Denver company improves Web cams

Denver, CO based Company, Diganet (formerly Digatron) brings the latest and greatest in Web cam technology is now available in the United States.

Digatron Inc. is the first reseller in the nation to distribute the next phase in Web cam software, which allows users to view images on their desktops that have been filmed by a video camera and uploaded to the Internet.

The new technology enables viewers with a high-speed Internet connection to watch the images in nearly real time, as opposed to a majority of Web cam sites that offer "snapshots," the fastest of which take 20 seconds to reload. The end result is a fast, full color experience that is similar to watching television.

"It's an exciting technology," said Digatron president Anthony Ibarra. "What makes this different is the refresh rate. You're refreshing [the image] five to seven times a second, in terms of frames, on a DSL or T1 line."

Even viewers operating with a regular phone line and an ancient modem, such as a 19.2K, will experience a refresh rate of every eight to 12 seconds with the new technology.

"I like the speed, clarity and resolution that you get," said David Forbes, vice president of Prism International Inc., a consulting company that worked closely with Digatron on a recent security project for the Colorado state Capital.

"Digatron is very cutting-edge oriented. They're always on the lookout for what's next and best."

Founded in 1981, Digatron has carved out a niche in the design, installation and maintenance of electronic and computer integrated security, surveillance and fire systems. Part of the company's mission is to strive to be a leader in special systems technology. Employees are encouraged to surf the Web frequently, to find new technology that Digatron can bring to market.

It was on one such Web-surfing quest that Ibarra himself discovered the new Web cam technology. "We looked at all the Web cameras out there -- basically just surfed through live streaming video. Within a week I came across the technology on a Web cam that overlooked Times Square," he said.

Ibarra made a few calls and found out that although the camera was hosted by The Drama League of New York, the technology belonged to Canon Corp. in Japan and the Web cam site was the only one of its kind in the United States. "Then I found out that this product wasn't even available in the United States because a distributor hadn't been found," he said.

Digatron, which was already a reseller for Canon's surveillance and lens divisions, proceeded to become a beta test site for the technology, eventually setting up a Web cam over downtown Denver. The company spent about two months helping Canon iron out a few bugs in the software.

"There was a learning curve -- any new, cutting-edge technology can also be called bleeding edge technology because of the glitches," he said.

The company then signed a value added reseller agreement with Canon.

Though available in Japan for approximately three months, this technology, which uses compression techniques that allow it to operate on less than 8 percent of the bandwidth that it's using, has only been up on Digatron's Web site for about three weeks.

"Our tech support still goes through Japan," Ibarra said. "Manufacturers and reps here have no idea about this technology."

In addition to their high speed and clarity, the New York and Denver cams each allow 100 simultaneous viewers and the ability to control the camera.

Viewers take turns manipulating the camera by clicking their mouse to pan, tilt, zoom and adjust for focus and brightness.

"It gives people not just the ability to view the area, but to play a part in that experience that is the Web camera," said Greg Ibarra, Digatron's vice president and brother to Anthony.

He said the technology is robust enough to allow for customization, such as limiting the angles that can be viewed, for reasons of privacy. The software is also password protected to limit the number of users that have access to a site.

Digatron plans to allow people to host the Web cam images on their own Web pages. "We'll supply the equipment and, for a fee, allow them to present it as their own, so now they have a controlled camera," said Greg Ibarra. "And the beautiful thing is, you can allow several people to utilize it on their own Web page," for $300 to $3,000 a month, depending on the size of the client.

However, despite the number of at-home Web enthusiasts, Tony Ibarra said at this point the Web cam technology isn't particularly affordable for the average person. The cost for a camera that will offer pan, tilt and zoom capabilities is $2,500. The investment for software to go with that camera is $2,800. And that doesn't include the cost of the computer.

"Our total cost is probably under $6,000," Tony Ibarra said. "But that's affordable for corporate America, and that's affordable for government organizations."

The company is confident that response to this new technology will be favorable. "This could increase our business by 10 to 15 percent, just because of the uniqueness of it," Tony Ibarra said.

He expects the company's revenues, which now fall between $3 million and $5 million, to soar to $7 million this year.

Digatron expects that several government and corporate entities will want to take advantage of the marketing benefits the Web cam offers. "If people get on your Web page and see some activity, they're going to stay there longer," Tony Ibarra said. "There is tremendous marketing appeal in that."

"People using the Internet are enlightened and are looking for more information," said Prism's Forbes. "When you can leave the initiative up to a client to dial in and look at a site, having moving pictures of some quality goes a long way."

Forbes said the only thing missing at this point is the capability for sound. "Everyone is looking for the day when we'll have visual and audio technology that come together. That will be a great advance and that's the way it's going to go. The Internet is driving that."

Digatron is currently talking to the city of Denver about setting up a camera in Confluence Park. Other Colorado entities on Digatron's wish list include Larimer Square, ski resorts such as Aspen and Copper Mountain, Denver International Airport, the Colorado Tourism Board, local television stations and entertainment venues, such as Colorado's Ocean Journey and Coors Field.

As president of the Rocky Mountain region British-American Chamber of Commerce, Forbes is also interested in the technology, as a way to communicate with people in the United Kingdom. "I'd love to be able to tell my UK counterparts that they can come on camera and look at a few things we've got here," he said. "It's another way to get Denver on the map."

Mark Holtzman, Colorado's Secretary of Technology, said Digatron's innovation in identifying and distributing this technology puts Denver on the map, as well. "The governor's trying to create an environment that fosters growth of companies like this," he said.

"It's an honor for Colorado, and hopefully, an example of more to come."

To read the article at the Denver Business Journal, please CLICK HERE.