Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister was Editor of IFSEC Global from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam is also a former Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
May 18, 2015

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Martin Gren of Axis Talks Surveillance Trends and the Internet of Things

Martin Gren spoke to IFSEC Global about the company he co-founded in 1984, including its first foray into the access-control market, and the dominant trends in the surveillance sector.

As well as reflecting on other consolidations occurring in the industry over the last 18 months, Gren said Axis, which will continue to operate under the same brand name following a mooted takeover by the Canon group, is well positioned to exploit the nascent ‘internet of things’ and a world of rampant connectivity.

Axis – exhibiting at IFSEC in June – “was the first company in the world to ship an internet of things device in bulk” after all, said Gren in reference to the 1996 launch of the world’s first-ever network surveillance camera.

IFSEC Global: Any launches coming out or any new innovations?

Martin Gren: We obviously innovate all the time. We have 800 engineers in our R&D department in Sweden.

One of our latest innovations is a PTZ dome camera with four sensors, so if you mount it in, let’s say, the corner of a room or a city-centre type environment you won’t have any blind spots.

You can follow the view in HD quality and still zoom in to find details. I’ve seen a lot of interest in that and we developed it with the City of New York.

The city’s governor wanted the ability to move the cameras around a bit. A pole [-mounted camera] can give you a blind spot. because you want to move it around, So we developed a solution with four fixed mounted overview cameras that can be combined with a mechanical pan/tilt/zoom camera . This is one of the more exciting products we have announced.  It’s called the Q6000-E.

martin gren 2IG: What about your recent foray into the access-control market?

MG: Last year was our 30-year anniversary.  We began by doing print servers, then storage and then network cameras, which is what we’re known for today.

But our DNA is about attaching stuff to the internet, and a year and a half ago we finally got back to this. We introduced networked physical access control, which we have now launched in Europe.

We’ll see a lot more security devices that attach to the internet coming out – the internet of things. Axis first cameras were actually an IT device.

We wrote white papers on how you can attach anything to the internet in the mid 90s. We had a model train, a home automation system based on a protocol called echelon, which were all internet-enabled.

Then we sort of forgot it. But now with the hype around the internet of things… it’s actually what we do. We were the first company in the world to ship and internet of things device in bulk.

But do we really want to log into a light switch on our cell phone?  What you need is basically a sort of video management software because you don’t want to manage 25 light switches in your house individually.

Whole house on, whole house off.  Like a television.

So whether or not the actual device contains a web server or not is irrelevant I think. What you really need is software that takes care of these devices.

We’re looking at more video security-type products that we can attach to the network.

IG: Are there any start-ups you are aware of that are doing really interesting things? 

MG: I think actually you should see it from the opposite direction: this year – and last year – is the year of consolidation.

There are always start-ups but video surveillance s not very prone to disruptive technologies.

Silicon Valley money doesn’t work in security, because you want to buy security from a guy in Sweden, who’s been in business for a long time. He knows about the real problems, which aren’t technology-oriented.

It’s more like having underpaid guards and stuff like that – risk assessment.

We’ve seen a lot of changes already. How Milestone was acquired by Canon and Samsung is probably going to no longer be Samsung Techwin. We saw Exacq being swallowed a little more than a year ago.

Avigilon acquiring Object Video and VideoIQ. Sanyo got acquired by Panasonic.

We also see a lot of the small companies disappearing.

When we began doing network cameras our competitors were Korean. There were five of them; now there is one – it’s all Techwin.

The smaller [brands] like the Taiwanese, Mobotix and so on have a difficult time keeping pace with the industry. There’s about 500 different IP camera brands in the world – and that’s obviously more than anyone needs. So I think there will be more consolidation.

IG: How vulnerable are IP cameras to cyber hackers in your opinion?

MG: I think it’s quite marginal, because almost all security cameras are on a separate network – they’re not connected on the internet.  Of course you should take measures and adhere to all IT standards for internet security, but the only way to be really safe is to not be on the internet.

So the way that security cameras are on the internet is really through like a VPN tunnel to the VMS. The camera itself is very safe.

Of course if you Google for an Axis camera login page you’re going to find thousands.  It’s typically private individuals who put them up with minimal security.

But finding a real security camera for a professional installation, you hardly ever do that.  You may find like a furniture store, florist and stuff like that.

So all technology can be used or abused. With our DNA of doing the print servers you can imagine we did millions and millions of these high quality, reliability and stability.

IG: What other surveillance trends are noteworthy right now?

MG: A big, accelerating trend – and this is something I’ve been saying for years – is thermal cameras.  It’s really taking off now.

You can do analytics with a thermal camera with high reliability. On a regular camera  it’s very difficult unless it’s a controlled environment, like a retailer where you don’t have high requirements for accuracy.  But the CSI-type applications for discovering terrorists or finding left packages and so on – they simply don’t work in an outdoor environment.

But with thermal you can actually go a step further. I’d say close to 100% of thermal camera sales are with analytics.

The cameras are expensive.  We hope to drive [the cost of] parts down, but unfortunately it’s still a very expensive, military-type technology that we want to bring more into commercial applications.


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May 18, 2015 11:51 am

Gerry_Dunphy Appreciated this post. Good meeting you.

May 19, 2015 1:16 am

SecurexSA Very interesting

May 19, 2015 4:16 pm

Here’s a huge trend: MP IP camera share of 1080p30 surveillance market has plummeted from 100% in 2010 to below 50% in 2015 on its way down to < 7%, as happened in D1. Good time for Axis shareholders to bail out.

May 30, 2015 9:22 am

embeddedcompute Enjoyed this post. Are you open to an interview for our blog? See #1 url in my profile

May 30, 2015 9:27 am

embeddedcompute Nice tweet. We should interview feature you on our blog. See my profile for the questions