Thermal Imaging Area Heats Up as Axis Unveils New Cameras

Axis Communications has shaken up the video surveillance industry by becoming the first provider of relatively inexpensive, fully networked thermal imaging cameras. Thermal imaging, which creates images based on the heat that radiates from any object, vehicle or person, has traditionally been dominated by military technology and came at higher cost (i.e. FLIR). Axis’ new Q1910 indoor model (SRP $2999) and Q1910-E outdoor version (SRP $3499) are intended to target a new group of security and surveillance users, including local and city governments, transportation, retail and education organizations.

The cameras support H.264 and Motion JPEG, audio, local storage and power over Ethernet (PoE), and also include tampering alarms and motion detection. The thermal cameras are able to see through complete darkness and deliver images that allow operators to detect and act on suspicious activity. They can also allow operators to see in difficult weather conditions (i.e. haze, dust and smoke) better than conventional cameras.

Axis’ new thermal imaging cameras are expected to hasten the technology’s market penetration.

Axis General Manager (and longtime IP technology crusader) Fredrik Nilsson always makes a compelling case and the presentation he shared with me on these new cameras and their technology was no exception. The cameras’ capabilities, lower price point and Axis’ strong brand reputation add up to a powerful opportunity for not only the manufacturer but also its reseller partners. The applications and possibilities seem practically endless. Following are a few of the questions and answers from my discussion with Nilsson.

What made Axis decide to offer thermal technology cameras?

Fredrik Nilsson: One of the reasons we have the opportunity today to make cost-efficient thermal products is because many consumer industries have started to use those kinds of sensors, and by using those sensors they drive up volume which in turn drives down the prices of the sensors. If you look at some of the luxury cars made today they have thermal cameras included in the cars to help the drivers see if there is an animal or person on the side of the road in the middle of the night.

What type of competition do you see out there?

Nilsson: There is no real company that is focusing on the security market in thermal imaging today. You mostly see it in government. The main reason is because the price point has been so high until now.

Will these cameras work well with advanced functions such as video analytics?

Nilsson: Thermal imaging works very well with video analytics. I think finally with thermal cameras, we will have the kind of accuracy we need in this area. Also key here is the cameras are open for other providers to write algorithms to, which is really aimed at the analytics companies. There are a lot of specialized applications and technologies that we are not the pros on and so we let them write the applications to run on the cameras.

Does the size of the thermal video itself differ from standard surveillance?

Nilsson: The way you measure the sensitivity of a thermal camera though is in terms of its range. They are more sensitive on longer range because they are detecting differences in temperature, but the sizes of the image are actually smaller because they do not need the detail of standard cameras.

What will the cameras pick up, animals as well as humans? Can you adjust the sensitivity?

Nilsson: Anything that has a different heat or temperature. Even quite small differences will be detected. You cannot adjust the sensitivity as that is determined by the sensor, but you can change the color scheme to make it appear on screen in the way that makes it easiest for the operator to detect and read.

Fredrik Nilsson is general manager of Axis Communications

How does Axis’ thermal imaging technology differ from that of Bosch’s Extreme CCTV?

Nilsson: For the most part, the technology Extreme uses is near-infrared, which basically still uses some level of light to bounce off the subjects. It is not as sensitive or able to detect to the extent that true thermal imaging can. I think the only company doing anything similar to this would be FLIR, and they are focused a lot on other markets like government, automotive and marine.

Does Axis’ thermal technology differ appreciably from what FLIR offers or is it pretty much apples to apples, just less expensive?

About the Author

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Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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