Smart Cameras and Smart Periphery: A Great Combination
Used for the retail, security or industrial markets, smart cameras have been steadily growing in popularity, and it’s easy to see why. As with computing in general, smart cameras have evolved to offer greater computing power in a smaller and relatively cheaper package. Factor in greater ease of connectivity and the packing of additional sensors on the cameras to measure everything from audio to temperature to humidity and more, and the appeal is clear: the smart cameras allow users to do more while spending less.
This trend of increased use of smart cameras is not new, but the pandemic has further accelerated the adoption of smart cameras and fostered new use cases for them. The pandemic has changed the way we work and led to a new emphasis on remote collaboration. But there’s more going on than just the camera meetings that are becoming the norm for many companies large and small. If you “zoom in” to think about how we now use cameras more broadly, you see that COVID has fundamentally changed the course of smart camera adoption, with a deluge of smart cameras changing workflows, catalyzing new new use cases, and contribute to a safer and more productive business activity.
The explosion of smart cameras, especially those connected to the smart edge, has both enabled new solutions to old problems and fostered innovative ways to mitigate emerging difficulties brought about by COVID (e.g., the crisis of the supply chain).
This fundamental shift was a major theme on full display at this year’s recent International Security Conference and Expo (ISC West) in Las Vegas, NV. After a COVID-inspired drop last year, attendance jumped dramatically with nearly 20,000 attendees returning to see new products and trends in person. The excitement was back for face-to-face interaction, perhaps ironically given the clear theme of how smart cameras have, as Qualcomm captured in its press release, helped “reinvent the new normal” of remote applications and use cases.
Coinciding with the new demands brought about by the pandemic, four additional and complementary connectivity developments have helped catalyze a recent and fundamental transformation in the way smart cameras are now used:
· Edge Computing: Physically bringing processing closer to smart cameras has improved speed, latency, and reliability.
· Maturation of AI and ML: as modeling has improved, so has the number of advanced use cases for smart cameras.
· Cloud computing and storage: Cheaper, more expansive cloud options remove the burdens of on-premises IT teams and provide better plug-and-play capabilities that businesses of all sizes can take advantage of.
· Extending Wireless Connectivity: bandwidth is greater, data is cheaper, and the growth of private networks helps address privacy and security issues.
Altogether, the above changes have radically transformed traditional video management software (VMS) into video surveillance as a service (VSaaS). VMS often required a significant investment and required manual on-premises monitoring with limited analytics, while VSaaS offers a low upfront investment, includes built-in advanced analytics, and provides the flexibility and scalability to grow with a business as the use cases change. Perhaps more importantly in recent years when in-person work has diminished, VSaaS is perfect for remote monitoring.
Put it all together, and smart cameras connected to the smart edge have led to an explosion of creative problem solving, increased productivity, and improved safety and security solutions.
Smart solutions from today’s smart cameras
Today’s smart cameras enable much more than surveillance in the traditional sense. Although not exhaustive, the capabilities of smart cameras can be loosely categorized as helping to tracking and counting, detectionand or to alert. These capabilities, combined with edge analytics based on AI/ML modeling, enabled action on real-time data.
In turn, this kind of near-immediate responsiveness enables better business decision-making and customer experience across a wide variety of industries. This year’s ISC West clearly demonstrated how advances in technology are fueling new solutions in an ever-growing number of industries.
For example, Qualcomm announced new ecosystem partnerships and showcased a full suite of chips and SoCs that power smart cameras across multiple tiers and use cases, including but not limited to:
Used in conjunction with AI-powered people counting, smart cameras can ensure capacity protocols are followed and ideal occupancy levels are maintained. Take it a step further and smart cameras with AI can also monitor mask wearing, track social distancing and help with contact tracing.
Manufacturing and agriculture
Smart cameras are helping facilitate the supply chains that COVID has stretched and broken. When used to monitor production lines, smart cameras can help streamline manufacturing by identifying anomalies and sending alerts when bottlenecks or issues arise. Smart cameras can also help increase plant safety and compliance by constantly monitoring to ensure workers are wearing vests, hard hats, or other required gear. When used in agriculture, smart cameras can help alleviate challenges in the food supply chain by monitoring weeds and identifying opportunities to thin crops to maximize yields.
Logistics and fleet management
Equipped with license plate detection, smart cameras can monitor vehicle arrivals and departures at manufacturing plants to help track the flow of inventory. When combined with remote access capabilities and RF ID tags, smart cameras using license plate detection can further improve efficiency by automatically unlocking doors when an approved vehicle arrives. Installed in vehicles, smart cameras can also help train drivers, ensure compliance with safety protocols and reduce the risk of accidents.
In a retail environment, smart cameras used in conjunction with RF ID tags can do more than just monitor shoplifting. As cashierless (and contactless) Amazon Go stores have shown, smart cameras can help create a frictionless shopping experience where goods are automatically tracked and no checkout or cashier is required. From a market research perspective, smart cameras can also monitor which products interact with most often, how and by whom.
Safety and security
Facial recognition is a well-known use case, but smart cameras are also used to detect movement or restrict entry. Remote monitoring and automatic alerts mean multiple cameras can be monitored offsite. Doors equipped with smart cameras can help restrict entry to those whose face or badge is not recognized. Management or authorities may be contacted when unusual events occur.
Will the trend continue?
Smart cameras have been a natural fit for a pandemic, helping shift work to a remote setting. But regardless of the next stage of the pandemic, this explosion of smart cameras and the creation of new use cases for connected smart edge cameras is unlikely to slow down.
For those looking to join this transition to greater use of smart cameras, the easiest entry will likely be found by partnering with an established player who has ties across the ecosystem. Qualcomm, for example, is one such partner. The company not only offers a wide portfolio of chipsets and SoCs for smart cameras, but also has established extensive partnerships and verified third-party collaborations with cloud system providers, system integrators, distributors and development platforms. of material. Additionally, Qualcomm offers a number of solutions that are not only ready to deploy out of the box with minimal effort, but also take existing deployed standard cameras and enable them with smart capability. These turnkey products leverage an AI Box running a rich suite of services that have enabled a new class of IoT-as-a-Service (IoTaaS) solutions.
For customers, these types of IoTaaS offerings provide flexibility, cost savings, and ease of implementation and use. In short, the smart camera trend that has accelerated during COVID seems to have a long track left. Indeed, as AI gets smarter and new camera architectures are developed, it is likely that additional new use cases will emerge. From this perspective, we are in the middle of a virtuous cycle of smart cameras, where smart cameras at the connected edge enable new use cases and these use cases will in turn inspire the development of additional smart cameras. in the future. If COVID and smart cameras are any indication, this kind of virtuous circle could continue to have profound impacts on the type of work people do, how they do that work, and even where the work itself takes place.