Security and Safety Things App Store Sneak Preview at CES

Feb. 12, 2020
Get an exclusive look in advance of the ISC West launch in this exclusive Q&A with Alexander Harlass, the group's head of developer relations
This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention @SecBusinessMag!

Tucked away in the corner of the Bosch booth at CES 2020, you could surprisingly find a name familiar to the security industry’s recent past, the Bosch-fueled startup called Security and Safety Things, which was at the show to promote and demonstrate its new application developer interface, as well as the upcoming launch of its app store.

Set for launch at ISC West in March, in a nutshell, the Security and Safety Things app store will enable integrators to add specialized features to the edge of a surveillance camera or network – for example, a retail analytics app for cameras overlooking a cash register at grocery store. In fact, the group announced at CES that it has launched a few pilot use-cases of applications in the field, including a pilot project in a large parking garage with a license plate recognition app deployed on surveillance cameras to identify and grant access to vehicles seeking to park. Another use case involves a German luxury retail store where several applications integrated into security cameras enabled store management to monitor customer traffic patterns, analyze merchandise placement and positioning, and track the number of people who enter the store per hour.

In all the Security and Safety Things IoT ecosystem consists of an open, Android-based operating system that serves as the common basis for all components from manufacturers; a portal for developers with tools for development and testing; a community section for help and inspiration; an app store with ready-to-use apps that can be flexibly combined; and a portal for integrators that allows the management of cameras and applications and provides knowledge about innovative solutions available within the ecosystem.

At CES, I met with Alexander Harlass, the head of developer relations with Security and Safety Things, who gave me an exclusive look at a mock-up illustrating the look and feel of the app store coming in March, as well as the chance to ask some questions:    

What is the progress with the app store?

Harlass: First of all, we have announced at CES that we have opened it up for application developers. We already have a good set of 25 communication development partners already working on more than 60 applications, and we want to increase that number and open it up to the whole industry. That means that now, every developer here in the U.S., and in Europe can sign up and start reading the documentation, getting access to the APIs – all the technical details you need to get started and write an application. We are also preparing for our commercial launch, and we have a sneak preview of the store here (at CES) to get a feel for how it will look. We will fully open up and go live at ISC West right here in Las Vegas in March with more partners – some you might now, but also some new partners as well.

How long does it typically take to develop an app for this for this system?

It really depends – some developers already do device analytics or cameras analytics for computer vision, so that won’t take long because they already have deep learning models and algorithms that work, and they can easily be transported over. If, for example, you have a highly sophisticated facial recognition that is running only on the cloud it might take you twice the time. One of our partners already has 21 applications, and they basically ported them over in just a couple of weeks, which was impressive.

Remind us exactly how the app store works, and how things can be uploaded to a camera.

As a system integrator, you would buy a camera from the portfolio of any of your preferred manufacturers that supports Security and Safety Things. Then, you browse through the app store like you would on your smartphone, and you choose the right application, capabilities or features that you would want to add on the camera. You can add just one or several to a specific camera, and you can either buy it right away, or if the developer opts in, try it out for 30 days. We think that is a really big benefit, so a systems integrator and customer can really make sure the app is working under several scenarios.

Say you had a 1,500-camera deployment – how do you get the app onto all of those cameras?

There are several ways to do that, but I have to pull back sometimes from the phone analogy. It is similar to a phone app store, but not in this case. Here we have a batch update, where you can install the application on specific cameras or a group of cameras that have been grouped by customer site or by type of camera.

When you launch at ISC West, how many apps do you think will be available?

What I can tell you now is we have 60 apps in the making, and we will definitely increase that number. It is not all about quantity, it is about quality. With that in mind, we do checks of these companies, including legal requirements and antivirus checks and other quality measures in place. We know this will grow over time – but yes, you need to have the right set of apps for customers in the beginning, so we are focused initially on retail, transportation and commercial buildings and then extending them even more from there. We are also part of the Open Security and Safety Alliance, where there's a bunch of camera manufacturers, video management system providers, and SOC providers like Ambarella and Qualcomm who help us define the standards of what we build. We have regular discussions with them and feedback rounds to build the right product for all of these stakeholders.

Look for more from Security and Safety Things in mid-March as part of our ISC West coverage –  

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine ( Email him your comments or topic suggestions at [email protected].