It is Already Here

It is Already Here

An App store for your video surveillance needs

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 vendors.

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 marketplace.

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.

FLEXIBLE, CUSTOMIZED 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.

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