The Interview, Joe Qui, TVT Digital Technology
Joe Qui, TVT DigitalTechnology.
In this month’s Interview, SEN speaks with Joe Qui, overseas sales director of TVT Digital Technology. Distributed locally by CSM, TVT is a Shenzhen-based CCTV manufacturer that designs and builds all its own solutions for a target market that includes larger commercial users, as well as SMEs.
Q: What can you tell SEN readers about TVT Digital Technology, Joe?
A: TVT is a publicly-listed company – our boss, Guo Lizhi, has a background in electrical engineering and comes from a semiconductor background – he is also general manager. TVT has an engineering philosophy – the company has 3 letters: these stand for – ‘technology’, ‘video’ and ‘team’. We invest in technology, in team and in video – we only do video technologies, nothing else.
Q: TVT has been around a lot longer than most people think, hasn’t it?
A: Yes, our history goes back before TVT was launched in 2004 to 2001 and TVT’s plan has always been that every 12-18 months we will have something new to release to the market. We are based in the heart of China’s Silicon Valley to ensure we attract the best engineers and we work hard to ensure our products are always improving.
Q: Does TVT have a mission statement, a focus, in terms of what it does?
A: Our vision is very simple – we want to be a respected technology company – not the biggest but respected, trusted and with a customer base that loves to work with us.
Further, we must have our own technology. We don’t buy technology, we don’t want to assemble someone else’s technology, we want to manufacture our own technology. Our goal is to offer a high technology product that will make the world better, easier and safer – this is our mission.
There are 4 criteria that underlie the TVT business – the first relates to technology. We are committed to understanding what kind of technology will change the game. To meet this commitment, TVT has a team with a very deep understanding from the chipset to software.
Next, we must be reliable – that means we invest money to make improvements to ensure that reliability continues to improve – no matter how reliable our existing products are, the next generation must be even better.
The third criteria is affordability. Everybody needs some kind of security product, but we don’t want them to spend a lot of money – we try to prove our designs to make them more affordable, while retaining quality.
And finally, ease of use – our products are not just for professionals, we want them to be easy for anyone to use – easy training, easy repair and easy maintenance.
Q: Given the company designs and manufacturers all its own products, how important is engineering to TVT?
A: The engineering side is the biggest investment for TVT – we have 400 engineers divided into small groups with a specific target – we cover all fields of video, from chipset to lens/optical, thermal technology, hardware, management software, network, cyber security – everything. Over the past 2-3 years our investment in video has been huge – historically, investment as a percentage of total sales is around 15 per cent, which is significant.
A key aspect of engineering is testing – our engineering department must have very strict testing. In this building we have one floor that is entirely dedicated to testing – we test so much because we need a very big volume to catch bugs – thousands of cameras monitored by software 24 x 7. This gives us a greater chance of catching bugs that might impact on reliability. TVT also has a professional team for video quality – we don’t want a device to have bugs and we don’t want bugs in video quality. The video engineers have different criteria, but their work is also vital.
Q: How challenging is production in a competitive market and how does TVT ensure it can compete with the heavily automated manufacturers?
A: When it comes to production, TVT has 2 factories – one in Shenzhen and another new factory in Huizhou about 90km away. We use the factory in Shenzhen as a bridge between the engineering department and the new factory in Huizhou. The factory here helps us to understand before a product goes to mass production what kind of problems we need to address. The local factory also works on tools to use in the new factory.
When it comes to standards and testing, the engineering department takes precedence over the factory. When a product is completed the engineers need to work with the factory to make sure that mass production is reliable and quality control is consistent. We also need to develop machines for the factory that allow us to test components during manufacture. We want to understand risks that may arise during the process of assembly – if we have a machine to handle all these tests then we are not relying on human eyes. We have a department to handle building these testing technologies. We are also able to advise our suppliers if they need to make improvements to components based on our testing. We also have engineering on production to improve quality and efficiency.
Material control is another important element to ensure manufacturers are recognised globally as quality suppliers. Material control is very important, and we have an engineering department just for this. We only buy certified materials and certified components from certified suppliers. These decisions come from the engineering department, not from the factory.
Furthermore, our factory and its software are designed by TVT to ensure quality. There is also testing in the factory – it’s different from the engineering testing and it’s designed to confirm the products meet the specifications set by the engineering department’s testing.
Q: How important is quality to TVT?
