Is AWS Panorama a Game-Changer for Video Analytics?

Jan. 15, 2021
Although some already exist, Amazon may have given integrators a new avenue for custom development of deep learning and video analytics applications

Amazon clearly has its sights set on technological disruption of the security industry. While most security industry insiders think of the smart home market when it comes to that disruption (and a predominantly negative context), the technology giant is bringing positive disruptions as well.

Back in April 2020, I wrote a cover story in Security Business that reported on its potential positive disruption when Milestone became the first to offer VMS leveraging Amazon Web Services (The Flip Side of Amazon Now, AWS is again making potential positive waves in the security industry with AWS Panorama, which in the end, could generate a significant improvement to the security industry’s video analytics landscape.

What is it?

Despite its name, Panorama does not have anything to do specifically with panoramic cameras; instead, it is a technology for computer vision (CV) applications, including a machine learning appliance that enables adding analytics capabilities to any camera that does not have them – which of course includes analog cameras connected via IP encoders (such as those provided by Axis Communications).

One purpose for the AWS Panorama Device SDK (software development kit) is to enable device manufacturers to embed the technology in IP cameras, analog encoders and recording devices to help them increase the value of their products. Amazon has already announced Axis and Vivotek as two such partners. Another purpose of the SDK is to enable third-party developers to produce Panorama CV applications, with AWS providing the deployment infrastructure so that application developers only have to be concerned with the specific analytics use-cases they are addressing.

The Panorama technology is not itself an analytics product or application per se but is technology for a CV application deployment infrastructure that enables CV computing to be performed in camera devices, in on-site appliances close to cameras, and in the cloud – very similar to Bosch’s Security & Safety Things (S&ST).

AWS Panorama technology enables integrators to work with a developer to easily create customized deep learning and video analytic apps for video surveillance cameras, regardless of manufacturer. Security Business has covered S&ST in the past, which offers a very similar framework, but specific to the security industry. Both are open software development platforms – S&ST uses the Android open-source platform; AWS itself is an open platform. What makes Amazon different is AWS’ deep roots in artificial intelligence; however, it is conceivable that the two are now competitors.

Why It Should Matter to Integrators

Much like S&ST, Panorama technology enables integrators and end-users to deploy CV applications from multiple sources to optimally address specific use-cases. It positions integrators to increase the value they provide by offering applications that focus on niche use-cases and specific customer needs, and they are more affordable due to the lower costs of CV application development and distribution.

Unlike S&ST, the Panorama appliance contains specific processors that are designed for parallel data processing computing required by deep learning applications. Most existing video servers and recorders do not have that kind of processing function and capacity; thus, the dedicated appliance enables adopting high-value CV applications without having to upgrade existing system components.

Having a common CV application deployment infrastructure based on Panorama technology presents new opportunities for integrators, especially for medium-sized integrators who get to know their customers’ video surveillance challenges and business operation needs.

Finding or developing high-value CV applications for niche customers that address their particular use-cases is a massive value-add opportunity that tends to bring immediate recurring revenue. It is a model that has worked well for many IT integrators, which is probably why Accenture, Capgemini, Convergint, Deloitte, Stanley Security and other systems integrator partners are listed on the AWS Panorama partner page. 

“As a startup focused on developing edge software with expertise in physical security technology, we are most interested in the intersection that AWS Panorama creates between the ‘buy it’ world of video surveillance and the ‘build it’ world of AWS,” explains Steve Mueller, CTO of Hypersive, a software company that works with clients to accelerate their use of AWS technologies. Mueller helped Milestone Systems to make its XProtect VMS software available through the AWS Marketplace, enabling integrators to get their clients up and running with XProtect on AWS in a matter of minutes, vs. the much longer time frames of traditional on-site XProtect deployments. 

“Long-term, we believe Panorama puts more of the focus on ‘doing something’ beyond just alert and notify, while diminishing the long-held ‘checkbox engineering’ approach associated with video analytics,” Mueller adds.

That is definitely a significant positive change in the landscape of physical security industry technology, which overall has a history of being highly proprietary and not very open, and generally unable to offer much beyond standard analytics offerings – that often do not fully satisfy the needs or meet the value opportunities for business-sector specific high-value use-cases.

Panorama’s best security use is to build analytics capabilities for niche CV applications and high-value use-cases, which – except for the retail market – many security industry video analytics products do not address. Some Panorama CV applications are already available on the AWS Marketplace.

