SecurityWorldMarket

07/01/2008

"Let's face it, analogue is a sunset industry"

Kim Macallan, Head of Product Management, Milestone Systems

Network video surveillance has become heavily established within the security industry and has been identified as one of the most fast growing sub-markets within the security technology field. For some pioneers of IP-video surveillance the growth has been dramatic over the last five years. One such company is the Danish developer of IP video surveillance management software, Milestone Systems. Detektor met up with Kim Macallan, Head of Product Management, in order to gain insight into what is going on within the world market leader for IP-video surveillance software.

Established in 1998, Milestone Systems was one of the pioneers of the IP video surveillance era. At that time the CCTV sector was totally dominated by analogue technology. Time lapse video recorders were still the tool to store images from security surveillance systems.

Milestone developed IP video software that could connect to the only network cameras available, from Axis, today's world leading supplier of encoders and network video cameras. The Axis camera then had no recording function itself, but Milestone's software did. So Axis was actually the first hardware partner for Milestone Systems. Today the market is very different - which makes the first question to Kim Macallan easy.

Give your view on the security technology industry today?

- The security market is still in the swing of a convergence from analogue to digital solutions and we can see that the IT-dominated disciplines slowly but steadily are going into the area of physical security. This means things like central management, openness, flexibility and scalability are becoming more and more prevailing parameters when choosing a security solution.

Lately, an increasing number of IT companies have entered the IP video surveillance market. Do you fear that software giants like Cisco or IBM will spot the opportunity and compete with your XProtect software?

- I don't fear competition. I welcome it. It's a fast-growing market with plenty of room for all good players, and the more professionals to teach the market about IP video surveillance and its advantages, the better. I know that both Cisco and IBM have switched their focus and are becoming active players in the physical security industry - we have also collaborated with them. Some of our best partners are Cisco Partners, too: they understand the network approach, have been installing Voice over IP, and have fast learning curves when it comes to IP video. IBM provides excellent storage offerings and IT services that also present a natural synergy for IP video needs.

What is the hottest trend in IP-video surveillance now?

- We're starting to see a very interesting usage of IP video and intelligent video for measuring how people interact in the retail business, for example. We can see when a customer enters a supermarket, pays attention to something that is advertised, and whether the person examines the product that is promoted and how long. In this way you can obtain much greater feedback on customer behaviour and the effects of campaigns.

Other examples are the combinations of video-captured identifiers like license plates or faces and access control systems.

Are there customers that already are running intelligent video applications with your XProtect software?

- Yes, but most of the installations that represent the forefront in this area are in the military, who forbid any disclosure whatsoever on their activities. In the commercial sectors we have a number of pilot installations going on, about which more information will be available fairly soon. In our first such series of offerings, we are focusing on license plate recognition, facial recognition. In another project we are working with classic analytics features such as tripwire detection.

What, in your opinion, are the main benefits of intelligent video?

- Video analytics provide both a way to reduce the monitoring operator manpower by adding analytics to the video input and a way to apply rules, especially object behaviour like a person going in the wrong direction or climbing a fence surrounding a forbidden area.

What is Milestone's focus in the IV field?

- For now Milestone is dividing video analytics into two areas: pattern recognition and object behaviour.

Describe pattern recognition and your approach to it.

- The pattern recognition analytics find known patterns like characters and digits in the video and convert them into digital format for further processing. This allows the XProtect system to perform license plate recognition (LPR) and interface with third-party systems like gates via Input/Output ports. The gate can be opened and closed if the license plate is registered in the XProtect system - if not, the car cannot enter or leave the parking area. The same goes for facial recognition where access to a building can be controlled by your face being in the database - or not. However, with systems not able to provide a hit rate of 100%, it is recommended to combine pattern recognition analytics with other identity detection systems to prevent fraud. A paper copy of a license plate glued to a non-registered license plate should not be the only identifier to achieve access to a restricted area.

And what about object behaviour?

- Object behaviour is targeted at many different situations. The most common one is a tripwire detecting if an object such as a person or vehicle crosses the virtual line set up in the video para-meters. More advanced scenarios like abandoned objects can be detected if a person leaves a suitcase in the airport or a truck dumps a load somewhere restricted.

