Video analytics on the rebound?

Industry experts discuss how technology is being received by market again at ISC West

The concept of video analytics can stir up a wide range of reactions among both manufacturers and end-users in the security industry. Many people still roll their eyes at the thought of the technology, which had once generated a lot of enthusiasm about the potential it had to revolutionize video surveillance. The problem, of course, is that many companies overpromised the capabilities of analytics, but ultimately failed to deliver a product worthy of the hype that it generated. There are a plethora of reasons why the technology failed to ultimately take off the way a lot of people in the industry envisioned it would and a number of companies that used to have a substantial presence on the tradeshow floor at ISC West are no longer around.

That’s not to say, however, that analytics have completely evaporated from the video surveillance market. Quite the contrary, many in the industry have once again become receptive to the idea of using some type of analytic functionality in their organization – be it people counting, heat mapping, object left behind, or virtual tripwires – as a way to improve safety or business operations.

According to Axis Communications General Manager Fredrik Nilsson, humans are clearly better at performing intuitive tasks than cameras are which is what got analytics providers in trouble nearly five years ago with their inability to deliver the capabilities that people expected.

“No one wants a camera, they want a safer environment,” Nilsson told members of the media at a press event on Wednesday.

This is one of the reasons that Nilsson believes end-users were “eager to jump on the bandwagon” of video analytics back then and why they were ultimately disappointed when vendors failed to deliver. Nilsson said that three things really needed to take place before there could be widespread adoption of video analytics; better image quality, enhanced processing power and good algorithms, all of which have now come to fruition.

“It’s not hard to predict what will happen, but when it will happen,” Nilsson said of technology trends. For example, Nilsson pointed out that Apple Founder Steve Jobs had the idea of everyone possessing a smartphone about 10 years before the devices gained widespread adoption.

One company that has been hard at work developing better algorithms for video analytics is German-based camera maker Mobotix. While Mobotix has offered people counting and heat mapping capabilities for some time, Steve Gorski, the company’s general manager for the Americas, said that they will soon be releasing MxAnalytics Activity Sensor, which has the ability to decipher actual movement within a scene from false alarms generated by rain, wind and other natural occurrences.

“We think that, for certain applications, this is going to be a game changer,” he said.

This functionality will be available on new Mobotix cameras without any additional fees. Gorski believes that the Activity Sensor will be ideal for facilities in the oil and gas sector, which have cameras that operate under extreme environmental conditions.

Herve Fages, senior vice president for Schneider Electric’s video line of business buildings business, said that the need for video analytics has always been there, but that the technology came out “prematurely” and was oversold at the time. Fages added that people are giving the technology a second chance and that it has gotten to the point where it makes sense under certain circumstances.

“At the end of the day, the (video) industry is going to go to more analytics,” said Fages, who believes that analytics will eventually become a differentiator that sets companies apart from one another. Another reason that Fages believes there will be increasing developments around video analytics is that organizations simply don’t have the manpower or the budgets to support continuous monitoring of their video feeds.

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