It is Already Here
An App store for your video surveillance needs
- By Aaron Saks
- Jun 01, 2021
Today’s video surveillance systems can do so much
more than capture footage of a given location.
With new AI-based analytics, cameras can identify
license plates, help manage occupancy and provide
operational and retail intelligence. It might be more
accurate to characterize this next generation of cameras as smart
IoT sensors that collect and analyze data.
Unfortunately, leveraging these powerful data collecting capabilities
often requires end users to make difficult choices between
camera features, sensor and lens quality, and the analytics capabilities
available from different manufacturers. Additionally, users
can become vendor-locked if the data collection and sharing carried
out by their purpose-driven cameras are done via a proprietary
solution. But there is another option. And, it has plenty in
common with your smartphone.
USING APPS TO CUSTOMIZE SMARTPHONES
Whether you have an Android or iPhone, you have spent time
customizing features that meet your specific needs. While we all
have the same basic technology, it is safe to say that our phones
perform different functions. Yours could edit film, someone else’s
could organize events and another’s could monitor camera feeds.
This ability to customize the functionality of our phones is
dependent on the fact that developers can create apps for a common,
open platform. Developing for this platform gives them access
to a wide range of potential users and ensures that their apps
will work on the greatest number of smartphones.
App developers are able to market their work through a handful
of common places, specifically app stores that allow you to
search, download and purchase apps that suit your individual
needs. They also ensure that apps can work together within the
larger software ecosystem and provide users with a way to report
and share performance issues with the community.
THE MOVE TO STANDARDIZATION
IN THE SECURITY INDUSTRY
Creating an open platform between manufacturing partners was
a multi-phased project that required collaboration between several
important groups. After a year of discussions with more than
50 companies active in video surveillance, access control, intrusion
and building automation, five founding companies (Bosch,
Hanwha Techwin, Milestone Systems, Pelco and VIVOTEK)
established the Open Security & Safety Alliance (OSSA). The
OSSA emerged from and complements the open standards previously
established by the Open Network Video Interface Forum
(ONVIF). The OSSA is focused on addressing challenges in the
physical security market connected to data security and privacy,
especially as they relate to video surveillance.
With a focus on solving interoperability challenges posed by
proprietary systems, the OSSA framework provides standards
and specifications for many common security system components,
including operating systems and IoT infrastructures. It
also outlines a collective approach to data security and privacy
that simplifies and standardizes the aggregation and practical use
of data within security systems. Significantly, it is this framework
that has been used to build an open development platform, and
an App Store, for security cameras.
CREATING AN OPEN ECOSYSTEM
FOR VIDEO SURVEILLANCE
The App Store itself was developed by Security & Safety Things
(S&ST), an independent BOSCH startup that was founded in
2018. Partnering with security industry leaders as an OSSA member,
the company has been working for the past three years to
improve the pace of innovation and create new business opportunities
in the security industry. S&ST is doing this by developing
an open ecosystem for security cameras and their applications.
The result is a secure camera OS and App Store that allow users
to deploy multiple apps across multiple cameras from multiple
Creating an open and secure camera OS was a key step in the
development of the first standardized ecosystem for video surveillance.
S&ST provides camera manufacturers with free access
to its OS to allow them to design hardware that is compatible
with the innovative software applications available in the App
Store. As a result, camera manufacturers are better able to focus
on their core business, designing security cameras with exceptional
performance and image quality, while leveling the playing field
for edge-based analytics.
To ensure efficient software development and publication,
S&ST has also created a software development environment that
includes documentation and tools. Through standardization,
S&ST has made it possible for developers to tailor their solutions
to specific business cases and then sell their solutions to a global
AN APP STORE FOR SECURITY CAMERAS
Users can now download, try, and purchase apps that suit their
specific requirements and business cases, essentially transforming
their surveillance cameras into flexible and customizable multi- purpose devices. This makes it possible for
any OSSA affiliated vendor to offer other
functionalities into their cameras, including
fall detection, license plate recognition,
mask detection, COVID-19 compliance
and much more as the need arises.
Consider an organization that wants its
security system to identify shipping containers
at its loading dock. While a camera
manufacturer might not have the inclination
or resources to develop a purpose-driven
camera or analytic for such a specific
business case, a software developer might
see this as a great opportunity to develop or
repurpose an app to meet this existing need.
For the camera manufacturer, developing
an AI-based solution for a single use
case might not represent a good ROI since
the likelihood of selling a large number of
cameras with this specific feature to other
potential end users would be very low. The
complexity of managing, marketing and selling
specific SKUs based on highly customized
analytics could quickly become unsustainable.
For this and many other reasons,
manufacturers are understandably creating
solutions that have broadest market appeal.
An app developer may have produced
analytics for a specific use case. By putting
it in a common marketplace, namely the
App Store, any other organization interested
in this functionality can easily purchase
it. This not only encourages innovation, but
also increases ROI for developers.
By using an App Store model, end users
and systems integrators are able to build
the solution best suited to their requirements
with the cameras of their choice.
They simply need to purchase cameras and
lenses with the right features—HD/4K,
WDR, low-light and multi-sensors.—from
manufacturers and then outfit them with
apps that provide the right analytics.
DEPLOYMENT WITH AN
EASY APP STORE EXPERIENCE
For end users, S&ST has made the set-up
process for leveraging the increased functionality
available through the App Store
very straightforward. First, they have to
purchase S&ST-compatible cameras from
a growing list of manufacturers that have
developed their hardware to ensure compatibility.
Next, working with a Device
Management Tool, they can discover these
cameras and connect them to their network.
Then, once their cameras are registered,
end users can begin browsing the App Store
by app name, developer or use case. After
finding what they want, they can purchase
the apps or request trial licenses and then
simply install them on their chosen devices.
All of the app and camera management is
easily performed via a cloud management
portal without the need for complex router
configurations. Offline management is also
possible for systems that are not connected
to the internet.
For end users, this modular approach
to video surveillance allows them to deploy
tailored solutions to meet their security
or business intelligence needs. It
also means that they are not locked in to
proprietary solutions because the apps are
hardware-agnostic. And, because end users
can add new apps over time, they are
able to reduce costs by
extending the lifecycle
of their cameras.
This article originally appeared in the May June 2021 issue of Security Today.