Johan Paulsson is the CTO of Axis Communications
IoT does represent a very real and practical step forward in how to connect disparate machines and widely dispersed data. And it has profound ramifications on the security and video surveillance industry.
It’s hard to read any kind of technology newspaper or web site these days without seeing several references to IoT – the Internet of Things. It has become the buzzword of all buzzwords, the next killer app, and the bandwagon that everyone from car makers to home appliance companies hope to ride to success.
To be sure, the concept of network cameras has come a long way in 20 years. Yet if we were to rank the top emerging trends for 2016, connected systems would still have to be at the top. Why? Because the capabilities of IP-based systems are constantly evolving and suppliers of all types are still discovering new ways to leverage the power, flexibility and reach of connectivity. As more IP-based security devices inevitably replace aging analog systems, we will see wider use of security products that integrate the growing wealth of information generated by the IoT into not just information for security purposes, but a range of other applications and uses.
IoT will allow network cameras to think independently and make smart decisions on their own. Imagine a mesh of network cameras that correspond between each other to alert the next camera of a person or object entering shortly from the left of a given scene. IoT-enabled cameras may also be able to cover up for one of their peers being damaged or obstructed.
IoT: From cool features to useful solutions
As enthralled as we are with the individual capabilities of IoT devices, in the security world the more important aspect of this trend is how all the components work together to solves a tangible challenge. First of all, IoT-based system must be easy to design, install, maintain and use. And one size does not fit all. To maximize the potential of IoT, it requires an in-depth knowledge by suppliers who 1) understand how each feature or component works together, 2) can design a solution that can be used to solve specific challenges, and 3) are able deliver it as an integrated offering whose long-term value has more value than just the sum of its parts.
This is especially true as security solutions move well beyond their roots in cameras. Indeed, largely because of IoT, the security sector’s traditional boundaries continue to blur. For example, network cameras can be used for Building Information Management (BIM), Business Intelligence (BI) in retail and even leaping into scientific research with real-time analysis of traffic patterns and crowd movements. The IoT will allow for combined systems integrating previously disparate devices such as video surveillance cameras, smoke detectors, gas sensors, access control panels and loudspeakers into a common management console providing a ‘single pane of glass’ overview across entire buildings and sites.
The result is a huge opportunity for security solutions that are purpose-built to share useful data with other connected devices, all of which can be monitored remotely. This connectivity between devices will provide end users with more complete situational awareness across multiple locations.
With the increasing amount of date being generated, shared over the network, and, in many cases, stored and accessed through cloud computing models, there is a growing need to focus on the protection of all this data and assets that exist ‘virtually.’ New technologies and methods for enhancing cyber security specifically for networked and cloud-based security systems. This is critical to protect against vulnerabilities such as hacking and will be an important aspect of how physical security and surveillance solutions are designed and implemented.
Security as a service: The Cloud emerges
Cloud based computing has touched just about every industry and it will continue to reshape the security and surveillance sector as well. Security can now be offered as a service that is managed remotely. Secure remote access to security systems will increase in use, including by end users who want the convenience and real-time benefits of being able to monitor property and events without having to be physically present.
Cloud storage is another important aspect of how systems are becoming more efficient in this model. Much larger volumes of data can be stored, cost-effectively and securely, at dedicated server facilities, allowing users to archive video and associated data for longer periods of time and improve its accessibility as well.
More cameras mean Big Data
According to market researchers, video is now the fastest growing type of data in the world, and video generated by security and surveillance systems is no small reason. While this vast amount of video data is largely being used for security purposes, as mentioned above, it is increasingly valuable as a source of business intelligence. However, there still remains a significant challenge to effectively manage and use the endless amounts of video data being generated, so-called big data.
Big data is difficult to process through traditional data processing applications. We expect to see more investment in tools and other resources that can effectively mine and derive actionable intelligence from the big data that security systems are producing. This technology can put structure around vast amounts of unstructured video data, helping better understand significant patterns and trends.
In the coming years, look for improvements in and greater use of video management systems (VMS) to search big data in order to pull up relevant events, people, locations, times, colors and keywords. Such tools will assist business operators to turn big data into critical information that aids in loss prevention, marketing, operations, and customer service.
Cutting the cords
Wireless technology has transformed our lives in many ways, from mobile phones, to WiFi connectivity. We have already seen the benefit and convenience of remote security monitoring via smartphones and tablets. Video surveillance systems of up to around ten network cameras can be managed entirely via mobile devices no longer requiring a desktop PC to run video management software. Especially for SMBs, this significantly lowers the technology hurdle as users are more open to using a smartphone app than having to overlook a more comprehensive and detailed video management software on a desktop PC. It also reduces overall system and maintenance costs.
Expect to see more use of wireless technology in security and video surveillance, particularly as an enhancement to business optimization and improvement of the customer experience.
The never ending quest for more detail
Security operators have an insatiable appetite for more clarity and detail in the images produced by their video surveillance systems. This is especially true as the adoption of intelligent video analytics continues to grow.
So continued improvement in megapixel technology is certainly in our future. Enhanced techniques to handle challenging low-lighting conditions in new ways are coming to market, making cameras even more useful in a wider array of applications and use models. These improvements, largely focused on expanding the wide dynamic range (WDR) capability of cameras, also provide enhanced information for analytics to help decipher. Look for continued adoption of 4K Ultra HD, which enables network cameras to see more details. With an HDTV or megapixel network camera, the resolution is at least three times better than an analog CCTV camera. And 4K Ultra HD offers four times the resolution of HDTV 1080p.
However, higher and higher resolutions also result in increasing storage consumption. Intelligent video compression algorithms allow for a reduction in storage needs by an average 50% or more. This is achieved by analyzing and optimizing a network camera’s video stream in real-time. Scenes containing interesting details are recorded in full image quality and resolution while other areas are filtered out to optimally use available storage. Important forensic details like faces, tattoos or license plates are isolated and preserved, while irrelevant areas such as white walls, lawns and vegetation are sacrificed by smoothing in order to achieve better storage savings.
Analytics provides the brain for smarter systems
If IoT devices are the eyes and ears for increasingly interconnected systems, then analytics technology is the brain. We expect to see continued growing adoption of sophisticated video and audio analytics in the coming year, helping security systems evolve from passive monitoring to intelligent and adaptive recognition, situational awareness and analysis systems.
Analytics go far beyond security uses. Retailers, for example, are increasingly using video analytics to gain business intelligence insights that allow them to optimize shop floor plans, merchandise display or checkout queue management. This opens up entirely new user groups to video surveillance.
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