The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic marks the biggest global disruption since World War II. While the ‘new normal’ after the crisis is still taking shape, consumers are apprehensive about the future. According to a recent survey, 60% of shoppers are afraid of going grocery shopping, with 73% making fewer trips to physical stores. Returning to the workplace is also causing unease, as 66% of employees report feeling uncomfortable about returning to work after COVID-19. 

Businesses and employers are doing their best to alleviate these fears and create safe environments in and around their buildings. This also comes at tremendous costs for new safety measures and technologies – including updates to sanitation protocols and interior architecture – that protect against COVID-19. Costs in the billions that most businesses will face alone, without support from insurance and amidst larger macroeconomic challenges.

Saving costs and increasing security

But what if building operators, retail shop owners, and other stakeholders could save costs by leveraging new functionality from their existing security infrastructure? More specifically, expanding the use of current-generation security cameras – equipped with AI-driven image analysis capabilities – beyond the realm of security and into meeting new health regulations. This is exactly where video analytics algorithms come into play. And in the next step, a new evolutionary approach towards open security camera platforms promises new opportunities.

Security cameras have evolved from mere image capturing devices into complex data sensors

Over the past decade, security cameras have evolved from mere image capturing devices into complex data sensors. They provide valuable data that can be analysed and used in beneficial ways that are becoming the norm. Since 2016, Bosch has offered built-in Video Analytics as standard on all its IP cameras. On one hand, this enables automated detection of security threats more reliably than human operators. And on the other hand, video analytics collect rich metadata to help businesses improve safety, increase efficiency, reduce costs, and create new value beyond security.

Expanding camera functionality beyond security

Today, we have ‘smart’ security cameras with built-in video analytics to automatically warn operators of intruders, suspicious objects and dangerous behaviors. The rich metadata from several cameras on the same network can also be consolidated by making use of an intelligent software solution. It offers so-called pre-defined widgets to provide business intelligence by measuring area fill levels, counting building occupancy and detecting the formation of crowds. In combination with live video stream data, these insights enable heightened situational awareness to security operators. What’s more, operators are free to set their own parameters – like maximum number of occupants in a space and ‘off limit’ areas – to suit their needs.

These user-centric widgets also come in handy in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Specific widgets can trigger an alarm, public announcement or trigger a 'traffic light' when the maximum number of people in a space is exceeded. Building operators can also use available intelligence such as foot traffic ‘heat maps’ to identify problem areas that tend to become congested and place hand sanitiser stations at heavily frequented hotspots. At the same time, the option to perform remote maintenance on these systems limits the exposure of technicians in the field during the pandemic. Again, the underlying camera hardware and software already exist.

Cameras will be able to ‘learn’ future functionality to curb the spread of the coronavirus

Looking ahead, cameras with video analytic and neural network-based analytic capabilities will be able to ‘learn’ future functionality to curb the spread of the coronavirus. For instance, cameras could monitor distances between individuals and trigger voice announcements when social distancing guidelines are violated. Facial recognition software can be trained to monitor personal protective equipment (PPE) compliance and sound alerts for persons entering buildings without masks. The technical requirements are already in place. The task at hand is to deliver these new functionalities to cameras at scale, which is where open camera platforms hold the key.

Why open camera operating systems?

When it comes to innovating future camera applications that extend beyond security, no hardware manufacturer should go at it alone. Instead, an open platform approach provides the environment for third-party developers to innovate and market new functions. In essence, an open platform principle allows customers and users to change the behavior of devices by adding software afterwards. This software can either be found in an app store or can be self-developed.

For a precedent, we can look at the mobile phone industry. This is where software ecosystems like Android and Apple’s iOS have become the norm. They have also become major marketplaces, with the Apple App Store generating $519 billion in billings on 2019, as users use their phones for far more than just making phone calls.

In the same way, intelligent cameras will be used far beyond classic video applications in the future. To get there, adopting an open platform principle is essential for a genuine transformation on an industry level. But establishing an open platform principle in the fragmented video security industry demands a cooperative approach. In 2018 Bosch started a fully owned start-up company, Security & Safety Things, and became one of five founding members of OSSA (Open Security & Safety Alliance). With more than 40 members, the Alliance has collectively created the first Technology Stack for “open” video security devices. This includes the OSSA Application Interface Specification and Compliant Device Definition Specification.

An open camera platform for innovating future functionality 

Based on OSSA’s common APIs, collective approach on data security and core system requirements for video security cameras, the first camera manufacturers were able to build video security cameras that adopt an open platform principle. Further fueling innovation, OSSA focused on driving the creation of one centralised marketplace to unite demand and supply in the market. Camera devices that are built in accordance with OSSA’s Technology Stack, so-called “Driven by OSSA” devices, can benefit from this marketplace which consists of three pillars: a development environment, an application store, and a device management portal. Security & Safety Things has advanced OSSA’s open camera platform concept, built this marketplace for the security and safety industry and has developed the open OS that powers the first “Driven by OSSA” devices.

Making it quick and simple to customise security solutions by installing and executing multiple apps

This year, Bosch, as one of the first camera manufacturers, introduces the new INTEOX generation of open platform cameras. To innovate a future beyond security functionality, INTEOX combines built-in Intelligent Video Analytics from Bosch, an open Operating System (OS), and the ability to securely add software apps as needed. Thanks to the fully open principle, system integrators are free to add apps available in the application store, making it quick and simple to customise security solutions by installing and executing multiple apps on the INTEOX platform. In turn, app developers can now focus on leveraging the intelligence and valuable data collected by analytics-equipped cameras for their own software developments to introduce new exciting possibilities of applying cameras.

These possibilities are needed as smart buildings and IoT-connected technology platforms continue to evolve. And they will provide new answers to dealing with COVID-19. The aforementioned detection of face masks and PPE via facial detection algorithms is just one of manifold scenarios in which new apps could provide valuable functionality. Contact tracing is another field where a combination of access control and video analytics with rich metadata can make all the difference. Overall, open camera platforms open a future where new, complex functionality that can save lives, ensure business continuity and open new business opportunities will arrive via something as simple as a software update. And this is just the beginning.

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Pieter van de Looveren Director Marketing Communication Security, Bosch Security Systems

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