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Security to wear: a body worn camera solution based on open architecture

10 minutes read

Body worn cameras moved Axis into a new market. Tested both in the labs and the field to ensure reliability and robustness, and designed with an open architecture for seamless integration with existing software, body worn solutions from Axis are the world’s most flexible choice on the market. Some of the team members behind the solutions, Fredrik Andersson, Lina He and Rob Messer, talk about the benefits, technical features, and field studies of these systems.

Being the industry leader in network video, entering the body worn camera market was a logical extension of the existing business. Based on the needs of customers – initially in police and law enforcement but increasingly in sectors such as healthcare, retail and private security – body worn solutions provide a new way to make the world safer, smarter and more secure. When wearing a camera, everyone from a healthcare professional to a security guard or train attendant can create a more secure workplace, have a better possibility of collecting evidence and can get input to develop better work methods or training. The possibilities and use cases are endless.

Ultimate flexibility through open architecture

For adventurers or explorers like James Cook, Neil Armstrong and even Lara Croft, research and preparation before a new mission make sure they can use their strengths in the best way when entering new environments. It’s the same philosophy Axis follows when developing new products, and it has done so in expanding its surveillance portfolio into the body worn camera market.

The body worn solutions reflect the high-quality found in all Axis products. Just as many other Axis solutions are based on an open architecture, this solution allows for integration with existing software. This ensures that current customer investments are not wasted.

Fredrik Andersson, Program Manager, explains: “One of the system’s strongest features is its open architecture, which allows customers to integrate our body worn cameras with existing Video Management Systems (VMS) or Evidence Management Systems (EMS).” Axis body worn solutions can be used with any VMS and EMS, on-premise or in the cloud, allowing for integration with other video surveillance data. It can also be delivered as an end-to-end solution, using AXIS Camera Station, the company’s own VMS, or Axis Case Insight, the company’s EMS. Andersson continues: “At Axis, taking an open approach is in our DNA. This philosophy of openness is core to our body worn camera system – from their flexibility to work with a variety of mounting options to their openness to partner solutions.”

Axis' body worn cameras stand out for their openness and flexibility. Andersson explains: “Our body worn cameras work as seamlessly with our own products as they do with our partners’. Whether coming together as a solution which includes our own VMS, our EMS or one of our partners’ – which may already be in use by customers – the principle is always to offer the maximum flexibility to our customers in adding body worn cameras to an existing surveillance solution.”

The “Swiss Army knife” of cameras

With decades of experience in developing security cameras, suited for various challenging environments, Axis knows how to tackle conditions like poor light and make robust cameras that can withstand knocks and harsh surroundings, while still delivering high-quality images. And this knowledge is condensed in all parts of the body worn camera system.

The system consists of three main hardware components: the cameras, the camera docking station and the system controller. The docking stations can be placed safely on the premises and the system controller sends the footage to the destination of choice for analysis and storage. While the cameras store the video when used in the field, the system controller also deletes the files automatically from the cameras, so the device is immediately ready for use again.

Axis has developed the ‘Swiss Army knife’ of cameras: a small, lightweight device, with good battery power that doesn’t compromise on image quality or robustness, and easy on-camera operation.

Lina He, Product Specialist, says: “Given users such as law enforcement operators or security staff in retail are walking – and even running – around with the camera, the Axis team made sure the devices provide clear images in changing situations. Our cameras capture video up to 1080p @30fps which ensures the image remains visible and in high-quality, even if the person wearing the camera is exposed to very challenging light conditions.

“For the audio, we used dual microphones to enhance the quality of speech and reduce noise. Since users can’t disrupt their work to charge the device, the cameras have an operating time of around 12 hours of footage in full HD resolution and can be configured to operate for up to 17 hours – so longer than the length of an average shift. We used compression technology, Axis Zipstream, to reduce the demand for storage and bandwidth. The cameras also have an internal storage of 64GB, which again is enough to cover a full shift in full HD resolution.”

Quality promise put to the test – in the lab

Quality has always been a main part of the Axis philosophy – be it in the product itself or in its usability. To maintain standards for its body worn cameras and to fulfill the usability requirements, Axis put the new cameras to the test in the lab, imitating the potentially rough conditions to which the cameras will be exposed, such as dropping the cameras hundreds of times to ensure robustness and functionality. The cameras also have to pass tests for weather-proofing, button durability, chemical resistance and many other factors and conditions they might have to withstand.

This is one of the reasons why Axis is confident to give its body worn cameras a three-year warranty, an above average length of time for these kinds of cameras. Furthermore, customers can rely on a broad network of partners for high-quality support.

Encryption and watermarks: Double security for people and footage

As with every device in the company’s portfolio, Axis has ensured the highest level of security in the cameras. The footage of body worn cameras might be needed in court, offering unbiased evidence of the incident and actions of all the parties involved. Ultimately, they provide a reliable documentation of a process or actions taken.

“All data is encrypted both at rest and in transfer using AES256 and TLS. In addition, video data can be fully end-to-end encrypted with specific integrations,” explains Fredrik.

The mobile app accompanying the solution allows users to review the footage, which is then watermarked and includes a camera and user ID. In addition, the process of transferring the video material off the camera and onto a server is fully automated, which means no human interaction is needed and, therefore, no video section can be taken out of the footage during the process. Moreover, all cameras are registered to one ‘home’ system, which is the only system they are programmed to transfer their material to.

“They were really satisfied with the benefits the cameras provided as they felt safer knowing they could always look at the footage of their shift in case of an incident”

All these safety measurements ensure that it can be proven that not a single frame has been tampered with. It also keeps the solution safe from cyber disruptions. Crucially, relying on footage from a mobile phone or consumer-grade action camera does not offer the same level of security or a tamper-free guarantee.

Fredrik explains: “Body worn cameras are professional tools – monitoring a process or actions as they take place while leaving the users hands free to ensure ‘business as usual’. Consumer-grade alternatives do not offer the professional mounting system, a high forensic image quality combined with small file sizes, ease of use when it comes to offloading, and cyber secure evidence handling. Ultimately, organizations – from police forces to retail stores – must be able to guarantee camera integrity and feel confident that footage cannot be compromised.”

Mission accomplished – how the cameras work in the field

When it comes to (new) cameras and their features, it’s a common practice to test devices in the field to ensure they meet all requirements. Axis has run a large number of trials to test the system and identify features that would make the body worn cameras a valuable addition for users in real life conditions. For example, cameras have been tested in airports, with private security companies, and law enforcement organizations. A pilot undertaken in Poland was a good way of showing what Axis was up against in the product design phase, as Rob Messer, Product Introduction Manager, illustrates: “The findings of these pilots were very interesting and at times quite surprising. In a trial we undertook in Poland, we equipped the local police with some of the body worn cameras. They were really satisfied with the benefits the cameras provided as they felt safer knowing they could always look at the footage of their shift in case of an incident.”

In addition to these trials, Axis continuously sources input and feedback directly from its customers, including law enforcement agencies and major correctional facilities. This goes hand-in-hand with a constant focus on further development within Axis, with teams dedicated to the ongoing evolution of Axis technology.

Most recently, this continuous focus on improving and innovating solutions led to the launch of AXIS Body Worn Live – providing new functionality across all Axis body worn cameras so that wearers can click one button to activate live streaming directly to an operator. This provides additional support on the ground, with users out in the field able to stream data from their body worn camera to an operator in real-time with one simple move.

An architecture designed for future enhancement

Axis will continue to use its expertise as well as the feedback from all the ongoing real-life use cases to add features and constantly optimize its body worn solutions. The openness of the Axis solution immediately stands out in its flexibility, cost effectiveness and future-proofing. As the market develops, and the benefits of body worn cameras are seen in multiple industry sectors and environments, this architecture continues to bring benefits in further integrations and applications.

The ability to integrate these cameras with any existing VMS and EMS software, as well as their scalability, means that retail stores which may have started by equipping security staff with these cameras are now able to provide staff on the shop floor with this technology. Similarly, hospitals which initially rolled out body worn cameras for frontline staff – for instance those in ambulances - find it easy to extend these cameras to clinical staff, such as surgeons needing to document medical procedures.

Fredrik concludes: “While we’re just at the beginning of our journey into the world of body worn cameras, we know there is a lot of unused potential in our hardware that we can and will tap into. We are already planning the next features and combinations with the latest video analytics, storage and management solutions to better support users and operators, whatever the application.”

Learn more about Axis body worn cameras
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