Techopia Live: Kanata’s March Networks applies video security to cannabis tracking

After two decades in business, March Networks is determined not to fall behind the pack. The Kanata-based video surveillance company is keeping up with a new solution to address the burgeoning cannabis market, and CEO Peter Strom joined Techopia Live this week to talk about how the firm stays fresh in a rapidly changing industry.

March Networks launched in 2000 as a new addition to the portfolio of Kanata tech magnate Terry Matthews. When Strom joined the company as CEO in 2003, it didn’t take long for him to elevate the company, taking it public in 2005 and earning Ottawa’s CEO of the Year honours for his efforts. The next few years would see March shift back to private life following a $90.1-million acquisition.

The company made its name in those early days providing video surveillance for large banks and retailers such as Wal-Mart, where March Networks’ cameras could be deployed across hundreds or thousands of locations but managed from a centralized operation. 

Today, the company has its tech in industries ranging from finance to restaurants to transportation, with each application on display in a new demo room in its headquarters on Terry Fox Drive.

But video itself is just the foundation of March’s offerings today. Strom told Techopia Live that customer demand for data analytics has driven March Networks to offer software solutions that can extract valuable insights from the footage.

“They’re starting to look at video surveillance and saying, ‘We are capturing a lot of valuable data,’” Strom said.

For example, retailers can use their surveillance footage to learn more about customer flow through a store in an attempt to improve efficiencies and drive up sales. March Networks’ solution can track bank transactions and alert the institution about potential cases of fraud with a timestamped log of the interaction in question.

March Networks’ new offering has an unexpected use case in a burgeoning new industry: cannabis. The company won a Best Ottawa Business Award last year for its work tracking cannabis plants from seed to sale. 

Partnering with fellow tech firm Zebra, which develops RFID tracking tags, March’s tech can follow pot plants throughout the full growth and sale process – a comprehensive solution that’s mandated by law in huge cannabis markets such as Colorado and California.

Strom said March was able to get out ahead of the budding cannabis industry thanks to its Canadian base. As Canada took the early steps in legalizing recreational cannabis, March was watching closely to see where its solution could fit into the rapidly evolving regulatory framework.

“We certainly had the advantage that we were very exposed to that market,” he said.

More specifically than its Canadian roots, Strom said March is well-positioned in the Kanata North tech park. Going back to March’s early days, he said the city’s pioneering work in the telecommunications field began a “rich history of innovation” that continues in the tech park today as its companies develop new expertise in sectors such as embedded software.

“That whole culture of innovation has continued on in Kanata itself,” Strom said. “Kanata is a great hotbed to be developing this kind of technology.”

To hear more about March Networks’ evolution, watch the video above.