Prism Skylabs Refocuses Security Cams Into Productive Video Assets

Prism SkyLabs was able to draw media attention before it was even launched thanks to buzz among angel investors (including TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington). When we last reported on Prism, we only knew that the startup planned to ‘bring physical spaces online.’ But the startup, which is debuting today at TechCrunch Disrupt, does so much more, and may be a killer new tool for any merchant or business who has a consumer storefront.

Simply put, Prism Skylabs is a cloud-based service thats allow business owners to bring video feeds online, capture images from these feeds and share this data with consumers and the public. Most stores and restaurants have surveillance videos running 24-hours a day. Unless there is a theft or another crime that takes place in the establishment, this massive amount of surveillance video is unused.

That’s where Prism Skylabs comes in. The startup allows a business to download a free software that detects cameras or video on a network, showcases a number of images of the space to the business. Similar to the way you can pull images from videos using a video editing software, Prism Skylabs pulls relevant images of your establishment and builds insightful visualizations from these photos, while protecting customer privacy.

For example, Prism Skylabs can extract a visualization that will show the path that people are taking in a store (which can help owners gain insight into the performance of design or display), a heatmap of bodies, a photo without any people in the store and more.

Why would businesses want these images? Well, as I stated above, owners can gain insight about the performance of the store and the flow at certain times. And Prism Skylabs allows users to share and syndicate these photos directly from their platform to a business’ Facebook page, Twitter stream, website and Yelp profile.

More over, users can compare web analytics, social media traffic and more with traffic documented by the video images. For example, the startup says that a store could see how much foot and web traffic a Groupon or other daily deal could bring in and at what times the traffic is the greatest. Basically, Prism will be able to mashup data like Google analytics with the intelligence from the actual traffic in the store.

For example, the Creamery (an establishment which many San Francisco residents may know of) is using Prism Skylabs to capture these visualizations to gain insight into consumer behavior (with customer privacy intact). Basically, Prism allows businesses to make sense of any video of their store. And the software integrates with point of sale systems as well.

Another use case is the ability to post realtime pictures of how crowded a restaurant or bar is in realtime. So a restaurant could post pictures of how empty or full the space is to Twitter or Facebook so potential customers can see how busy an establishment is.

Prism was founded by video surveillance expert Steve Russell and Silicon Valley investor Ron Palmeri. Russell previously founded 3VR, a digital video security company where he is currently chairman, and has a dozen video-related patents. Palmeri was Halsey Minor’s right-hand man at Minor Ventures, where he backed and incubated GrandCentral (now Google Voice), OpenDNS, and Scout Labs, a social CRM and brand-monitoring service sold to Lithium Technologies.

Russell and Palmieri have built a proprietary technology that compresses the surveillance video for reduced bandwidth and have already applied for a number of patents. Russell explains that he believes this is a huge market, as most retail stores, restaurants and bars have surveillance cameras but aren’t putting the video to use. In fact, businesses have spent $100 billion on surveillance video platforms in the world.

As for the business model, Prism Skylabs will go freemium, in which the startup will offer some extra paid features.

And already, Prism, which is in closed beta, has attracted the attention of major investors including the CrunchFund. To date, Prism Skylabs has raised $1.5 million from the SV Angel, Yuri Milner, Eric Schmidt, Aaron Patzer, Brad Garlinghouse, the CrunchFund and others.

Judges: John Ham (Ustream), Hilary Mason (, Kevin Rose (Milk), George Zachary (Charles River Ventures)

JH: This is a huge opportunity. Timing is great and you are solving a fundamental problem for video in public places, which is privacy. I am bullish on this.

HM: I think this is cool, especially with the things you’ve done around privacy.

KR: I see where this makes sense for the business owner. I don’t get the consumer play. What is the play?

A: Privacy is the big reason why this doesn’t get published. If restaurants can give users a realtime view into the space through images, the consumer benefits.

KR: So the use case is letting consumers know whether a business is busy?

A: yes. Businesses spend thousands of dollars on video and images depicting this space.

GZ: Awesome demo. I love what you are doing. How do you connect deals, campaigns with video.

A: As a business, you can integrate your social media accounts. And we are seeing interest in correlating video and images to point of sale information.