A: It’s at the heart of our business. Some manufacturers are not qualified, and they do not produce quality. The philosophy of these companies is wrong and so is the low-price philosophy of their distributors. They will come to us and ask us to beat the lowest price they could find, but we don’t want to do business with such companies.
Part of the issue is companies that do not invest in engineering cannot engineer value into their solutions and are limited to using ever cheaper materials in order to get sales. It’s a big risk – many companies don’t understand the risk they create if they use cheaper material or components. The larger manufacturers – TVT, Dahua, UNV, Hikvision and some others – they have standards and they understand risk.
Joe Qui and TVT team members at the company’s Shenzhen HQ.
Q: You design and manufacture all your own cameras and PTZs, too?
A: Yes, TVT has a special team dedicated to making cameras, including PTZs. All kinds of PTZ cameras are made by TVT – we do the housing the camera module, the mechanical components – all are designed and made by TVT. We don’t trust the assemblies of other people and we want full control of quality and functionality. But we do source the best possible sensors.
Our second generation PTZ range has Sony Starvis sensors – from the basic through to the high end. They also have quality lenses and good software ISP, as well as IR illumination. We are very particular with our camera specifications. Our range covers 18-38x optical and when we say 38x it really is 38x. When we compare our PTZs to competitors we find some take short cuts – our PTZs never do. TVT is very serious about performance.
We are also working to improve our illumination to make PTZ night vision much stronger and resistant to issues that occur at night, such as lens ghosting. How do you achieve this? You need a very good sensor, a very good lens, a very good algorithm and good focus and deep penetration of illumination – these are all things we are working on.
Q: What is the future of the CCTV market, which technologies does TVT think will predominate over the next few years?
A: The big storm of technology reform that is coming is AI, cloud and big data – if you don’t have strong engineering investment in these areas you will be left behind. Right now, TVT is investing a lot in cloud – we have just released our second generation of cloud products and CSM in Australia was one of the first distributors given access to the new cloud solutions.
The new cloud solutions have many new features, including the ability to monitor network and system health, and the cyber security of these systems will also be monitored. We have recently received the TOV cyber security certification – we were among the first to receive GDPR certification.
Q: How about AI – how important is it that manufacturers offer AI solutions with operational benefits in the real world?
A: AI is going to be very important. TVT defines AI into several categories – basic AI – all our products have AI standard and this is virtually free of charge. Then we have AI designed to enhance surveillance – this gives surveillance more value by automating it.
Our software can respond to rules, to face recognition and can search based on the characteristics of a subject. This makes surveillance fast, easy, efficient and user friendly. Next, there is AI for special purposes – if you have a particular problem we can assist with that through customisation.
Within the categories of AI we have 3 categories of solutions. In the first category, all TVT models have AI, in the second category some models have it, and in the third category AI can be included to meet specific end user needs. All this is developed by TVT’s dedicated team and at this time most our product supports AI for surveillance.
For instance, this is AI for surveillance – you can see that the camera catches faces and allows us to search by photo, by a subject’s name, by analytics rules. We can undertake time and attendance, we also have false alarm reduction – our camera can identify people, bicycles, cars, trucks. This means we can discount things like trees, leaves, or shadows. In the past AI was based on motion but AI technology has changed.
AI can be used for many things – customer service, as well as security. For retail environments our solutions can generate a welcome back message when a returning customer is recognised by the system. Many consumers have AI in their phone and they understand and accept it. But some in the security industry think of AI as being only for government and being very high security and expensive – they think they need a very good data centre to manage everything.
While in the case of large government applications this may be true, TVT is different. Our main business is overseas commercial and SME, we don’t do anything with government. Instead, we offer accurate, affordable, and reliable AI to commercial vertical markets. I think TVT might be the only manufacturer that can offer systems like this – they cost the same amount as any ordinary camera and NVR, but come with AI for security, for time and attendance, for line crossing, video motion detection, LPR and more, with alarm notifications.
Q: How important is cyber security to TVT?
A: It’s vitally important. We also work with a dedicated cyber security company in the USA, which is assisting us to ensure all our solutions are secure. This is a work in progress, as no one can guarantee a system is safe and if it is safe, hackers are very clever and will still try to break into it.
Q: Does TVT have a message for the Australian market?
A: TVT is a quality manufacturer that invests in its solutions and in its manufacturing and quality. TVT’s philosophy is to create solutions for SME companies that handle a wide range of needs – parking control, access control, time and attendance and more – using one affordable system with a price that is very similar to our regular NVR range. Customers all around the world love TVT solutions and we know Australian customers will appreciate them, too.