Innovation can be a leap of imagination to make a technological breakthrough, or it can take the lessons learned from one area and apply them somewhere different. It can also be a fresh perspective to enhance the outcome for a particular customer, or society as a whole. In this article, we reflect on how Axis creates and sustains a culture of innovation. Perhaps most importantly, we also look at what it is that drives us to stay innovative.
While innovation can have its own appeal, at Axis, innovation doesn’t happen for its own sake. Innovation at Axis needs a practical and beneficial outcome, driven by the desire to create a smarter and safer world. In short, innovation is intended to provide a meaningful difference to people’s lives.
Axis technology solutions help deliver better outcomes for society and the environment, but to get there relies on close working with partners and customers to resolve their challenges and help drive their success.
How Axis creates and sustains a culture of innovation
“Innovation is in the Axis DNA,” says Kent Fransson, Global Product Manager, Axis Communications. “As part of this, we encourage the curiosity within us, both as people living in the world, and as engineers. This curiosity is crucial to understand what is happening in technology development, how it relates to the surveillance sector, and how it might resolve the issues we face, currently and in the future.”
To ensure the freedom to investigate and develop ideas, Axis has an ethos of openness to new approaches.
“We’re allowed to experiment in product development,” explains Kent. “Making mistakes is understood as an essential part of the path to innovation. This empowers us to take chances and be imaginative.”
The initiative to provide ideas that could lead to innovation spans all departments at Axis, from business development through to engineering teams.
“It’s important that people feel listened to, but also that we reflect on what they are saying to capture valuable new ideas, and not lose potential innovations. It’s something you need to continuously practise,” emphasizes Kent.
Though ideas sharing is encouraged company wide, Axis also has a team dedicated to innovation for customer solutions. The Product Concepts & New Ideas team is writing the story of potential products and services of the future through prototypes and demonstrators as a starting point for something new.
Thomas Ekdahl, Engineering Manager, PCNI team, explains: “Ideas in innovation need to resolve challenges facing the ‘now’, but we also need a long-term view on what could happen next, targeting three to five years ahead. This is what the PCNI team focuses on.”
To generate product concepts and new ideas, the team encourages open, informal discussion based on the team members’ own insights, and information that has been captured in customer and end user meetings. To further enable the broad approach, team members belong to a variety of disciplines, not just technology engineering – combined with formal approaches.
“We use trend studies with a focus on technology, that look at the possible outcomes to try and decode the future,” says Thomas. “To bring ideas forward, the PCNI strategy is to create a strong idea as a team before starting a company-wide discussion on the innovation and development journey.”
The role of partnership in innovation
An integral part of that journey is the relationship with the global network of partners and customers. Partners, delivering solutions to customers, have the closest awareness of actual pain points, and this information drives research and development to resolve customer challenges.
Insights are often gleaned through conversations from the front line, and this is combined with structured partner feedback. Regular surveys with partners and customers formalize the approach to enable innovation and development.
One example is the AXIS P3715-PLVE Network Camera. It was developed due to requests from many of our customers. They saw a need for a smaller multidirectional camera that could overlook two directions at the same time, perfect for school corridors. So, we used the functionality of our popular multidirectional cameras, and developed a smaller version with two sensors instead of four and placed them in a peanut-shaped casing. This was a totally new and unique mechanical design from us, solving the needs of many of our customers.
Open application platform for developers
Harnessing the power and creativity of partners was a driver behind the creation of AXIS Camera Application Platform, ACAP, the open application platform that enables developers to create functionality that can be deployed across a range of Axis devices.
“We know that we don’t know all the answers or always have the best ideas. On this basis, the principle of ACAP is to give as many smart and creative people as possible the opportunity to develop applications that make the best use of our technology, bring the greatest value to customers, and allow the partner to grow their own business,” says Anders Johansson, Global Product Manager, Edge Applications at Axis.
Drivers for innovation in video surveillance
Key factors that drive innovation at Axis in product and solution development include the following examples.
Improving ease of use
Improving ease of use is a fundamental customer expectation that continues to grow in importance, not least through the demand to drive enhancements in operational and surveillance performance. The development of orientation aid is a good example.
“In an incident involving the emergency services, it can be a matter of life and death to quickly and accurately direct personnel on the ground. Inspired by the functionality common in computer games, our engineers developed orientation aid, providing a compass and the capability for operators to add names of streets or buildings to the scene to help guide emergency workers,” says Kent.
As a result, orientation aid is included in various Axis PTZ cameras, providing a camera operator with rapid directional orientation and active object tracking.
Trust as an innovation driver
Irrespective of the surveillance technology, to be effective, it has to be trusted. For video surveillance, it’s essential in a court of law to verify an authentic view of the scene. As a result, Signed Video confirms an accurate, tamper-proof representation of events from the point of capture.
Alongside the need for security, the requirement to maintain public trust in protecting privacy has led to the innovation of the face blur feature within AXIS Live Privacy Shield technology. This development enables rapid incident reaction and evidence gathering, without infringing the privacy of passers-by. To protect privacy, as well as preventing video surveillance data from theft and corruption, continual innovation in cybersecurity, based on a robust model developed over time, is also critical.
The key role of sustainability in innovation
Underpinning all these developments, the increasing consumer demand for sustainability, combined with our vision of helping create a smarter and safer world, are crucial drivers. Our approach to sustainability covers product design through to product end of life. This includes maximizing reuse and recycling, as well as continual investigation into prolonging the life of installed products. There are also initiatives that improve energy efficiency, both in our business operations and within product design, such as the power save mode available in some cameras that can also help customers minimize energy use.
Sustainable innovation has led to developments in green design, including optimizing the use of bio-based plastics, combined with a circular approach. The sustainability imperative has also made a positive impact on operational innovation, such as ensuring a sustainable supply chain, from product design and material choices, through to reducing packaging and optimizing transport efficiency.
The continual need for innovation
The world and its challenges, including those impacting the surveillance technology sector, never stand still, so there’s always the need to continually innovate. To achieve this depends on a fundamental approach that is fostered, developed, and continually worked on, companywide.
This way, our culture of innovation empowers us to identify the challenges our partners and customers face, now and in future, and create solutions together.