To be fair to security industry analytics incumbents, what AWS is doing with Panorama is only possible because of their breadth and depth of today’s cloud technology capabilities, and the recent arrival of computing hardware that is specifically designed to support deep learning data processing requirements. Enabling such CV application development is just part of the broad vision from AWS.

Niche CV Applications and Their Use-cases

To date, one of the most popular niche applications of security video analytics has been in retail operations. Many retail businesses apply just three analytics – people counting (including queue length), shopper traffic patterns (direction combined with people counting) and loitering (dwell time) – to address multiple use-cases, including shopper counting (by area, day and time of day); staffing level assessments based for customer service and checkout counter queue length and waiting time; staffing requirements for store are coverage; store display effectiveness (attracting shoppers, sales conversion rate); parking area usage.

This data can be used in real time to direct staff assistance and maximize customer service. It can be aggregated and correlated with other data to measure how promotional campaigns – as well as weather, local events and television specials – impact the level and nature of store traffic (with deep insight provided by targeted video review).

The type of analytic is one thing, its ability to address a specific use case is another. CV applications are about both, and sometimes combine multiple analytics to gain insights in specific use-cases.

Panorama provides an open deployment platform that analytics developers can target for niche CV applications and their special use-cases, making the CV applications available through the AWS marketplace. This is a significant reduction to the supply chain cost of analytic product distribution, giving CV application developers low-cost access to systems integrators via the AWS marketplace.

Deep Learning and Niche CV Applications

Deep learning is an advanced type of machine learning (ML) that uses neural networks, software that mimics the way that scientists think the human brain’s nerve cells work (which is why it is called a neural network). Deep learning software is trained by having it analyze huge amounts of data. Based on what is has learned, can then make very accurate conclusions about other data. The more data it analyzes the better it gets.

It is deep learning that makes it possible to have highly accurate niche analytics applications. An excellent example of a niche analytics application – although not an AWS Panorama application – is the cloud-based false alarm reduction platform from Calipsa, which removes over 90% of false and nuisance alarms (Read more on the product at This enables quicker response to true alarms. Another way to think about is “true alarm identification.” Monitoring center operators and local security monitoring personnel can focus all their time on responding immediately to true alarms, without wasting time on false alarms.

Calipsa is a good example of a high-value, narrowly-focused niche video analytics application. AWS understands the value of such niche applications and believes that providing a platform for them is a high-value proposition.

The Broader Context

It is important that integrators and other security industry technologists do not base their evaluation of AWS Panorama on legacy security industry thinking. There are three critical ways that today’s security technology differs from that of previous decades:

1. Today’s products and systems are highly programmable – their functionality is software-based, and that functionality evolves in place through software and firmware updates. That requires connectivity.

2. Today’s devices and systems handle volumes of data at scales unimaginable just a few years earlier. That will always be the situation due to exponential technology advancement.

3. Physical security products and systems are no longer standalone products and systems. Instead, they are part of infrastructure at two levels: computing/networking physical hardware infrastructure (site physical equipment), and business information systems infrastructure (including building management and business operations information systems). The business information infrastructure is the domain of an organization’s data governance function. This is something I have written about a lot about recently (see because it is the domain that identifies, protects and maximizes information value. We in the security industry have not been giving it the attention our clients and customers deserve.

AWS Panorama accounts for and takes maximum advantage of all three of these factors. In doing so it provides a boost for upgrading the full spectrum of existing video systems, because DVR, NVR and video server hardware does not need to be replaced to incorporate analytics and deep learning. Again, it is not just a single brand of analytics, but a capability for seamlessly running CV applications from multiple vendors in cameras, on-premise appliances, and in the cloud.

Ray Bernard, PSP CHS-III, is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services ( In 2018 IFSEC Global listed Mr. Bernard as No. 12 in the world’s Top 30 Security Thought Leaders. He is the author of the Elsevier book Security Technology Convergence Insights, whose Kindle and paperback editions are available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS.

About the Author

Ray Bernard, PSP, CHS-III

Ray Bernard, PSP CHS-III, is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (, a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities. He has been a frequent contributor to Security Business, SecurityInfoWatch and STE magazine for decades. He is the author of the Elsevier book Security Technology Convergence Insights, available on Amazon. Mr. Bernard is an active member of the ASIS member councils for Physical Security and IT Security, and is a member of the Subject Matter Expert Faculty of the Security Executive Council (

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Follow him on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS.