Have you ever watched how an ant colony works together? Each ant can lift up to 5,000 times its body weight on its own, but when this strength is applied at scale against a common goal, the workforce is invincible. In many ways, Axis applied these same principles when creating the AXIS Camera Application Platform (ACAP) more than a decade ago, recognizing the benefits of harnessing the power and creativity of developers to create innovative solutions. The latest iteration of ACAP – version 4 – goes even further in lowering the threshold for the development of computer vision applications on the Axis platform.
We talked with Anders Johansson, Global Product Manager, Edge Applications at Axis about the origin and development of this pioneering project, and his hopes for its future.
ACAP is an open application platform that enables developers to create applications that can be downloaded to a range of Axis devices – from network cameras to video encoders. Today, ACAP allows anyone to develop and market a wide range of computer vision applications for Axis products to enhance the surveillance solution, deliver powerful analytics, extend functionality and improve business efficiency.
The technical assets needed to start developing ACAP applications, i.e. the ACAP Software Development Kits (SDKs), documentation, compilers, etc. are available in the Axis Developer Community which is open for any developer and free of charge. Companies with commercially available software applications are welcome to join
Where it began: Head spinning and coding in ‘camp ACAP’
But taking a step back from what ACAP has become, how did it start?
“We created ACAP in 2009 at a time when such an open approach to development simply didn’t exist in the security industry. It’s safe to say that Axis was a pioneer. When I look around now, I find more and more companies offer these kinds of platforms, which is an endorsement of the strategy,” says Anders.
Axis has always had a partner program. Fostering collaboration within its network has been an important part of the company’s philosophy from the beginning. That includes the supply chains as much as the solution development, distribution and sales.
“As a first step in creating ACAP we invited nine partners to our headquarters in Lund to discuss what would be necessary to allow partners to create apps that could run on Axis devices. It was a big investment – they stayed with us for an intense week of meetings, talking, coding and testing to find the right approach,” says Anders.
At the time, there was a lot of hype surrounding video analytics in the industry. An increasing number of vendors developed hardware devices that allowed video analysis, which were typically based on a closed eco-system and at a time when analytics tended to take place on the server-side rather than within the device itself.
The first iteration of ACAP was also very focused on video analytics, in keeping with the demands of the market, where developers were looking at the most effective ways to process video as efficient as possible. Rather than looking to create another closed eco-system, however, ACAP reflected the Axis philosophy of openness, where giving access to the broadest community of minds will generate the best results.
The growth of ACAP and the move beyond video analytics
Over the past 12 years the number of active developers using ACAP has increased by a factor of ten compared to that first week when ACAP was conceived. A number of factors have contributed to this growth, one of the main being the technological developments that have substantially increased the quality of network video cameras and other sensors.
Some seemingly small developments became the tipping point for significant application development, as Anders explains: “Enabling the I/O (input/output) ports and the use of audio to our developers was a game-changer, allowing new types of sensors to be used and its data to be processed by the application running in the device. ACAP became the bridge for developers to bring all of this data into the VMS and other systems. Combining data from a number of sources and sensors unlocked a whole new raft of applications.”
The principle of ACAP is that we’re giving as many smart and creative people the opportunity to develop applications that make the best use of our technology.
Axis partners who have seen the greatest benefits are those who can see the potential value of using data throughout the system, from the camera and sensors to the VMS.
“Cameras were able to detect whether something was a person or an object. In and of itself that’s useful, but the real value comes in working out how to apply that knowledge in specific situations,” adds Anders.
Openness is part of the Axis DNA, and this applies both technologically and with the philosophy of the program itself. The new version of ACAP adopts industry standard technology frameworks and open APIs that are familiar to developers around the world, significantly lowering the threshold for application development on Axis cameras.
The broadest possible potential for applications
Today, ACAP is supported in the majority of Axis products. The few situations where a product won’t support ACAP is if it’s not a product that primarily focuses on video surveillance or doesn’t have enough extra resources for hosting additional applications.
As Anders adds: “We’re hopefully humble enough to know that we don’t know all the answers or always have the best ideas! The principle of ACAP is that we’re giving as many smart and creative people the opportunity to develop applications that make the best use of our technology, bring greatest value to customers, and allow the partner to grow their own business.”
The future for ACAP
ACAP continues to grow and evolve. The accelerating evolution in technology opens up numerous opportunities for innovative application development, while the related growth in the sector as a whole attracts a growing number of new developers.
“We’re constantly focused on enhancing the support for our partners regarding both development and the ability to market their application to our broader system integrator and partner community. This also includes making the development tools accessible for everyone who wants to create innovative solutions for Axis products. It’s meant to support creativity and innovation,” adds Anders.
“With the latest version of ACAP, it’s even easier to move applications onto an Axis camera, almost at the push of a button. This is true regardless whether you’re currently a developer for a server environment or a cloud-native developer and want to move an application from one of these environments to the edge.”
Access tools to develop ACAP applications