Traditionally, the use of video analytics has been reserved for specific applications within the security industry, such as providing early warnings of perimeter breaches at critical infrastructure facilities or delivering business intelligence to retail stores. One place where analytics has not been widely used to this point is in the residential and small and midsized businesses (SMBs) market, but that could be about to change.
Last week, Alarm.com announced that it has acquired ObjectVideo, one of pioneers of video analytic technology in the commercial security space, and integrating it into the company as “ObjectVideo Labs.” Although ObjectVideo sold its patent portfolio and patent licensing program to Avigilon in 2014, the company still had a wealth of software and human assets which made them an attractive acquisition target, according to Jeff Bedell, Alarm.com’s chief strategy and innovation officer.
“We saw ObjectVideo as being very complementary to what we’re trying to do, both in the residential space as well as in our commercial business,” Bedell says. “With their software assets, they already had a lot of stuff that we were looking at and figure out if we either wanted to license or acquire it, so we ended up with a set of very mature analytics capabilities which was the other piece of the equation besides the human capital.”
Bedell says they were also impressed with how advanced some of the analytic capabilities the company has been developing, many of which fall outside the scope of the technology’s application in traditional surveillance deployments.
“From our estimation, these guys had been doing video analytics longer than anybody out there and doing work not just focused on what can be done with standard surveillance cameras, but also pulling video off a drone and communicating it back over satellite communications to a field operative in a military training facility and things like that,” Bedell says.
While most people obviously wouldn’t require the same level of advanced analytic capabilities as the military, the fact remains that consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with bringing surveillance cameras into their homes and businesses. In a report published last December, IHS Markit said it is forecasting double digit year-on-year growth for the next five years for the consumer video market with revenues expected to surpass $2.5 billion by 2020. This growth in security camera adoption within residences will also pave the way for the use of video analytics in the smart homes of tomorrow.
“We directionally have seen an increase in acceptance of video in the residential space. People are certainly much more comfortable with indoor cameras than they were even two years ago and the sophistication of the technology has gotten better,” Bedell explains. “Inevitably, the question becomes what data can you pull off a video camera and what can you do with it and that really is the field of video analytics.”
Among some of the potentially game-changing capabilities that video analytics could bring to the residential security market, according to Bedell, is leveraging facial recognition to disarm an alarm system for known users or, conversely, sending an alert to homeowners when an unknown person has disarmed the system. Also, by using outdoor cameras or even a doorbell camera, analytics could be used to notify someone when a package has been left at the door.
“There’s also the whole idea about trying to be smart about your driveway which is to say I could identify that there’s an unknown vehicle in my driveway. I can use computer vision to say: ‘hey look, there are only three or four cars that ever show up in this driveway and when a car that we’ve never seen before pulls up we can send you an alert,’” Bedell says.
Rather than start from scratch to develop these capabilities, Bedell says they thought that leveraging the existing knowledge base that existed within ObjectVideo with their team of engineers and software developers would make better business sense for company.
“Typically, this has been a domain where you have custom applications; you buy high-end cameras, a video analytics package and then somebody has to go and do some engineering work to specify a very specific solution in a specific environment and there has been very little mass market productization of video analytics in everyday cameras,” Bedell adds. “You’re seeing more and more in the press and people are talking about facial recognition, object detection and there are things that are starting to emerge but they are all sort of early days. The way we look it is the libraries are one piece – just kind of a raw code capability – but the second piece is how do you train the individual models because it is really machine learning and it requires a whole bunch of data that you have to train and learn on to really be able to have any kind of accuracy. The software is the recipe, but we needed the cooks just as much because we needed the expertise to figure out how to take this to scale.
In addition to bolstering the capabilities they can bring to the residential security market, Bedell says the acquisition also means that Alarm.com will be ramping up their focus on the SMB space as they can now deliver a suite of business intelligence capabilities to the market that they weren’t able to previously. Last year at ISC West, Alarm.com formally launched their “Smarter Business Security” initiative, which was essentially the company’s foray into the light commercial market, and Bedell says they have done a lot of work bringing interactive services to the space which will only be enhanced as a result of bringing ObjectVideo on board.
“In discussions with a lot of our partners, we realized they were doing a lot of commercial work but there wasn’t really a set of solutions similar to what we were providing the residential space,” Bedell adds. “So, we’ve been very keen to bring the same capabilities but tailored to the commercial space – not the exact same features as you don’t have to worry about opening and closing a garage door after hours – as we want to build the business intelligence around monitoring whether your store is opening and closing on time, whether you have any anomalous behavior within the hours of operation, etc.”
Bedell says that ObjectVideo will also continue to work on government research projects even as they develop new enhancements to the Alarm.com platform.
“Our idea is as simple as what we liked about these guys is that they were doing some really cutting-edge project work for the government – really advanced research that you can’t even imagine how we could use it residentially – but it was furthering their understanding in the field and their expertise,” Bedell says. “We didn’t want to lose that edge and so the idea would be that we would continue to take and bid into government projects that really are advanced well beyond maybe what we’re looking to bring to Alarm.com and developing capabilities that eventually we can put back into the Alarm.com platform for our dealers.”
About the Author:
Joel Griffin is the Editor of SecurityInfoWatch.com and a veteran security journalist. You can reach him at email@example.com