Advanced Video Analytics Makes Video Management Systems More Powerful
Murat Altuev, President of AxxonSoft, Russia's largest software provider for security and video surveillance systems, discusses trends in the video surveillance market and new developments in the company.
GIT SECURITY: What has changed in the video surveillance market over the past few years?
Murat Altuev: If we are talking about the Russian market then that is a quite a unique case in that video management software (VMS) surveillance systems have taken a large share of the market. In fact, the amount of VMS-based video channels sold in Russia by our company alone was practically equal to the total amount of DVR-based channels. That situation stayed the same right up until the crisis. Then, primarily because of lower costs, video recorders began to put pressure on software in the small and sometimes medium-sized systems segments. As a result single-server and small multiserver VMS producers began to leave the market.
How have other segments developed?
Murat Altuev: There are several areas where DVR's position has been traditionally weak. The most important of these areas is in large and integrated systems. The video recorder solves the local problems of processing, storing and recording storing video. Yet if there are many recorders then a dedicated work station with specialized software is needed in order to ensure a coherent review of the footage. If we really want to make a distributed system with complex network architecture, a centralized control point and the option of setting up remote workstations then there is no alternative to the software.
Specialist software is also needed in order to integrate video with other systems like an access control system as well as security and fire alarm systems, or if it needs to control cash registers or license plate recognition. I'd like to point out that we have made a lot of headway in that area. The ability to make big and integrated systems was always one of the main competitive advantages of our products. We should all understand that integrating each new system is quite a large undertaking.
That is why our accumulated experience and list of ready-made integrations are formidable assets making it very difficult for anyone to catch up to us in that field.
What is new right now in video analytics and what is your company working on?
Murat Altuev: I'd like to talk about one of the areas that aren't connected with ‘traditional' video detection- searching in video archives. The system that we have developed is called ‘Forensic Search'. It lets you search for events in the archive according to criteria you give when you search.
How does it work?
Murat Altuev: From the user's perspective it is similar to a video detection tools configuration through a graphic user interface. Unlike live video analytics, Forensic Search operates with stored metadata. For example, the user draws a virtual line and the system produces a list of video episodes of when that line was crossed. Or you give an area where you want to detect motion that had occured and the system retrieves a set of relevant clips. Overall, this intelligent search tool works as a kind of ‘offline video detection' that lets you locate video footage for line crossing, movement within an area, passing from one area to different one and others. I'd like to point out that you don't need to pre-set video analytics- all lines, zones and other parameters are set when you search.
But doesn't analyzing recorded video take a lot of time even with the help of offline video detection?
Murat Altuev: That is precisely why our system uses recorded text strings that describe the scene i.e. metadata instead of recorded video. Video is processed in real time when the video is streaming from the camera. Forensic Search captures data on everything that happens within the active zones of each monitored scene. With the help of content analysis, metadata is generated and stored with the video images. The metadata contains details on all objects within, entering or leaving the monitored areas. And you use that metadata for fast and efficient event recognition. The system works quickly as the search across the text strings usually takes a few seconds to complete.
When will this new development be available in your products?
Murat Altuev: ‘Forensic Search' is already in both our enterprise system, the integrated security platform Intellect and in our junior product Axxon Smart PRO- a video surveillance system for small and medium-sized premises.
Is Axxon Smart PRO the same system that you are offering for free?
Murat Altuev: The free 16-channel single-server version with one terabyte storage without Forensic Search is called Axxon Smart Start. Other than that, the free version has no operational limitations. Whereas Axxon Smart PRO encompasses 4 servers, 256 cameras and, of course, any storage capacity.
So the free version is a completely functional system but just small?
M. Altuev: Yes, it is a full-featured system that is limited by the scope and storage. So anybody who wants can download it from our website and try out all of the innovative aspects of this product totally free of charge. It was, in fact, originally conceived as the first product of our new generation of video surveillance systems. Visitors can see a demo version of Forensic Search.
Why did you decide to make a free version of this product?
Murat Altuev: Like I said, Axxon Smart IP is a new generation video surveillance system that offers several unique benefits. Even the free version allows anyone to get to know all of our new features which will bring in new partners. This is especially so in the West where our company is not as well-known as it is in Russia.
What was the outcome?
Murat Altuev: Thousands of people downloaded and activated Axxon Smart Start all over the world. Now every day we get from 30 to 50 activations. You have to understand that each activation is an installation. So quite a few systems running our product, even a test version, are operational as we speak.
Have you received any feedback?
Murat Altuev: For example, our Singapore office got a call from company that we didn't know anything about. They said that they had downloaded the free version, tried it out and liked it. Now they want to buy the license for 52 channels. This is, of course, not the only example. It was just one of the first so that is why I remember it so well.
But even that is not the most important result. The bottom line is, in my opinion, the fact that our product is recognized by global IP camera producers. They have included it in their price lists like JVC did in Europe. Or what CNB did - they put our free VMS product inside the packaging for their cameras. So, you see, they had a choice. They could have put a free version of a well-known western producer's product in the packaging, but they chose our product. That shows that they made their choice not because of product price or the big brand name on it but because of the quality of our software. That is a big achievement for us and a big step forward for promoting our products in the international market.
What achievements have you already made in the international arena?
Murat Altuev: We are focused on global business development. At the moment our company has 28 offices, 10 of which are outside the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). I'll name just a few overseas deployments of our solutions: the Wett-Punkt casino chain in Austria, Casablanca and Rabat airports in Morocco, Segmueller furniture factories and stores in Germany, the Madrid Stock Exchange and the city district attorney's office, the Hilton hotel in San Francisco. All of that demonstrates that all over the world people are placing more and more trust in our software.
What do you expect from the market?
Murat Altuev: The VMS market is still just taking shape and still lacks a reliable and affordable product with a wide array of functions. Therefore, we expect our products to take a significant portion of this market on an international scale.