When trying to solve difficult problems, it’s always good to think outside the box. For Boston’s Wentworth Institute of Technology, thinking outside of the box means looking inside the camera. And the university’s program provides insight into the future of IP video surveillance.
In 2009, Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass., launched the AXIS Camera Application Platform (ACAP), which is similar to an Apple IOS or Android environment in that developers create unique applications that run directly on the device and serve any number of purposes. In other words, someone writes an app — e.g. people counter, heat map, cross-line detection — and it’s downloaded to run inside the camera or video encoder.
This ACAP method helps save CPU cycles on a central server since the processing of the program or analytic can be done at the edge device, which in turn leads to more efficient use of resources, saves bandwidth, uses the raw video that’s captured and allows for more cost-efficient systems to be designed.
The ACAP platform is available to more than 1,000 global members of our Application Developer Partner (ADP) program, and we are proud to be supported by every major video management system (VMS) software developer in the world. ADPs use our VAPIX application programming interface (API), customized SDKs, testing tools and technical support to design software applications supporting video from Axis cameras and encoders. Given Axis’ history and experience in the security industry, most of the ACAP applications to date have provided solutions related to motion detection and cross-line perimeter alerts.
However, we have seen the development of cross-functional video, meaning that cameras used for security can also be purposed for non-security applications. For example, retailers are improving store operations with people counting and facilities using license plate recognition (LPR) can allow authorized vehicles to automatically pass through a checkpoint. In addition, there are many partners that develop niche applications that support other uses of network video such as tele-medicine, business operations, video conferencing and internet webcasting.
Although much has been accomplished with ACAP in the past few years, we recognized the opportunity to expand the Axis reach into a large pool of untapped talent: students and universities. Axis’ North American headquarters is located near many of the top academic institutions in the Boston area and the world, so it seemed like a natural next step. As we created a pilot partnership program, we knew we wanted a university with an excellent computer science reputation that would be able to dedicate resources to the project.
Wentworth Institute of Technology offered that and more with a focus on practical applications and interaction with the business community. We also knew first-hand the talent Wentworth produces as Axis has employed several graduates.
At our initial meeting with Chuck Hotchkiss, associate provost and Interim Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Networking at Wentworth, and several professors, we received almost immediate support for the partnership. After several cameras were installed in Wentworth’ lab, an ADP engineer based in Sweden provided two days of intensive training to the students and professors on the VAPIX API and ACAP platform. The students were not assigned projects or tasked with solving any particular challenge — and that was for a reason. We wanted them to have a clean slate and a fresh perspective on potential applications for network video.
Within a few months, we were pleasantly surprised with the initial results. Several of the students developed applications on their own time. Just as we thought, the creativity of the students was shown in their projects. Many of the projects focus on uses beyond traditional security applications, which reinforces our view of the potential for software development and growth opportunities. Wentworth participated in the Axis Partner Pavilion at ISC West this year, and the traffic by their display is a testament to the interest by the industry in the work they’ve already accomplished.
Based on the successful relationship with Wentworth, Axis will continue the partnership as well as look to expand the program to other academic institutions. This is the tip of the iceberg and the opportunities to create new and exciting applications will only continue to grow from here. The next generation of software developers are students in their homes and dormitories looking to use their creative imaginations to develop new and exciting solutions to today’s business challenges. We look forward to supporting these students as they go into the “real world” and use their experience to continue their development and maybe even start their own company.