Like any other industry, it is hard to say what the future holds for video security. Global political developments, economic crises and similar events are influencing factors that can play a key role. Of course, it is possible to draw some conclusions from current developments.
Network without boundaries
You don't have to be a fortune teller to assume that more and more applications will run over the network in the future. This also applies to video security as the trend toward digital solutions continues to be strong. Users are set to profit from the flexibility, higher image quality and new options digital technology has to offer. It is possible to combine and control many applications over the network in a large system. However, the network then becomes a bottleneck because more and more applications are running over the same network. If you take into account the trend toward higher image qualities in video systems, you then have very large amounts of data that require a well-dimensioned network for rapid data transfer. This should not be reason to refrain from increasing image quality, or modernizing and extending the network. A sound, cost-efficient balance between feasibility, technical concepts and actual requirements will be the best solution in the future. In terms of image quality, I anticipate five- to 10-megapixel resolution will be the standard of the future.
More mobile, more flexible
The mobility trend is likely to continue to increase. Customer and integrator requirements of the future are likely to include the ability to directly control cameras and access camera data, set up the complete system remotely and import updates or make other changes in the system configuration. Providers have to react. However, in doing so, they cannot afford to lose sight of a key factor: User friendliness. One solution is a special app that allows complete video management or the setup of complete systems via mobile end devices, without any restrictions in the data transfer rate or image quality. This requires new codices and streaming methods, as well as a certain degree of product intelligence.
The flexibility of the system is crucial. It has to be flexible in terms of expansion capabilities with new cameras as well as in terms of sustainability. It must be possible to add new functions to old models using updates. Flexibility will mean even more in the future as development efforts move toward the idea of a platform rather than an individual product. In a nutshell, it means that the customer does not have to define unchangeable camera features when choosing a camera. Instead, the user can select the sensor modules from a kind of construction kit. This way, systems can be quickly adapted to new requirements or technical changes.
This creates enormous advantages for systems integrators. On the one hand, it puts them in a position to generate updates and added value for customers without incurring major additional costs. On the other, they can implement future customer requirements into appropriate solutions with lower storage capacity.
What will generate added value?
Future video system requirements are sure to include video analysis, which is set to become more popular. Analytics such as heat maps or counting lines will deliver additional information in many areas. Providers with integrated added value features can score points where users want to pay as little as possible or demand these services in the overall package without additional costs.
Where will data be stored?
Will data be stored within the camera itself, in the cloud or via a DVR? One thing is certain: An increasing amount of data will be stored inside the camera in the not too distant future. It will be stored in HDTV resolution and for up to several weeks. Data storage in the cloud is also set to increase. The advantages are plain to see. DVRs are no longer necessary for data storage and users can look at video from anywhere using Internet-enabled devices. Hosted video is likely to be a growth market, particularly for smaller companies and private individuals. Does this development mark the end of DVR and on-site data storage? Not quite. Large companies in particular will either want to store sensitive data inside the camera on a permanent basis or in the supposedly less secure global data cloud.
Buy or lease?
It will be interesting to see whether users will have to purchase video systems outright, if leasing will be an option or if other remuneration models will come into play. It is likely that we will see a mix based on user requirements. These customized offerings will open up other market segments that did without video surveillance in the past due to the costs involved. Cost-effective leasing models, probably in connection with hosted video, are sure to make video security an attractive option for private users in the future. Where it goes from here heavily depends on manufacturer offerings and prices.
Where will growth come from?
Today, most video security systems are in operation in retail stores. With innovative improvements to network cameras and their range of applications, this technology will be interesting for many other industries and markets. I expect high growth rates in a number of different areas, including public security. Looking at current developments and ongoing discussions, it is safe to assume that video is set to become standard in public areas, airports, train stations and other places where large numbers of people are present. In terms of image quality for video surveillance in public spaces, it is likely that we will see legislation in place by 2020 that will ensure minimum image resolution standards. A minimum resolution of one megapixel would be appropriate in order to guarantee that the images can be used to prosecute offenders. Other growth industries include transportation, healthcare and education. Private users are also increasingly seen as customers.
The most important sales regions
Europe and the U.S. will remain the core markets for video systems. The markets are already saturated, however, the technological conversion from analog to digital systems by 2020 will continue to bring high turnover. India and China with their huge population base and high growth rates will be the key drivers in the Asian market. A high level of demand for digital video systems can also be expected in regions with strong broadband infrastructure growth. Fiber optics is a keyword here. I think research firm RNCOS' prediction of annual growth of 14 percent through 2017 is absolutely realistic.
It's impossible to say, however, it is clear that users will definitely benefit from the technical innovations and new options, be it higher image quality, mobile solutions or other analysis options. From a manufacturer's point-of-view, one thing is certain: Customer requirements are key. Surveillance solution providers must orient themselves toward customer requirements and not the other way around. Success in the market requires providers to face a number of challenges that need to be taken into account in the company's corporate strategy. They have to deliver technological solutions that can fulfill current and future requirements, making it necessary to continuously reinvent the company. This requires a balance between the synergies and uniqueness of the products. Manufacturers need a portfolio that has an attractive mix of "bestsellers" for the majority of applications and innovative "high-end" solutions that will gradually develop into bestsellers. At the same time, it is important to strike the right balance between price and product features. Corporate success requires technological developments as well as continuous growth, both in terms of market shares and an international presence. To this end, it is crucial to retain control over all of the key processes and new structures that come hand-in-hand with growth. This is the means to an end: The goal is to be competitive in the future.
About the author: Dr. Magnus Ekerot has been chief sales officer (CSO) of Mobotix AG since January 1, 2011. He previously served as general manager at Beijer Electronics AB in Sweden, a publicly listed manufacturer of HMI (Human Machine Interface) displays. In addition, Dr. Ekerot has years of experience in the network camera field, including five years as managing director at Axis Communications, where he was responsible for the German-speaking regions, the Netherlands and Eastern Europe.