need to be to serve the organization, but you can kind of ballpark for a cloud camera… You know, twenty dollars per camera per month is a fair median price. We think that’s crazy aggressive, frankly, if you look at the cost of like a hosted phone system, right, those are commonly twenty dollars per phone per month, and that’s audio, right? In our case, we’re actually streaming HD video and storing video every second of the day for twenty bucks a month, you know? That’s pretty aggressive, so… It does depend. Access control can vary as well, but that’s a pretty good ballpark number I would say for a lot of customers on a starting point on just what does this cost me?

Max: [20.25] So, for somebody looking at this, I mean their process would be, you know… talk to you, get floor plans, have a conversation about what they’re trying to protect, what they care about, what their expectations in storage ranges are, there’s a bunch of different knobs you’ve kind of explained. And then from there you come back and you say this is, this is what your cost would be, and do you want more or do you want less, and then from there they say yes, and you say great, and schedule and install. I mean, is that — it’s a very simplification of the process?

Jacob: [20.55] Yeah, it’s actually a good way to simplify it. There will generally be an actual site walk at some point in there, just to make sure we don’t run into some kind of really thick firewall that’s going to be a nightmare to get wires through and we have to route a different way or whatever else, right? So at some point we’ll get that on-site technician in there to really do an under the hood look, but from a… What are your needs, how is it designed and all that stuff, we’ll generally do that right through things you know, webinars and reviewing of floor plans and things like that, and we’re able to deliver at a high level by going that method, by leveraging experts that are a little more central. Instead of having to have thousands and thousands of experts out on the streets, we have that core centralized group of experts that can handle all that stuff, and then we have our local partners go in and just verify there’s no weird wiring issues that we’re going to run into or anything else. 

Max: [21.50] Awesome. Jacob, thank you so much for your time.

Jacob: [21.53] Absolutely, thanks for having me on Max, I appreciate it and everybody stay healthy and stay safe. 

OUTRO: [21.59] Thanks for joining the Tech in 20 Minutes podcast. At ITBroker.com, we believe tech should make your life better, searching Google is a waste of time, and the right vendor is often one you haven’t heard of before. We can help you buy the right tech for your business, visit us at ITBroker.com to schedule an intro call.