The July issue of SSI includes a far-reaching roundtable on the subject of video surveillance innovation featuring experts from eight industry-leading manufacturers. My discussions with each participant was more indepth than the confines of print would allow so here is the first of a series of extended offerings. I encourage you to review each of them and compare and contrast how each subject views security video innovation, its ramifications, and innovation in general. First up: Steve Surfaro, Security Industry Liaison for Axis Communications in North America.
The word “innovation” gets used and abused a lot; what does it really mean to you?
Surfaro: Innovation means producing a product that provides a simple yet vital solution. Innovation should solve a problem or enhance the safety or security of lives and assets through technology and/or best practices.
Innovation does not necessarily equate with success. Is it important to be innovative or can it be just as advantageous to apply business smarts to someone else’s concepts?
Surfaro: Producing a product that is an integral part of a physical security solution is one example of both. HDTV-quality surveillance cameras, for instance, produce a high quality video stream and are dependent on a video management system’s user interface for a useful and attractive presentation of the real-time video stream or forensic video content. The best type of innovation involves technology partners working together.
How can a supplier avoid innovation giving way to commoditization? How can margins be maintained such that profits can help sustain further R&D?
Surfaro: When an innovative product or feature becomes commoditized and available across an entire product range, profits are multiplied and are therefore more available to reinvestment for those companies with the foresight to do so.
Where it comes to innovation, who plays a larger and more critical role the engineers or the end-user customers? How is that balance achieved?
Surfaro: In the case of a company like Axis Communications, the balance is actually spread throughout the ecosystem and each member has important input into product development and go-to-market strategy. The solution provider having an application that uses the video stream, the distributor that resells and provides training, the systems integrator that installs and provisions, and the end user that receives the total solution experience. This chain creates a reverse feedback stream to the manufacturer for R&D innovation. For example, the concept for the Corridor Format innovation — turning a 16:9 image on its side to a 9:16 aspect ratio to better cover hallways, store aisles and tunnels — originated when one of Axis’ field sales engineers was onsite optimizing a retailer’s cameras and he and the customer began talking about how it would be great to see further down the aisle and not waste so many pixels on the shelving. The FSE brought the idea back to the team, and a technology was born.
Which innovations hold the greatest upside and why?
Surfaro: One of the greatest aspects and innovations of IP video today is that it’s appropriate for all market segments and system sizes. Managed and hosted video services that combine simple provisioning with the ability to lower the cost of a surveillance system across multiple tenants in a commercial real estate application provide benefits for all members of the security ecosystem. The combination of high quality HDTV imaging, a versatile embedded analytics platform and robust camera processor capable of producing multiple video streams, running video analytics “apps” and recording on a single platform are great matches for the wide-ranging demands of industrial security use cases.
Can you identify three particular vertical markets that represent the greatest growth potential for innovative video surveillance solutions and why?
Surfaro: School safety and security, for both higher and K-12 education are demanding better video solutions for real-time investigations and crisis management. The use of video for the six disciplines of first responders — law enforcement, fire, EMS, HAZMAT, explosives and search & rescue — is growing with better station awareness, forensic tools and video mobility. As cloud computing’s growth impacts all industries, the increasing numbers of data centers supporting virtualization demands video surveillance for security and service personnel tracking. Lastly, as IP video cost continues to decline, image quality continues to improve and new recording solutions further lower the total cost of ownership, banking and finance is a market primed to make a major shift from analog to IP.
What are one or two other video surveillance innovations you see holding potential but are unsure whether it will be realized or not?
Surfaro: For cargo security applications, the use of automatic number plate recognition together with radio frequency identification has potential benefits to their industry. Also audio analytics combined with entry video has promise for protecting high risk facilities where there is potential for hostage situations.
What are one or two video surveillance innovations that failed to catch on and to what do you attribute their failings?
Surfaro: The use of recording surveillance video on set-top boxes for the home residential market has not reached an expected potential as network attached media storage is readily available today at a low cost.
What are one or two innovative technologies from other fields you see migrating into the security surveillance space and why?
Surfaro: The use of video surveillance in robotics, movable platforms and other tactical solutions are beginning to impact the security industry as both a force multiplier and for improving situation awareness for the aforementioned six disciplines of first responders — law enforcement, fire, EMS, HAZMAT, explosives and search & rescue.
How will the trend toward standards, open platforms and interoperability affect innovating video surveillance solutions?
Surfaro: Interoperability platforms like ONVIF will continue to diversify and “tighten up” the testing of a device/client’s ability to exchange data. The versatility of different profiles incorporating embedded recording in cameras and access control solutions will drive the deployment of more, multifunctional integrated security information management systems.