Reston's Ipix Focused On Getting the Big Picture

Ipix's digital camera systems capture images in a 360-degree arc. Views can extend to a room's four corners, from the floor to the ceiling.
Ipix's digital camera systems capture images in a 360-degree arc. Views can extend to a room's four corners, from the floor to the ceiling. (By Matthew Cavanaugh For The Washington Post)

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By Ellen McCarthy
Thursday, August 18, 2005

Last month's suicide bombings in London wrought heartache and tragedy. They also prompted calls for greater surveillance technologies -- and cast an unexpected spotlight on Reston's tiny Ipix Corp.

You'll be forgiven if you've never heard of Ipix.

The publicly traded firm quietly moved its headquarters from Oak Ridge, Tenn., last fall as it hired Clara Conti , a veteran of the video surveillance industry, to be its new chief executive.

There was little fanfare surrounding the 70-person firm until last month, when terrorists struck London's public transportation system and Conti started saying Ipix's products might prevent such attacks.

It is an awfully bold claim for a still relatively obscure company that warned investors in its latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission of questions about its "ability to continue as a going concern."

Ipix sells digital camera systems that can be inconspicuously embedded in a ceiling or wall. Its technology differs from most security cameras' in that its silver-dollar-size lens can capture images in a 360-degree arc. So if it's placed at the top of a room, the view extends from the floor to the ceiling and out to each corner.

The images are captured and stored digitally, so they can be viewed through the Internet by anyone with authorization.

Ipix was founded in 1986 in Oak Ridge, and its technology was first adopted by the real estate industry. The company sold equipment packages to Realtors who wanted to give prospective buyers the ability to take a room-by-room tour of a house on the Internet.

The company still sells to the real estate market, but in the late 1990s it began to focus on surveillance applications. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks gave that market new heft. Last year, the company began to recruit Conti, whose history in the industry dates to the early 1990s. Conti in 1992 founded Aurora Enterprise Solutions , an Internet security firm, but she rose to prominence in 2001 when she signed on as chief executive of Reston-based ObjectVideo , which sells video surveillance software.

In January 2004, Conti was ousted from ObjectVideo's top spot and replaced by Raul J. Fernandez , former chief executive of Proxicom Inc . At the time, she was just days away from giving birth to her second child.

Today, Conti is once again working with Fernandez and ObjectVideo. The two companies sometimes team up to sell ObjectVideo's software, which detects suspicious movements, as an application on Ipix's camera system.

"She took a company that had a solid product base and took it to new growth levels," said Fernandez, who described his relationship with Conti as "positive and constructive."


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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