13 Jun Imagis emerges from bumpy road
For many Americans, Canada is the 51st state to the north. The country brings to mind Mounties and Molson, but maybe not information technology.
In fact, Vancouver, British Columbia supports a thriving technology development environment, and I was lucky enough to spend the better part of a week there recently, meeting with some very savvy developers. Over the next few weeks, I’ll fill you in on some of the companies I met there.
Imagis Technologiesis a great lesson in how to make a viable company from the pieces you have. Founded in the pre-9/11 world, Imagis created software for police booking systems, and it did remarkably well selling the software to a long list of police departments in the U.S. and Canada. Post-9/11, the company began to develop face recognition technology that would be used to match mug shots in police databases. This new technology focus consumed the company’s resources.
The booking product was all but abandoned while developers tried to deliver the face-recognition software as a tool kit for other developers.
By mid-2003, Imagis was “on its last legs,” according to the company’s new CEO, Roy Trivett. Despite financing fom angel networks, the company couldn’t deliver the component technology to the market. By November 2003, the investors had enough, and they merged Imagis with another, thriving investment, a data integration company called Briyante Software Corp. This effectively joined the expertise Imagis had with serving top-tier law enforcement customers with Briyante’s data integration technology, to create an integration architecture for federated data systems.
The Briyante Integration Environment enables a real-time inter-enterprise data-sharing network. The system was built with the particular sensitivities – both political and technical – of law enforcement agencies, and is designed so the owner of the data has full audit of data access. Data never leaves the owner’s system, and the owner can control what information is seen and by whom, along with how information is changed, deleted or added.
The Integration Environment connects agencies at a data services level, and has proven to be remarkably efficient to deploy. In one test case, Imagis build a demo of the platform using the customer’s live data in just one day. This simplicity has led one customer to suggest that Imagis is doing for data interoperability what the Macintosh did for desktop computer UI.
With a focus on inter-agency deployments, Imagis also had to create an interesting business model to address who in the disparate organizations would foot the bill for the service. They chose a model in which customers are billed for sharing services, rather than a platform architecture.
Data integration is a hot-button issue for enterprise customers, and it’s a near-impossible task to bring up a data-sharing network among groups of companies. While dozens of companies are addressing data interoperability within an organization, Imagis nicely addresses interoperability issues between organizations, and does so in a standards-based, non-intrusive, and highly secure manner.
This summer the company plans to bring together its own disparate parts – the heritage from Imagis customers and the technology from Briyante – and re-brand itself as Visafore. This fresh face will be a fresh start for a company with a long and arduous, almost 15-year history. Finally, it seems, the company is on the right path and with a vibrant outlook to boot.
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