"Intelligent video analysis continues to be the hottest trend"

Simon Nash, Senior European Marketing Manager NVM/CCTV at Sony met up with Simon Nash, Senior European Marketing Manager NVM/CCTV at Sony, soon after the IFSEC-announcement from Axis, Bosch and Sony that they were about to create an alliance to standardise the network video product market. Simon Nash gave an insight into the thinking behind the creation of the alliance and about his expectations for the future. Detektor also asked for Simon Nash's view on the latest in intelligent video and where the future is to be found, in edge-based or centralised intelligence.

By Christian Schiller

What are your expectations of the newly created network video alliance between Sony, Axis and Bosch?

"Our expectation is the creation of the standardisation forum, which for our customers is going to mean a much better interoperability of network video monitoring products. Eventually our expectation is to create a standard which we and other manufactures can adopt."

The alliance has stated that it is welcoming other network video manufacturers as well, is there a risk that the alliance may be perceived as way for the biggest players to gain an advantage?

"No, rather the contrary actually. This alliance will mean that network video manufacturers will have to create more features to differentiate their products from other manufacturers if we are all using a standard interface, which is the plan."

The alliance is seeking to establish a technical platform, is there a risk that this could hinder technological development, if all development follows the same guideline?

"No, I think it's only going to go push it forward. From Sony's and the other founding member's perspective, this is the right way to go. This is the logical approach to get interoperability to network video products. We think that it is going to add to the progress, as more and more manufacturers come on board."

What would you say is the hottest trend in network video surveillance right now?

"From Sony's perspective, intelligent video analysis continues to be at the forefront. We see this as being the hottest trend when we speak to our customers. We also see this trend in other companies that traditionally haven't been associated with security using video analytics to deliver value to their customer."

Could you give an example of intelligent video put to use for purposes other than security?

"We see a really high growth in video analytics being used in the retail sector. What we are finding in retail for example, is that customers are using the metadata created by intelligent Sony cameras to generate footfall information. So in addition to adding a security application, they can also generate footfall-type information. In essence, we are adding two values within one installation, security and marketing-support."

How do you expect the network video market to look in five years from now?

"From Sony's side, we are expecting to be able to continue to grow on our increase in sales that we have been experiencing over the past few years. In terms of the market as a whole, we continue to see a migration towards IP-solutions. Our own estimation is that by around 2012, around 50 percent of the cameras sold will be IP-cameras. This also shows that there still is a heavy reliance on analogue cameras. That's why Sony is one of the leading manufacturers of analogue cameras, we're still committed to our analogue business, and it still accounts for a large portion of sales."

When will you drop the analogue cameras?

"We will drop analogue when there is no longer demand from our customers. We are continually looking at our product lines and we continually assess the performance with a line-by-line basis. Sales are good right now; there is no reason to discontinue any of our products."

Speaking of the alliance, do you think it's going to increase the speed of the migration from analogue to network cameras?

"Yes, when customers move to an IP-solution, one of the things they expect is interoperability. So when we are moving towards a system where customers can literally plug and play products from different manufacturers, we are certainly speeding things up."
Is the H.264 codec used with Sony cameras of today?
"Yes, since 2006, we've included H.264 codecs in all of our intelligent cameras. We work a lot with software vendor partners to deliver applications that work with this particular codec. As we move towards cameras using more and more megapixels, the H.264 codec of course becomes increasingly important."

The way I have understood H.264 is that it, with the picture quality intact, takes up half the bandwidth as compared to its technological predecessor, is that a correct interpretation?

"Without going in too deep on technological details, that is essentially the general assumption that people make. I believe that the assumption is quite accurate. Compression is becoming more and more efficient, that's saving bandwidth, and if it's saving bandwidth it is also generally saving storage needs. We'll continue with our development of H.264 cameras for the foreseeable future, we'll also integrate updates along the road as they become commercially available."

The effectiveness of video surveillance has recently been questioned in the media, especially in the role of crime detection. What's your opinion on that?

"I think it's easy to isolate one particular incident and say that in this one application CCTV maybe didn't work. I would look at the broader experience of people in the industry, I think without any doubt that CCTV has added a lot of value to crime detection and aid to prosecution. So there is no doubt in my mind that the overall trend and impact of CCTV on crime detection and prosecution is huge. I think that if you talk to most police forces across Europe, they would agree."

Is intelligence at the edge the future?

"A lot has been said in the debate between centralised and edge intelligence, but for me there is no doubt. Intelligence at the edge is the right way for a number of reasons. Firstly because it has the ability to limit the bandwidth and therefore also limit the storage needs, additionally our cameras are able to generate not only intelligent features at the edge, but also the metadata. Metadata is very small amounts of data that are sent back across the network to define movement within the picture, by doing this we're able to allow applications that work in the centre to call for the data on demand. The other way to do it would be to send all the video from all the cameras, all of the time."

Some people in the industry argue that intelligence at the edge is limiting in the sense that a camera of today, with its processing power, may not necessarily be able to handle what the future holds in terms of advanced intelligent features, in say 5 years. How do you look at this?

"It's very difficult to look five years ahead in time; it's also difficult to say what centralised intelligence will look like after that time. There are of course pros and cons, but in my mind there is no doubt that creating the metadata near the edge gives the customer choice. Our system doesn't mean that all cameras need to be intelligent; in a 32-camera installation perhaps only one camera needs intelligent functions. Customers don't want to be locked into big blocks of centralised intelligence with large PC's in order to be able to run it. We still believe that the generation of metadata near the edge gives the customer choice in terms of the way they design their system, as well as offering bandwidth advantages and therefore also saving on storage."

A few years ago there was a lot of scepticism about intelligence in security applications, what's the attitude today?

"Initially there was a lot of scepticism, people were nervous about the technology, which is only understandable. In my experience there is much more of an acceptance of intelligent analysis now by customers, simply because they really can see the value that it begins to add with applications like number plate recognition, facial recognition, heat mapping and footfall counting."

Looking at your alliance partners, Bosch and Axis, what differentiates Sony from them?

"Two things, one is our experience in the market. Sony has invested a lot of money over the many decades during which we have been a part of this industry. We have invested, not only in terms of manufacturing our own cameras, but also by manufacturing the components that are part of many security cameras installed today. Additionally we make our own branded products, using those components. Between 75-80 percent of cameras sold in Europe are sold using at least one Sony component. The second thing that differentiates us from Bosch and Axis is that we generate the metadata near the edge of the network."

In terms of geographical markets, which ones are increasing the most for Sony right now?

"We are seeing growth in all markets in line with industry trends. Some regions are showing significant growth such as Eastern Europe, and the Middle East."

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