Will video analytics become a commodity?

This week during the Axis Channel Convergence Conference (see more in a forthcoming report on SIW), I had the pleasure of speaking with Aimetis Corporation’s Director of Business Development Justin Schorn about his company’s positioning in the market. For a little background, the company dates back to 2003, where it emerged as one of the developers of video analytics (often also called intelligent video or video content analytics). The company’s product line at that time was called AIRA, and it was really a pure play in video analytics. At some point in 2006, and continuing into early 2008, the company underwent a transformation as it developed an IP video management software (VMS) and then integrated analytics as a component of that VMS. The resulting product was called Symphony.

I had a chance to ask Justin about this transition and what he explained to me I thought to be fairly insightful. Here’s how Justin explained the thinking inside Aimetis (keep in mind that this is paraphrased): When Aimetis first arose as a company, they developed video analytics and they, like many of their competitors, saw video analytics as “the solution”. But as the company matured, the leadership came to realize that analytics was not “the solution”; video surveillance is a solution, and analytics was just a component of that. Justin explained it this way: In any word processing program you have a spell checker. The spell checker is like analytics in that it does some thinking/processing for you. But you can’t name the developer of your spell check program off hand, can you? It’s just a component of your word processing program; something you expect to be there. What’s more, you don’t buy your word processing program based on who wrote the spell checker. The same holds true for analytics, Justin said, which is why the company needed to transition from being a pure-play analytics provider to becoming a VMS company with analytics as a component. Now, he says, the core of what Aimetis does is manage video, and being able to run analytics on video is just part of that management solution.

Person tracking & object classification in analyticsWith that in mind, and I think Aimetis has some pretty good insight there, I asked Justin whether he would expect to see some of the video analytics close up shop in 2010 due to an inability to grab additional venture capital funding. Justin said he definitely expected that, and he said part of the reason that analytics has struggled so much to be a profitable part of the industry is that it has often required technical on-site services from the developers just to properly configure such systems. That kind of effort, he said, isn’t realistic; systems that involve analytics should be able to be configured by the normal channel partner, i.e., the systems integrator that the end-user has chosen.

If Aimetis is right, then analytics is on its way to becoming something of a commodity. Certainly other VMS companies (Milestone, for example ) and camera companies (Axis, Sony) seem to have recognized that analytics is just going to be a de facto part of video surveillance. I’d like to invite all analytics companies, VMS companies and integrators and consultants working with analytics to weigh in on this in the comments section. Let’s try as a community to answer this question: Is analytics a commodity or is it a solution? What direction are we headed?

- Geoff

(The above photo of a classic video analytics detection capacity was grabbed from one of Aimetis' promotional PDFs)

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