App Stores for the Security Industry
An increasing number of vendors are marketing app ecosystems for video surveillance cameras. This is a further manifestation of increased processing power at the edge and a de-centralized architecture. However, apps for video surveillance cameras are not a new concept. The revival of app based ecosystems has synced with the resurgence of interest in video analytics, fueled by deep-learning technological advances. This means many of the new apps available for compatible cameras are based around deep learning video analytics. This was not the case for previous apps.
Notable examples of video surveillance camera app ecosystems announced in 2018 include:
- Huawei’s software defined camera.
- The Bosch backed SAST start up and associated open security and safety alliance.
These are in addition to existing platforms including:
- The Axis Communications camera application platform.
- Cisco IP Camera Apps.
All these platforms offer downloadable software applications onto compatible network cameras through an app store. These all potentially offer the ability to change the capabilities of the camera remotely through downloadable software. Huawei’s ‘software defined camera’ name borrows an IT term “software defined” to market this.
Critics of the video surveillance camera app ecosystem concept have raised the following concerns:
- Once system configuration is complete, it is rare that the camera function needs to be changed. For example, the video analytic function or the type of VMS are rarely changed after the camera is installed.
- At present, the majority of surveillance cameras are required for security purposes and need to record their footage for review in case of an incident. It is unlikely that these cameras will be suitably positioned for their use to be changed for other applications like business intelligence.
Despite these concerns, having an open standard and operating system specifically for security and IoT devices means different hardware and software vendors can use the same platform. In theory, this enables easy configuration of best-of-breed components, with more flexibility for changes and tighter cybersecurity controls than just standard interoperability protocols allow. This could also mean system configurations and camera applications are able to change more often due to an easier delivery model provided by the app ecosystem, not constrained by the current more manual and time-consuming processes. With the app store ecosystem allowing for remote direct software sales and even installation, significant investment will be required from each app developer in adequate technical and configuration support. Especially, if they are to build a successful and highly rated app for security and IoT devices.
Regardless of the need for changing software applications on video surveillance cameras, the ‘app store’ model could be a significant disruptor to the video surveillance industry’s traditional sales channel and software licensing model. Once different (non-video) IoT devices are also on the same platform and operating system, greater device interconnectivity and convergence is also likely. Despite not being a new concept, app ecosystems could be a disruptive force for not just video surveillance but other security and IoT technologies in 2019 onwards.