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Startup Gives Video New Look

SteelBox's new capabilities for video traffic management and storage could make large-scale surveillance workable in the enterprise

An attacker walks up to the door of a corporate headquarters building, waits nonchalantly for someone to come by with a passcard, and then walks right in. Security doesn't see him -- there's no video camera at that door.

This situation is not uncommon at many large enterprises where video's high-bandwidth demands have caused many network managers to put the kibosh on companywide surveillance systems.

Now, a startup company, SteelBox Networks Inc., is hoping to change all that. SteelBox, which has been living on angel funding and founder financing for the last few years, today received a $10 million cash infusion from Sierra Ventures, a well-known venture capital firm.

"Up to now, we've been selling mostly through partners and focusing on some big applications in the transportation industry," says Richard "Chip" Howes, founder and CEO of SteelBox. "But by the end of the year, enterprises will hear a lot from us, and it could make a difference in the way they look at video surveillance."

SteelBox has developed a video surveillance device -- essentially an IP network switch -- that is capable of prioritizing and storing large amounts of video data without sucking up enterprise network and storage resources.

"Where similar types of [network video recorders] can only handle maybe 64 cameras in a single box, ours can handle 500," Howes says.

The secret is a new video-specific quality-of-service capability that allows the SteelBox system to prioritize the most important video traffic over the IP network while minimizing the bandwidth used for uneventful video. Similarly, the system uses video compression to store petabytes of data in a single box, minimizing the impact of the surveillance technology on enterprise storage resources. The system can store MPEG2, MPEG4, and MJPEG files on the same storage subsystem at the same time, SteelBox says.

"We have high hopes for SteelBox," says Mike Scanlin, a partner at Sierra Ventures. "It enables hundreds of video streams per system, compared to the tens of streams that competing products offer."

The SteelBox technology has also been installed in several transportation-related projects to monitor the security of roads, tracks, and terminals. Working with Telindus Surveillance Solutions Ltd., SteelBox installed an IP switched closed-circuit television system as part of the U.K. Highways Agency's National Roads Services Telecommunications Services (NRTS) project earlier this year.

The SteelBox technology was "ideal" for the project, "as it is able to record high-quality video images on a reliable image recording device and provide low latency images across the network," says Mark Hutchinson, managing director of Telindus U.K.

Howes declined to say exactly when the startup will begin rolling out products for the corporate enterprise, or exactly what its price point will be. "We will be price competitive with other NVR systems that are out there," he says.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

  • SteelBox Networks Inc.