In what applications can we expect Intelligent Video
Analytics to be implemented?


- The applications for analytics are almost endless, but still there are physical limitations like video quality, light conditions, speed of the object and so on that set constraints to the accuracy of the system.

Will the decentralised approach (intelligence in camera) or server-based intelligent analytics dominate the market?

- I think there will be some kind of balance. If you run analytics on a server it can serve rather few video streams - four to six - so of course you can decentralise it but there is a drawback. Most of the environments where cameras are deployed are simply not suitable for processing the data. Not only that, but they can also be destroyed or fail, as all hardware does at some point. If you do the analytics in your server room with backup power and heat control, it's essentially a more secure environment.

At the same time, we don't want to put too much load on the servers: the more tasks loaded on the server, the fewer the tasks that can be served, so we think a decentralised approach is better in that regard. There are both pros and cons.

If you look at the software perspective, the more intelligence you put in cameras, the more often they need to be updated. The server room is a more maintenance-friendly environment, and also better security-wise. So the best compromise is somewhere in between initial analytics in the cameras like identifying objects, complemented with rules processing in the server room.

In retail for example, wouldn't they want a fixed solution?

- In some cases yes, and that's also why we have partnered with JVC on their NVR that's an out-of-the-box integrated network video offering.

In the retail sector, we have teamed up with Checkpoint, an international company with a dedicated focus on retail customers. They are offering Milestone technology in their branded solutions called CheckView. This is moving very well because they are supplying a full solution integrating video and POS transaction software. McDonalds locations in Denmark are already installed, over 100 supermarkets, and several clothing chains.

There are a number of players in the security market that claim their share of the market for IP video surveillance software platforms. How many platforms will remain in the market?

- I believe it's similar to the computer industry, probably a handful like Windows, UNIX, Linux and some more. These are the global players and as with Linux there will be a number of local players in each region, as well.

What about integrated solutions using your platform. How common is it for customers to combine CCTV surveillance with other functionalities?

- The combined functionalities include access control but are mostly being used by vertical customers, like retail. In IKEA they improved their customer satisfaction and reduced shrinkage. They have combined transactions from Point of Sale (POS) with recorded video. As an example, time-linked video and POS transactions are used to catch dishonest staff in charge of receiving returns. In several cases an amount is entered in the cash register as returned goods and money taken from the cash register. The video of the transaction, however, shows a completely empty shop, so instead of ending in the hands of a customer, the money disappears right into the pockets of the employee. A quick search for returned goods reveals each transaction and the real customer experience - that's a fast return on investment for retailers.
Other retailers are combining People-counting systems with video surveillance for better control of customer flow and improving staffing or merchandise displays in the stores. All are ways to affect the bottom line positively - we call this video-enabling your business. It's much more than just security.

What is the main factor delaying the transition to IP-based security?

- I think that factions of the CCTV world have been very conservative, clinging to what they know and have a vested interest in. But that's just part of the explanation. For certain applications, analogue solutions still serve a purpose. IP video cameras are still not competitive with analogue cameras when the light conditions become poor - especially not at night. Price-wise, low-end DVR systems with 4 analogue cameras for very basic surveillance at small sites are still cheaper than an IT-based system with IP cameras, computer hardware, and network infrastructure.

And finally the installed base of CCTV has to write off their investment in analogue equipment before they can start to look at a future with IP video surveillance. Migration or transition solutions abound and many customers who have analogue cameras are now running them through video encoders to avail themselves of the IP approach, buying only network cameras for new hardware purchases. Megapixel cameras in particular are driving IP installations - people are really excited about their power, clarity and scope.

So the digital take-over is just around the corner?

- Let's face it, analogue is a sunset industry. Today you wouldn't buy a VHS machine and videotapes for watching movies: you buy a DVD or maybe a Blue-ray player. Likewise when buying a personal camera today - you want a digital one. The same trend is happening in surveillance. Everyone understands those benefits now.

The overall reason that IP security solutions still make up less than 20% of all installations being deployed today is the fact that the traditional analogue and one-vender solution paradigm has been so strongly rooted in the industry supply chain.


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