Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are faced with large challenges year after year. The three main business challenges for SMBs in 2017 are the same as in 2016, but in different order. Improve workforce productivity (2nd in 2016) Attract and retain new customers (3rd in 2016) Improve quality of products and processes (1st in 2016) On top of these 3 challenges, there is always the matter of security. Call it loss prevention, theft, shoplifting or retail shrinkage, this continually burdens all types of SMB owners. Additionally, statistics indicate every 1 in 11 people is a shoplifter, which is a huge concern for any business owner. Usually different problems require different solutions. However, with video analytics capabilities today, there’s one solution to solve all those concerns. Video data. By making use of video the right way, SMBs can manage business challenges and security issues easily and efficiently. As we’ve mentioned before, the #1 sensor is video, and for SMBs this means getting valuable information, which no other standard sensor can provide. Any business owner knows that the more information they have (providing they can actually make sense of it), the better value they can create for customers, and the more effectively they can manage their business. With the proliferation of surveillance cameras, more and more video data is available for SMBs. The problem however, is that typically, the video from surveillance cameras is either never viewed, or only viewed close to the time of an incident. And in general, the information generated from the video is never realized, data is forgotten, archived (which really means never to be found again), or simply deleted. If video essentially means data, i.e., valuable information, then why would any business owner ignore it? SMBs – read my lips: You can increase sales and profit by using video from your already-installed cameras. You can ensure a secure business by quickly applying Video Synopsis. You can gain insights from video data to run your business more efficiently. You can better understand customer behavior, why they do or don’t purchase. You can monitor employee productivity. You can understand optimized product layout. You can count how many customers walk into your business and see what they do. You can optimize your marketing efforts. And finally, you can sleep better. Next week, we'll take a look at whether homeowners are getting their video's worth from the cameras they install in their homes.
Articles by author: Rachel Neiman
I have heard from many investigators that the most painful part of their jobs is reviewing video. Often investigators are working with too little information and viewing too much video to be effective in finding anything. Reviewing video no longer has to be an experience that leads to you tearing out your hair. It does not need to be like searching for a needle in a haystack, a futile waste of time. So what wastes time reviewing video? Looking at things that are not what you’re looking to find. I hope you weren’t expecting a more sophisticated answer, because there is none. It’s as simple as that. If you have to go through a large amount of video, it can help immensely to review a subset of the relevant things in that video. Less video data simply means less review time. So how can you reduce the video you must review to find your target? This is achieved by eliminating objects that are not relevant to what you want to find, while still keeping the objects relevant to your search. This is a simple concept, but takes many years of effort and significant technology to do well. Are there other means of reducing the video you need to review? Motion search is clearly not the solution for eliminating what you don’t want to see. While this may slightly reduce the time of reviewing video, this is in effect putting a bandage on an open wound since it still overwhelms an investigator with a long series of individual events for review. Effective review requires more capable tools. This is where the ability to add layering of analytical filter parameters (such as size, direction, color, path, speed), yields reduction in the number of results for review, leading to shorter review time. So really it’s what you don’t want to see that has to be taken into account when reviewing and searching video. This of course varies tremendously based on the person, vehicle or object you’re looking to find, the nature of the investigation or situation, and what you know about the suspect or event. That’s why it’s critical to leave the choice of eliminating objects in the hands of whoever is viewing the video and provide that person with tools that enable quick and interactive work with the search results. No matter how you slice it, if you can use what you know to reduce the results, you can cut the time you need to spend reviewing video. This helps find what you’re looking for, and in less time.
