Motorola Solutions pays $445 million to acquire VaaS International Holdings for video-analytics expertise
Motorola Solutions this week announced that it has paid $445 million in cash and equity to purchase VaaS International Holdings, a “video analysis as a service” company with license-plate-reader technology and databases for public-safety and commercial uses.
VaaS International Holdings provides license-plate-reader and location-based technologies that can be used to track and find vehicles under two brands—Vigilant Solutions for public-safety services and Digital Recognition Network (DRN) for commercial services, according to Andrew Sinclair, corporate vice president and general manager of Motorola Solutions’ software business unit.
The camera technology—often mounted on vehicle driven by an officer in a public-safety scenario or an employee of a repossession company in a commercial use–developed by VaaS International Holdings represents an upgrade to the license-plate-reader products that Motorola Solutions offers customers today, Sinclair said.
“We believe the machine-vision technology that the Vigilant side of this business has built has built is superior,” Sinclair said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Obviously, machine vision has continued to evolve and get better and better as cameras, lenses and processing gets better. The technology here is pretty much state of the art, so it’s a technology improvement.”
Although VaaS International Holdings has two subsidiaries, both entities operate on the same technological platform and inputting license-plate information into the same database structure, within the parameters of legal constraints that may exist for particular state and local jurisdictions, Sinclair said. This means public-safety entities can access information about the current and past locations of vehicles gathered by commercial customers, as well as the public-safety entity, he said.
“The really differentiating asset here is the network—the fact that there is this commercial part of the business that is out there collecting all of these number plates and geolocations that can then be used by public safety,” Sinclair said.
“There is a scenario here where a public-safety agency could opt just to subscribe to the network and not put a single camera on a police car and still generate an awful lot of the value, because they effectively have a lot of other actors out there—such as repo guys—working for them.”
This capability could greatly enhance public safety’s ability to react quickly in situations where saving time can impact outcomes significantly, Sinclair said.
“If there is an Amber Alert, chances are, we already know where that because—on the commercial side—a repossession agent or a static camera has spotted that license plate and knows where it’s been recently—sometimes within minutes or sometimes within days,” he said.
Although public-safety users can access the commercial database, commercial users will not be allowed to access any of the records from public-safety entities in the VaaS International Holdings database, Sinclair said.
“I need to stress that it is one-directional sharing—the commercial data is shared with public safety, not the other way around,” Sinclair said. “Public-safety data is not shared with commercial [enterprises].
“Data is becoming an increasingly important part of public safety, and it’s important that—as we do that—we do it in a very compliant and responsible way.”
Public-safety data that is input into the system can be shared with other public-safety entities, but Sinclair said that would only happen with the approval of the originating public-safety agency, subject to its policies and legal constraints.
Acquiring VaaS International Holdings fits well into Motorola Solutions’ broader strategy to enhance its video and analytics capabilities, as well as develop a suite of integrated software products to support public safety, Sinclair said.
“We are on a path to create the software suite for public enterprise,” Sinclair said. “By that, I mean all of the workflow and communications software that is used in a control room or public-safety access point [PSAP].
“Last year, about than a quarter of all our sales were suite sales—people buying two or more pieces of the puzzle in that suite. Think of it like people buying Google Suite, Salesforce or Office 365. They’re buying more the applications together, instead of point by point. Increasing, that will become more integrated and will drive more efficiency, better resolution and faster resolution into that process.
“It’s all built on top of a data platform, and there’s no point in having a data platform without data. This acquisition brings data to the scenario.”
VaaS International Holdings’ 2019 revenues are expected to be about $100 million, according to a Motorola Solutions press release.
“Automated license plate recognition is an increasingly powerful tool for law enforcement,” said Greg Brown, chairman and CEO, Motorola Solutions. “With this acquisition, VaaS will expand our command center software portfolio with the largest shareable database of vehicle location information that can help shorten response times and improve the speed and accuracy of investigations.”
Shawn Smith, co-founder of VaaS and president of Vigilant Solutions, expressed excitement about the company becoming part of Motorola Solutions.
“This acquisition enables us to continue to serve our existing customers and expand our footprint globally, while at the same time supporting a company with a commitment to innovation and growth, guided by a common purpose that aligns with our mission and culture: ‘To help people be their best in the moments that matter,’” Smith said in a prepared statement. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Todd Hodnett, co-founder of VaaS and president of Digital Recognition Network, echoed this sentiment.
“Our extensive license plate data and AI technology have opened new commercial applications of our products,” Hodnett said in a prepared statement. “We believe commercialization of these new applications can be accelerated under the Motorola Solutions brand and reach, and we look forward to working together to grow and diversify our commercial business.”