Axis Communications: IP cameras, video analytics, IoT solutions

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Axis Communications is a Swedish manufacturer and global leader in the sale of network cameras for the physical security and video surveillance industries.

The company was founded in 1984 by Keith Bloodworth, Martin Gren and Mikael Karlsson in Lund, Sweden and originally started life as an IT company selling print servers. The manufacturers then applied their technical knowledge to network and embedded computing systems to develop network cameras for the security industry.

Today the company offers a wide portfolio of IP-based product and solutions for security and video surveillance. This includes security cameras, video encoders, accessories and access control products. These products integrate with Axis video management software to try and offer a complete security package to their customers.

Starting a revolution in digital surveillance

Axis started life as a small start-up data communication company with a protocol converter that enabled PC printers to be connected to an IBM mainframe network. Their main focus was on making networks smarter, enabling hardware to be connected simply and economically to an IP network.

However with the demise of the mainframe the company knew they would have to innovate to survive. This they did brilliantly in 1996 when the company launched the industry’s first network camera, the Axis 200. The Axis 200 was a digital video camera which, unlike existing analogue CCTV cameras, could send and receive data via a computer network.

The company quickly realised there was an all-analogue industry waiting to go digital but initially their sales and marketing strategies were muddled. They were still at heart an IT company with little idea of how the security industry operated. However gradually overtime their marketing strategy improved and their network cameras eventually transformed video surveillance in the industry for good.

Today Axis Communications operates offices in more than 50 countries and presently employ about 2900 people with, according to the company’s website, another 80,000 official partners worldwide.

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Growth

The company has seen a steady growth in international sales since its inception in 1984. By the end of the 1980s, Axis Communications had opened its first sales offices in the US in Boston, Massachusetts. This was followed by forays into the Asian market with sales offices opening in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo by the end of 1995.

The company continued to expand and according to a 2013 market research report, by industry analyst house HIS Research, Axis had by then become the global market leader in the network camera and video encoder market. This segment was worldwide worth $3.86 billion in 2013 of which Axis had a 17.5 percent share. The company’s good fortune has continued with a very positive first quarter in 2017 with net sales up by 29 percent and profits up by 53 percent.

A business case

Axis Communications is now a key industry driver having introduced not only the market’s first network camera but also the first market’s PTZ camera, HDTV network camera and also first thermal network camera. The company’s founders say the key to their success has been down to long term investment in research and development and continuing to employ an indirect sales model.

Research and development remains a core aspect of the company’s DNA with over 800 of their engineers based at their R&D department in Lund, Sweden. This allows their engineers to focus solely on developing innovative products to meet their customer’s needs in an ever changing and competitive market.

The indirect sales model was originally employed in the company’s IT business with products being manufactured in Sweden and then distributed and sold worldwide through their sales offices. The company then introduced this two-tier business model to the surveillance industry when they started to sell their network cameras.

Recent Acquisitions

One of the most important developments for Axis was the acquisition of the company by Canon in 2015. On 10 February 2015, the Japanese multinational corporation announced a cash bid of $2.83 billion to acquire Axis Communications which then successfully went through.

Although Canon is now the majority shareholder, Axis is still run as an independent company. Cannon employs a “hands-off” approach as a parent company and Axis still does its own R&D and marketing. However the acquisition has allowed Axis access to Canon’s state-of-the-art technology and know-how.

Other acquisitions of note included, on 1st February 2016, Axis Communications taking over Citilog which is a video analytics provider for traffic and transportation security and safety applications. Then in May 2016, the company acquired 2N who are a provider of IP intercom solutions based in the Czech Republic.

Client base

Axis customers range from the very large and grand, including government departments, to the more humble and mundane. On the smaller scale, the company’s cameras can be found in the retail sector and in particular are used by many supermarkets worldwide. One such customer is Albert Heijn, the Netherland’s oldest supermarket chain, who has successfully employed the cameras in some of their stores to help combat theft and vandalism in parking lots.

Notable IP network camera installations on the grander scale include Sydney Airport, the Madrid buses and Moscow Metro. There are over 3400 Axis network cameras installed on the Moscow Metro system with more planned. These surveillance products work to enhance security as operators are able to remotely access live and recorded videos footage from moving trains. The footage provides valuable visual evidence of events and help to speed up emergency response times when needed.

Let’s innovate

Axis is continuing to innovate and in 2015, introduced their Zipstream technology. As cameras need higher and higher resolution, and retention times are increasing, so is the cost of storage. By utilising Zipstream, operators can save up to 80 percent bandwidth without losing image quality.

The company has also developed multi-imaging cameras of very high resolution and with resolutions as high as 4K, compression technology becomes even more important. One of Axis latest products is the Axis Q87 Bispectral PTZ Network Camera Series which allows for thermal and visual surveillance in one.

This positioning camera brings a powerful – and cost effective – combination of visual and thermal streams in a single camera to border surveillance and other applications with similar requirements. It means that operators only need just one camera and one IP address to benefit from long-distance thermal detection, visual identification and PTZ capabilities.

The cameras let operators chose between really slow or super-fast pan and tilt movements which means they can get smooth and jerk-free panoramic viewing when they needed and can respond quickly to events.


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