I spent that past couple of weeks at the leading VMS players’ annual events for partners, integrators and end users. Much was said and discussed on the increasing need for reliable video analytics solutions, and finally, thanks to today’s video quality and management capabilities video content can be leveraged for the benefit of all types of verticals and use cases. From security and safety, to retail, operations, business insights and even quality-of-life, everyone agreed that great value can be derived from video. It is, after all, considered to be the richest sensor. Still, what I really took away from these events was the inspiring notion that the promise of video analytics is so big; and we have so much more to discover and benefit from. Essentially for most people, video is video, is video. However, when we take a deeper look inside the video, we see that we're only scratching the surface by looking at what video presents to us overtly. To gain more from video, in ways we could only have imagined in the past, video should be used for its metadata (information about video data). Metadata provides a whole new meaning to searching, tracking and understanding object behavior within a video. In fact, you can even learn and monitor human behavior by using metadata. Metadata also enables video analytical capabilities in complex and high-activity scenes. Finally, with metadata, all types of details can be organized, whether counting cars crossing a junction or seeing where shoppers dwell in a store. With the right tools, valuable insights can be gained through metadata. Yes, metadata is king. As a result of the significant advancements in video analytics, metadata today presents information with very rich and detailed content – something organizations of all types want to hold on to. Furthermore, metadata is easier to store and save than actual video files. Metadata takes up less bandwidth, thus, extracting information from the video in the form of metadata becomes quick and simple. The metadata can then be cost-effectively uploaded to the cloud and aggregated for generating reports and identifying trends over time. Essentially, metadata is the key for further unlocking the potential of video analytics. Cutting-edge technologies such as deep learning, coupled with the power of metadata, ensure that video analytics continues to intrigue the industry and present new and exciting capacities, enabling more and more verticals to benefit from the promise of video analytics. All we need to remember is to take a better look into the video and not be fooled by what we simply see. Sometimes it’s what we don’t see at first that really matters.
Last week I presented Smart Synopsis – a highly powerful and intuitive video search engine that allows users to search for specific events by building complex queries. The matching events are rendered as a compact video by order of relevance. Processing the video once, and storing the metadata in an indexed database, enables search results that are returned instantly. Turns out, that within this metadata are the building blocks needed for most video related applications. For example: A single carefully selected thumbnail image of each object can be used to build numerous user interfaces with quick navigation through events, even on small screen devices. The full track of an object can be used to inject the relevant pixels to complex classifiers such as face recognition systems and optimize both cost and accuracy. Metadata from cameras can be used to connect devices in IoT environments. Big data engines can finally add input from the camera – the most data-rich sensor – to deliver significant business insights. In short, rich metadata is key to ensure that video analytics solutions (as smart as can be) are sustainable over time and worthy of their investment, offering the ability to grow, add applications and generate value from video across all levels of an organization.
When I joined BriefCam in 2011, we had an ambitious challenge: how to take the groundbreaking Video Synopsis® technology developed by Prof. Shmuel Peleg at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to the next level. How to turn it from a technology that enables reviewing hours of video in minutes into a commercially-viable technology that could enable viewing weeks or even months of video in a short time. Enter Smart Synopsis®. The addition of the possibility to search for specific objects. This addition of sophisticated, and often complex search capabilities requires full object tracking and accurate segmentation, and is definitely a game changer. The importance of full tracking is twofold: it enables tracking all interesting objects in a scene, as well as the tracking the full trajectory of an object throughout a scene. This is particularly useful to: Understand the significance of behavior, such as the flow of customers in a store, where people tend to loiter (and the impact on security and sales), as well as interactions between people. Achieve a single alert per event. This is important since most tracking analytics are frame-based (they try to detect objects in a specific frame) with moderate localization (they only have a rough estimation of where the object is located – the bounding box), meaning that they may deliver multiple alerts per event or miss following events such as tailgaters. Accurate segmentation is also essential in the development of Smart Synopsis, in order ensure that synthetic video rendering looks fully realistic. This is achieved by deploying a tight-fitting mask in each frame (pixel level localization). Smart Synopsis delivers the full tracking and accurate segmentation that is essential for most mission-critical applications. It resolves object occlusions, and therefore can be used in high-level processes such as action recognition, object identification and object recognition. So, when basing video analytics on Smart Synopsis, finding what you are looking for becomes an even faster and more accurate process. Full context can be retained with the original, full-length video always remaining a click away, while reviewing the video synopses generated. Furthermore, Smart Synopsis integrates a methodology that uses mosaic images together with rich metadata for video indexing, thereby enabling the inclusion of objects from different times in static synopsis images. More on how things can get even smarter, next week.
