Lytro's Video Surveillance Potential Examined

By: John Honovich, Published on Jun 22, 2011

In 2011, a 3+ year old company gained an amazing amount of press. The company, originally called Refocus Imaging, now rebranded as Lytro announced a $50 Million found raise from one of the hottest investors in Silicon Valley - Andressen Horowitz (who wrote a gushing post about the technology). In this note, we examine the company and technology's potential for video surveillance applications. We explain why we think it is has little chance of short term impact or improvement for surveillance.

Let's start with examining the basic claims by Lytro:

  • The technology centers around capturing and processing 'light fields'. As their technology description [link no longer available] notes, light fields are: "the amount of light traveling in every direction through every point in space – it’s all the light rays in a scene. Conventional cameras cannot record the light field."
  • Company's marketing claims: The practical application [link no longer available] of processing light fields is that it enables (1) "no fuss focus" - users can just point and click and  (2) "Instant On" - no need to wait for camera to focus.
  • The company will be manufacturing cameras as the technology requires its own proprietary hardware. This is not a software add-on for existing cameras or post processing.

Below is a 1 minute overview video from the company that demos the technology:

Here is an interview with the company's founder from TechCrunch:

 

 

Our Analysis

Two main issues likely will constrain this technology from having an impact on video surveillance applications:

  • It does not solve a key video surveillance problem
  • The company and its investors are unlikely to focus on the surveillance market

The company aims to solve a common problem in digital photography but not one in surveillance. In photography, people take shots of different scenes routinely and want the convenience of being able to do so quickly. In surveillance, cameras are set up once to monitor a specific scene. The time needed to focus and issues of cameras being out of focus are not major problems. To the extent being out of focus is periodically an issue, auto back focus capabilities are a much simpler, straightforward solution. Also, while PTZ cameras do move, they require long range optical zooms - a feature we do not see this company supporting any time in the near future.

Secondly, the $50 Million investment and the stated intent of the company is to go after the much larger digital photography camera market. Video surveillance cameras are a far smaller niche as well as less sexy to big name investors like the ones involved here. This make it highly unlikely they will even attempt to build or market a product to surveillance.

Outlook

Media coverage has been amazing and the hype level is intense (e.g., see a front page NYTimes article on them). We believe is because of a combination of factors: (1) big name investor, (2) a bullish investment climate and (3) the fact that there is actually hard technology here (unlike the online coupon companies so en vogue recently). That noted, the company has existed for a number of years as Refocus Imaging (see a 2008 article [link no longer available] with the same claims from the founder).

While we do not know how well this will work in the consumer market, we do not think this has any impact in the short to mid term in surveillance. If the company is successful in the consumer market, like other technologies that migrated, we might see migration to surveillance. However, this is the most bullish scenario, one that we do not think has any real possibility until the second part of this decade (2015 or later).

[Update 2014: Lytro is not gaining much traction even in the consumer market.]

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

90+ Companies Profile Directory on Nov 05, 2019
While IPVM covers the largest companies in the industry regularly (like Axis, Dahua, Hikvision, etc.), IPVM strives to do a profile post on each...
nFlux AI Startup Profile on Oct 28, 2019
nFlux, an Amazon, Google, and Microsoft funded AI startup told IPVM their mission is to build the most intelligent video analytics platform in the...
Camect "Worlds Smartest Camera Hub" Tested on Oct 18, 2019
Camect is a Silicon Valley startup that claims the "Smartest AI Object Detection On The Market", detecting not only people and vehicles, but...
'Bunker Busting' Wireless Access Startup: Sure-Fi Profile on Oct 03, 2019
An access startup is claiming its 'bunker busting' wireless Wiegand radios can punch through 'any obstruction'. We examine their offering,...
Consumer IP Camera Analytics / AI Shootout - Arlo, Google / Nest, Amazon / Ring, Hikvision / Ezviz, Wyze Cam, Yi Home on Sep 26, 2019
AI analytics are hitting the mainstream in the consumer camera market, with entrants Wyze and Yi Home releasing free people detection on their...
Startup XNOR.ai, Inventors of YOLO, Video Surveillance Plans Examined on Sep 24, 2019
YOLO is arguably the most discussed and hyped computer vision model today. The inventors of YOLO have a startup named XNOR.ai that aims to bring...
Directory of 70 Video Surveillance Startups on Sep 18, 2019
This directory provides a list of video surveillance startups to help you see and research what companies are new or not yet broadly known. 2019...
ASIS GSX 2019 Final Show Report on Sep 12, 2019
IPVM went to Chicago for ASIS GSX 2019, with many exhibitors disappointed about traffic and the exhibitor schedule changing next year. However,...
Yi Home Camera 3 AI Analytics Tested on Sep 10, 2019
Yi Technology is claiming "new AI features" in its $50 Home Camera 3 "eliminates 'false positives' caused by flying insects, small pets, or light...
China Dahua To Replace Their Software With US Pepper on Aug 22, 2019
What does a US government banned company do to improve its security positioning in the US? Well, Dahua is unveiling a novel solution, partnering...

Most Recent Industry Reports

ADT Stock Surges - "Leading The Commercial Space" on Nov 15, 2019
Don't call it comeback... but maybe call it a commercial provider. ADT, whose stock dropped by as much as 2/3rds since IPOing in 2018, has now...
Gatekeeper Security Company Profile - Detecting Faces Inside Vehicles on Nov 14, 2019
Border security is a common discussion in mainstream US news and politics, as is the use of banned Chinese equipment by US Government agencies....
Hikvision CEO And Vice-Chair Under PRC Government Investigation on Nov 14, 2019
In a surprising and globally covered move, Hikvision CEO Hu Yangzhong and Vice-Chairman Gong Hongjia are being investigated by China's securities...
Camera Field of View (FoV) Guide on Nov 13, 2019
Field of View (FoV) and Angle of View (AoV), are deceptively complex. At their most basic, they simply describe what the camera can "see" and seem...
UK Big Brother Watch: Hikvision Is 'Morally Bankrupt' on Nov 13, 2019
UK civil liberties advocate Big Brother Watch has condemned Hikvision as being 'morally bankrupt' following IPVM exposing Hikvision marketing...
Color Low Light Mega Camera Shootout - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Panasonic, Speco, Sony, Vivotek on Nov 12, 2019
This is the biggest color low light shootout ever, testing 20+ super low light models from 10 manufacturers: Increasingly, each manufacturer...
Wireless / WiFi Access Lock Guide on Nov 12, 2019
For some access openings, running wires can add thousands in cost, and wireless alternatives that avoid it becomes appealing. But using wireless...
Hikvision Global News Reports Directory on Nov 11, 2019
Hikvision has received the most global news reporting of any video surveillance company, ever, ranging from the WSJ, the Financial Times, Reuters,...
Hikvision Markets Uyghur Ethnicity Analytics, Now Covers Up on Nov 11, 2019
Hikvision has marketed an AI camera that automatically identifies Uyghurs, on its China website, only covering it up days ago after IPVM questioned...
Open vs End-to-End Systems: Integrator Statistics 2019 on Nov 11, 2019
Preference for open systems is on the decline, according to new IPVM statistics. We asked integrators: For video surveillance systems, do you...