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Creating complete solutions at the edge

Camera in a city square

The paradigm of video surveillance solutions being predominantly server-based has been challenged over recent years. Central to this has been the increased processing capabilities of surveillance cameras themselves, which have effectively become powerful network computing devices with high quality lenses as their primary sensor.

Our system-on-a-chip, ARTPEC, is the foundation. Now in its 8th iteration, ARTPEC has been developed over years to be optimized for the demands of video surveillance, now including deep learning capabilities and cybersecurity embedded at the silicon level.

These advances have brought the opportunity to create complete video surveillance solutions at the edge of the network – capturing, analysing, and storing data at the point of capture. Here we explore some of the benefits delivered by edge solutions.

Benefits in a nutshell: Efficiency and Effectiveness

The principal benefits of edge solutions fall into two categories. There are those that relate to the practicalities of installing and operating video surveillance solutions, and those that relate to the functionality of the solution themselves. Together, these improve both efficiency and effectiveness.

Looking at the practical benefits

At the enter of any edge solutions is, of course, the camera. While modern surveillance cameras are extremely powerful network computing devices, they only need a single Power over Ethernet (PoE) connection to operate. This immediately brings significant reductions in the labor needed for installation and infrastructure, along with the associated costs.

In isolation, edge solutions have no need for a server. Again, this comes as a result of their own processing power and the significant edge storage capabilities provided by specifically designed, high-endurance SD cards. Infrastructure, operational, and maintenance costs are an obvious benefit.

This simplicity and “self-contained” nature allow advanced edge solutions to be placed in locations where it has previously been more difficult and logistically challenging. This includes remote locations lacking infrastructure - for example a remote renewable energy plant – or where placing a server has been impossible from a space or climate control perspective.

Ultimately, many edge solutions do form part of a hybrid solution, employing the benefits brought by edge, cloud, and on-premise server environments. Given the processing, analytics, and storage that is taking place within the camera itself, however, the requirement to transfer data from the camera over the network is also vastly reduced, reducing bandwidth and server storage demands.

Benefits in security and safety

While the practical benefits are compelling, the value in any surveillance solution comes through its ability to meet the specific use case in improving safety and security across all industry sectors and environments.

Edge solutions play a central role in allowing security teams to be more proactive. Increasingly intelligent analytics in the camera itself, close to the data source, and employing deep learning and advance object recognition and tracking, allows for accurate alerts and actions triggered automatically by the edge solution.

This inherently makes security operations more effective and efficient – drawing attention of security personnel to what really matters, and allowing organizations to do more with smaller security teams.

Edge solutions can be employed in any sector, but it’s useful to highlight a few compelling use cases.

Oil & Gas safety and security

The Oil & Gas sector is one ideally suited to edge solutions. Often in remote locations, they nonetheless have an obvious need to employ video surveillance to support both security of the plant, and the health & safety of the personnel working on site.

From a security perspective, edge solutions can provide an automated first defense against intrusion. When detecting an individual entering a restricted area or loitering (and being able to recognize the difference between a human and an animal, for instance) the solution can automatically trigger an audio warning played through horn speaker to let the individual know they have been seen, and to leave the area. At the same time, security teams can be alerted via message through a connected app, viewing the live video stream and taking appropriate action.

Similar actions can be triggered in relation to health & safety-related issues, such as cameras detecting workers not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), or if video analytics detect slip and fall incidents.

In addition, analytics and additional sensors integrated into edge solutions – for example smoke detection, or sensors monitoring temperature or vibration in critical machinery – can automatically alert security and maintenance personal, allowing remedial action ahead of catastrophic failure.

Effective and efficient solutions for retailers

Edge solutions can bring advanced video solutions capabilities to multi-store retail chains, without the need for large-scale investment in IT infrastructure. The analytics within the solution brings benefits in both customer experience and security, reducing the reaction time between scene detection in the surveillance camera and action taken on the shop floor.

Analytics can monitor the movement of customers through a store, identifying areas where shoppers pause or gather, and automatically playing promotional messages or appropriate background music through the store’s audio system. Queue monitoring analytics at the point of sale can alert staff to the need to open more tills and avoid lost sales and customer dissatisfaction.

From a loss prevention perspective, cameras can alert security staff to suspicious behavior such as loitering next to high value items, or to people entering the store the wrong way, often a sign of potential theft.

Automation in the parking lot

Edge solutions are now capturing and interpreting both video data, and the associated metadata (data about the video data).

An example of where this becomes valuable is in the parking lot, where edge solutions can act as highly effective and automated parking wardens. License plate recognition analytics can check arrivals against a list of approved employees or visitors and automatically open barriers, or ask for additional credentials for be shown (for example a temporary QR code issued to a mobile phone).

For additional layers of security, additional metadata could be used for vehicle identification and verification. For example, if a particular license plate was known to be attached to a white van, any other colour or type of vehicle would trigger an alert allowing security personnel to verify the visitor.

Again, these solution need nothing more than a single PoE to operate, giving ultimate flexibility in their installation.

Additional benefits in privacy

Edge solutions - completely contained within the camera itself – can also bring significant benefits in privacy and protection of personal data.

Applications such as AXIS Live Privacy Shield can apply masking of moving objects within a scene – whether people, vehicles, or animals – ensuring that privacy is protected at the point of capture. This capability is not only particularly beneficial in environments such as schools, healthcare, and correctional facilities, it is being increasingly demanded by regulation.

Best practice in operating procedures needs to be considered

While edge solutions bring benefits to every sector, some specific use cases will require other factors to be taken into account.

In some scenarios, it will be desirable – or required by law – for high frame rate video to be retained for long periods in case of incident investigation. This can eventually cause limitations with regard to edge storage within the camera itself, so discipline needs to be applied in regular transfer/offload of data to server-based storage. This best practice will also mitigate against the possibility of data loss through theft or vandalism to a camera itself.

Edge as part of a hybrid solution

The benefits of edge solutions are clear. That said, it’s likely that most customers will ultimately combine edge, on-premise server, and some cloud-based infrastructure in hybrid solutions.

The increased power and sophistication of edge solutions brings far more flexibility to surveillance solutions. They efficiently allow organizations put advanced surveillance in locations where it’s previously been unfeasible, with significantly reduced infrastructure requirements and all the savings that this brings. 

Is it time for you to take a close look at the edge?

Shawn Benevides

Shawn joined Axis 2 ½ years ago as a Program Manager on the End-to-end Solutions team, focusing on Axis’ video management solutions. In this role, Shawn was responsible for sales enablement, competitive intelligence and launching programs to drive demand across software and recording products. In his current role, Shawn is a manager on the Solutions Acceleration team and leads a team of Program Managers who focus on Axis’ video management, access control, intercom and network audio solutions. Shawn is based at the Axis Americas headquarters, just north of Boston Massachusetts.

Shawn Benevides
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