Video surveillance is an industry that has seen exponential growth in hardware innovations through the years. From the development of the first network cameras in the late 90s to the explosion in high resolution and multi-sensor solutions in the 2010s, the capabilities delivered by today’s video surveillance technologies would not have been possible without the R&D poured into cameras, recorders and other devices by industry stalwarts and startups alike.
However, streamlined management of these systems would not have been possible without simultaneous advances in VMS platforms and other software solutions that help end-users derive actionable intelligence from sensor technologies. And as things like superior image quality become almost default standards in today’s cameras, it is software that is once again providing the differentiator for many organizations when it comes to things like video analytics and remote maintenance capabilities.
The new technologies on display during this year’s all-virtual CES show are a prime example of how software continues to reinvent video surveillance, taking what was once considered a “dumb camera” and turning it into an “intelligent sensor” through the development of new and ever-evolving platforms and applications. Here are a few the companies and technologies generating buzz at this year’s show.
Security and Safety Things (S&ST)
Launched less than two years ago, S&ST, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bosch, continues to show the industry what is possible with an app-based approach to surveillance. At this year’s show, the company was recognized as a CES 2021 Innovation Awards Honoree for its IoT platform and Application Store in the Software & Mobile Apps category.
In less than a year, S&ST went from releasing its developer documentation at CES 2020 to now having 86 applications for various use cases in its Application Store. According to Alexander Harlass, Team Lead Solution Consultant for S&ST, while the company was initially launched as a strong “engineering-focused” organization, they have now made the transformation to a business development, outside-focusing firm to deliver the benefits of their platform and the apps it houses to end-users and systems integrators around the globe.
“This is reflected by our growing team in different regions, especially in North America. We have, of course, had people join our marketing and business development teams, so this was the major transition since our launch to really focus on customer interaction and our partner support,” he says.
The S&ST platform is currently supported by 14 camera models from six different manufacturers, according to Harlass, who says that more will likely be announced in the coming months.
“What we can already foresee, of course, is that the camera portfolio is growing but it is not only limited to traditional security cameras,” he says. “Our partners have strong interest in creating different types of devices based on this open operating system we provide, specifically looking at boxes that can run video analytics apps and connect to normal IP cameras to basically provide a retrofit solution for customers that have a brownfield application or integrators that have a lot of brownfield customers with a bunch of devices.”
Having essentially launched the company just before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold across the world, Harlass says that while that has, of course, presented its own challenges for them as a company, it has also provided flexibility for those fortunate enough to have S&ST-supported cameras.
“We have customers using occupancy detection and occupancy control very heavily. They use smart cameras to measure and adjust the number of people in stores automatically without the need of a doorman,” he says. “Face mask detection is another (capability) that has been extremely relevant and requested to ensure the proper wearing of face masks and we have multiple face make detection (apps) from multiple developers and you can choose the right one for your needs.”
Inside the Bosch exhibitor portal during CES, S&ST demonstrated some of the applications developed by its partners to highlight what the company brings to the table in terms of video flexibility. According to Fabio Marti, Vice President of Marketing for S&ST, some of the vertical-specific apps on display are focused on intelligent traffic systems, retail analytics and various tools for stadium operations.
“A lot of our customers and also prospects that we talk to, they realize now that they have these great sensors already sitting in their facilities and locations – very powerful cameras – but so far they didn’t have the means to quickly adapt to evolving situations, such as the pandemic,” Marti says. This is one of the things people have woke up to during this pandemic that they have this great technology sitting on their perimeter, but it is pretty much defined what you can do with it and they are now starting to buy into this more software-defined solution that we’re offering.”
In a press conference held prior to the official opening of CES, Japanese startup Idein Inc. showcased its Actcast Platform as a Service solution, which enables businesses to turn their currently installed security cameras into AI-powered surveillance networks using a small, single-board computer known as a Raspberry Pi at the edge.
Operating on the premise that edge computing technology will be leveraged to connect everything to the internet, Kazuki Toyoda, the company’s head of business development and marketing, said they designed Actcast to overcome three of the biggest challenges posed by edge solutions: costly devices, fragmented operation, and difficulty in monetizing applications for developers.
“Actcast has been developed to overcome those challenges by providing these services through affordable devices with a user-friendly management system to monitor operations. And Actcast itself is the marketplace for AI developers to sell their applications like an Appstore,” Toyoda explains.
According to Toyoda, what really differentiates Idein is that they have proprietary technology capable of running the Raspberry Pi, which ranges from $5 to $50, at the fastest speeds in the world. “We succeeded in raising the limit of the processing ability of this device and… in accelerating deep learning inference on this device,” Toyoda adds.
The company is currently working with one of the largest convenience store chains in Japan, which is using Actcast in conjunction with existing surveillance cameras to gather a variety of data on customers.
One of the biggest current trends in the security industry centers on facial recognition, not only for how the technology has advanced to become an integral part of many surveillance and access control applications, but also for the myriad controversies surrounding it. Given some of the racial bias and privacy concerns raised by civil liberties advocates across the country in recent years, several large American cities have already taken action to ban law enforcement and other government agencies from using the technology and legislation has even been introduced in Congress that would prohibit its use on a federal level as well as strip funding for local and state law enforcement agencies that do.
Despite all the negative press, however; companies continue to make great strides in improving the accuracy of facial recognition and expanding its applications. At this year’s CES show, CyberLink, a Taiwan-based company that has been around for 25 years and whose technology originally evolved from video playback and photo/video editing on PCs, announced it has expanded its FaceMe solution to banking, financial services, and insurance use cases.
According to Richard Carriere, CyberLink’s SVP of Global Marketing, the new FaceMe eKYC (Electronic Know Your Customer) and Fintech offering was designed to help these institutions mitigate a variety of financial crimes.
“Those who are familiar with the financial services industry, whether it is to prevent fraud, money laundering or just make sure that customers are properly identified, know lots of measures have to be taken and one of them is make sure the person who applies for a loan, credit or opens an account is really who they say they are,” Carriere explains. “We developed tools from FaceMe to do just that, so basically what it can do is scan photo IDs, match with live capture of faces and it can do anti-spoofing, which means you cannot use a photo or video to pretend you are somebody else.”
With the challenges presented by the pandemic, Carriere says that the demand for facial recognition solutions like this in the financial services industry have become even more pronounced.
“There has been an acceleration of need for these types of technologies,” he adds. “In the case of fintech, every banking transaction or even applying for insurance very often happens online and helping you verify the identity of your customers doing that, these are things the FaceMe technology can enable, never mind triggering tons of contactless solutions throughout any industry.”
To see more of the video surveillance offerings on display at this year’s show, visit our CES show page here.
Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of SecurityInfoWatch.com and a veteran security journalist. You can reach him at email@example.com.