I recently read an analysis from IHS indicating that the demise of server-based analytics is imminent. The analysis leaves one with an inevitable sense that all analytics will be done at the edge. They provide additional analysis that “pure server only based analytics was estimated to have shrunk by $39.4 million in one year… However, more steady transition, along with a continued dominance of server-based analytics in certain environments was still forecast.” And here’s a second however from IHS: “demand for high end server-based analytics is expected to be sustained.” True, technologies in the enterprise arena such as motion detection and applications like directional motion are being built into cameras and efficiently processed on the camera. In the residential space, this is often the case as well. More and more residential solutions are heading to the cloud and the ability to trigger recording or notification locally based on simple analytics provides many benefits. Yet even in the residential space, advanced analytics running in the cloud are dominant. Clearly, there are apparent advantages to edge analytics, offering better system scalability and access to uncompressed data. However again, in reality most analytics are still server-based. In fact, server-based video analytics offers high reliability, strong processing capabilities and sophisticated search options. Furthermore, server-based video analytics enables organizations to apply various types of analytical applications, providing value across all levels of the organization. So, I ask myself, will better edge processing capabilities and architecture “terminate” server-based video analytics? If you, for one, think this is the grand finale of server-based analytics, think again. Or read the round table discussion on the continuing role for server-based video analytics. Edge-based video analytics applications are normally limited to one application per camera due to insufficient processing power. While more powerful processors are going into camera and other edge devices, implemented in this fashion you are looking at a fixed capability device installed on the edge versus a more flexible infrastructure that can be centrally managed and expanded through additional servers or cloud resources. Server-based video analytics is not as limited by a device’s processing power, and in addition is camera agnostic. This means organizations can enjoy the ability to run multiple video analytics applications at the same time, and on any type of camera. Confused? Check out this great summary table of pros and cons for server-based vs. edge-based video analytics. Server-based, edge-based; what is evident is the growing need for smart and reliable video analytics solutions, way beyond what anyone once imagined video analytics could deliver. And this need will grow even more as the use of metadata becomes more common in security and video applications. I know metadata is a significant topic on its own, and will rightfully demand dedicated blog posts in the future. Stay tuned…
I recently read an article mentioning the fact that if the human eye were a digital camera it would be equal to a 576 Megapixel camera at a 120 degree field of view. The comparison is simplistic, but it does highlight the fact that while the human eye is the best way to see what is going on in the home, we homeowners can’t always be there to see what’s going on. Home cameras are an interesting product within the Smart Home product category because they are perhaps the only product that attempts to mimic what most of us have done all our lives: see, hear and comprehend. Watch any news program today and you know the world is becoming a more dangerous place. People have a fundamental need to know what’s happening at home. To help meet this need, homeowners, IP cameras have become one of the fastest growing markets globally. Today, there are millions upon millions of IP cameras in market in homes and businesses all over the globe. Home cameras have not only become ubiquitous, they’re becoming a necessity. In my own area, local police this month came out with a program encouraging homeowners to install security cameras as a crime deterrent. As I mentioned in my last blog post, my home security cameras assisted in finding evidence of a neighborhood break-in. One of the biggest challenges within the IoT, and connected home space is to create real value for homeowners. Crime-solving aside, service providers and camera manufactures are looking to help homeowners make sense of all the video data being recorded. How do service providers take video data and make it useful in running the smart, connected home? One of the primary value propositions (advertisements) for home security cameras focuses on the ability for a consumer to receive a notification (text, email, or push) when the camera detects motion. When a consumer hears or sees that well-crafted commercial, they translate it in their own minds to fulfill a specific need or use case such as: Alert me when the dog is actually on the couch, and not just walking through the room. Notify me when the kids first get home, but not the 20 other times they walk by the camera. Catch the thief who stole the package off my porch. Unfortunately, after a consumer buys a camera based on a specific use case, they quickly learn they are sent a text, email, or push notification each and every time ANYTHING moves, and depending on the camera, even sudden changes in light such as the sun moving across the floor will trigger a notification. Unfortunately, the advertised value and use case answer disappears. After a week or two of 20+ notifications a day, most consumers end up turning off motion detection notifications and realize the product purchased didn’t really solve the specific issue in mind. And that makes me wonder: What if these problems could be reduced or even solved? How much more value would be created for the consumer? What if the camera learned who trusted family members and pets are, and alerts were only sent when non-trusted individuals were detected? What if the camera alerted you to the issues you wanted alerts on, and not the general day to day activities of your family? I leave you with these points to ponder, but will be back to address them in my next post.
