What Lies Ahead?

The next 15 years of video surveillance

It’s very difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. Just look at Nostradamus—one of the most scrutinized figures in all of history. But at least with technology, there are rules and trends that you can rely upon as guides.

One of these trends is Moore’s law from 1965, which states that performances of computer-based hardware will double every two years. This is still valid today. In fact, since we at Axis Communications introduced the world’s first network camera in 1996, network camera performance for resolution and frame rate has increased by roughly 600 times in those 15 years. Moore’s law only suggests about 400 times improvement during that time period, so, in video surveillance, performance has overachieved!

But we can’t sit back and relax and expect Moore’s law to do all the work. While it keeps on working and will give us a lot of cool options for the future, there are areas of video surveillance—like the evolution of lenses and mechanics—that do not mirror Moore’s law. Here we have to look for true innovation instead.

Remember that we work in a slow-moving market of video surveillance with respect to technology. A good reference is the evolution of analog video, an invention from the 1940s. The latest and last real improvement to analog video was the addition of color in the 70s.

Thankfully the industry is tipping to all IP, where we’ll see many more (and much faster) innovations. Here is my list of predictions, beginning with technology driven ones.

Where’s my storage?

In the next 15 years, IP video will be available “to the people.” Currently, IP is the answer for larger systems, and typically is the only technology specified in systems larger than 32 cameras. The smaller systems, like the ones found in convenient stores, gas stations, boutiques, offices and franchise locations, still often rely on analog. However, the total cost of ownership (TCO) for IP in small systems continues to fall and four factors will accelerate this change in the coming years: large on-board storage, much better image processing, better compression and a higher speed Internet.

The latter is important as it makes Video-Surveillance-as-a-Service offerings (sometimes referred to as hosted video) possible and can nearly totally eliminate the need for onsite storage. In particular this is useful for chains of smaller stores, restaurants, etc. who can watch many dispersed and remote stores from one workstation or mobile device.

Increased capacity of on-board storage also offers ability for high-quality redundant storage and can even enable self-based recording systems where the network camera is the combined camera and NVR.


Analytics that actually work

We all remember the hype in video analytics and the promises of finding bags (but not carts) left empty at airports. We heard the same promises of distinguishing between the good guys and a terrorist and being able to pick them out in a crowded stadium. This promise was made despite the fact that a face in the distance is only made up of a few pixels. Despite the bad initial reputation, there are useful analytics working today if expectations are properly set.

The first useful analytics are functions such as high quality motion detection, camera tampering detection and cross line detection. These functions are very useful for security today and continue to improve.

There are other useful analytics that can be used for other parts of the business beyond security, such as marketing and building management. In these cases the analytics can afford a five percent failure rate without causing a disaster for the business or a security vulnerability. Analytics used in retail such as people counting, heat map generation and detection for empty shelves and product sweeps are expanding.

Now that we’ve passed the era of overhyped analytics, software developers can leverage the ever-growing processing power of the cameras (which, remember, are growing alongside Moore’s law) to deliver useful algorithms for different surveillance markets. It will be up to the integrator to learn when to sell the analytics as a feature.

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