According to idioms.in, to make a long story short means abbreviating a long explanation into a short one; to get to the point; to give only the basic facts instead of a full explanation; to give a short version or only the conclusion of a long story; to leave out details of a long-winded narration. The explosion of video data is making the review of video a never-ending story, unless an effective technology is applied. The beauty of Video Synopsis is that it literally makes a long story short. It does this without the loss of context or content. You can always easily return to the original video and be sure you are seeing everything that happened on camera. Anyone needing to review hours of video can do it in a few minutes. It’s a powerful tool that enables smarter, quicker and more accurate investigation, freeing up a lot of time to deal with other tasks. Video Synopsis works by separating between static background and dynamic moving events. The events are extracted, tagged and data-based. Consequently, events during the relevant time-frame are presented simultaneously, even though they occurred at different times. Furthermore, events can be sorted and displayed according to a range of different attributes, such as color, size, speed, direction and other parameters and classifications. When dealing with video review, the importance of making a long story short is a game changer. It’s about eliminating information not relevant to the investigation and getting to the point. When talking with colleagues we refer to this as “time-to-target”. It enables anyone required to review video to accomplish much more both in the quantity and quality of investigation. The idea of abbreviating a long explanation is ancient, but the expression “to make a long story short” has only been used since the 1800s. For me in the 21st century, in my daily efforts with partners and customers, it’s about Video Synopsis. To make a long story short, I constantly meet enterprises who have failed to utilize hours of video footage until they discovered Video Synopsis. After implementing this solution, they report an increase in crime-solving, more time to deal with other tasks, and the collection of valuable information that has far-reaching implications for the growth and safety of their business.
Hi, my name is Jeremy Krinitt. As VP of Enterprise Business Development at BriefCam, I’m focused on driving growth for the BriefCam solution, with both our existing users and channels, as well as in new environments where our solution can provide value. I enjoy working with our customers and partners to ensure they are successful with the solution and that they understand all the ways the technology can help to ensure the security of the organization, while at the same time providing many business benefits. One thing I particularly enjoy about my work is the opportunity to sit with customers and understand their challenges. With BriefCam we have technology that is new to many people and we can apply our technology in interesting ways to make our customers more efficient and effective. Freya Stark once said “Curiosity is the one thing invincible in Nature.” Curiosity and collaboration, along with a touch of creativity, give us the opportunity to explore how we can solve problems. This process is a lot of fun. I also find it very gratifying. Everyone can get pulled into the details of the day, but I really enjoy the initial spark of inspiration and ideas that people have when they understand Video Synopsis® and the other capabilities of the solution. The only thing better is when I return a few months after the solution goes into production and find the users have a pile of stories about crimes solved and information gathered that would have never been possible before. I look forward to sharing this journey with you in my future posts. Also, feel free to chat with me via our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube accounts.
A Smart Home Report produced by iControl notes that “90% of consumers say security is one of the top reasons to purchase a smart home system”, and that 65% of consumers consider home monitoring cameras to be the most desired smart home device. IHS predicted that 2016 world market growth for video surveillance equipment would be over 7%, and recent numbers I’ve been hearing indicate the residential market is growing even faster than that. The evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) coupled with video will continue to make homes smarter. Every year, more and more IP cameras are being deployed for security and surveillance purposes in homes and SMBs. There are a multitude of reasons the cameras are used, from monitoring pets, children after school and elderly relatives (did Grandma take her pill?), to safeguarding against theft, break-ins, vandalism and other petty crimes such as stolen delivery packages or mail. Despite all the reasons listed above, I have to wonder: does anyone do anything with their recorded video footage? Busy people are the last ones on earth with time to watch video. My own family is a perfect example. Of course, I have cameras installed in and around my home. But ask me if I’ve ever watched any of the video that has been recorded and the answer is…? So what’s the point of recording all that video if I, like every other busy homeowner, don’t have the time to watch it all? Apart from making me feel more secure, it enables me to be reactive if something does happen. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I have the patience to watch hours of video on a regular basis. All this changes with Video Synopsis® the simultaneous presentation of events that lets me review of hours of video in just minutes. Here’s a great example: last year, one of my neighbors across the street had a break in. The house was ransacked and a bunch of small stuff stolen. One of my exterior cameras points down my driveway at my neighbor’s home; it captured the thieves walking up to and around our neighbor’s house, as well as their car as they drove away. Using Video Synopsis, I found the getaway car within about 15 seconds, and was able to give the Video Synopsis and clips of the actual footage to the local police department, who later caught the thieves. It’s clear that security cameras for home and small business is one of the fastest growing segments, and is becoming a Connected Home safety standard. However, it can only be valuable if it the industry provides tools to make it easy for homeowners to review that video. Video Synopsis technology gives homeowners the ability to review an entire day’s video in less than a minute to keep an eye on things or to be alerted to specific incidents. At the Baldauf residence, we can review a day in a minute – something definitely worth doing for sake of our family’s safety and wellbeing. What do you think? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and You Tube.