New: Axis Video Intercom

By Brian Rhodes, Published May 12, 2015, 12:00am EDT

A suicide resistant camera, an IP horn and now a video intercom.

Axis might be getting pushed out of the low end of the market, but they are building out high-end speciality niches.

In this note, we examine the new Axis video intercom, the A8004-VE, look its key strengths and weaknesses, comparing it to analog units and offerings from Aiphone and Mobotix.

Product Details

The A8004-VE combines an intercom, HD camera, and lock controller into a single outdoor rated unit. Axis claims both the intercom speaker and integrated microphone are 'better' than the ones typically integrated into IP cameras. Two-way, full duplex audio paired with remote door lock interface and a standard VAPIX integration means the unit will likely be a drop-in door intercom expansion into most VMS platforms.

Physically, the unit features an aluminum housing designed to be mounted recessed into a wall onto a standard US Triple-Gang electrical box [link no longer available] or flush onto a wall:

Here is Axis marketing video for the video intercom.

Major Claims

  • 720p Camera  with a fixed 2.8mm, 97 degree FoV lens.
  • Noise Cancelling Mic: The onboard microphone claims it will suppress loud background noises so that operators can hear user's voice clearly.
  • 85 dB Speaker: In addition, the unit's speaker is capable of producing sound up to 85 dBs so operators can be clearly heard.
  • Lock Control: The unit includes four I/O ports for directly connecting door mounted locks or switches than can be remotely triggered by operators via web interface or 3rd party app or VMS.
  • PoE Powered: Depending on the PoE Class of the supplying device (PSE), the A8004-VE will pass-through 160mA (Class 3) or 750mA (Class 4) at 12 VDC to attached locks. This is sufficient to power strikes, but maglocks will generally require Class 4 supplies or separate linear power.
  • IP67: In addition to water and dustproof ratings for outdoor use, the A8004-VE also claims corrosion and ice resistant NEMA4X and impact IK08 ratings.
  • SIP Enabled: For VMSes or VoIP systems that support SIP, the Door Station can be assigned a standard phone number for routing and control through standard VoIP handsets.

Price

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With an MSRP of $1249, street pricing for the unit will likely be ~$1100. Availability is slated to start in US Distribution in Q2 2015.

Dynamic Capture

Axis confirmed to IPVM the A8004-VE's integrated camera features 'Dynamic Capture', which is 'true' multiple-exposure WDR. We detailed the differences in our Axis WDR vs WDR? note, explaining:

"The camera ‘captures’ several images in fast sequence with different exposure levels between them. These images are then put together to a composite, where both the lightest and the darkest parts are kept. This image has a much higher bit depth, higher than a computer screen can handle. Therefore, a tone mapping is made – to downsize the image."

Based on the inevitable contrast challenges a typical video intercom must deal with due to a lower/more exposed operating height and unshielded glare from the sun, true WDR is likely an important feature in a large number of installs.

Weaknesses

While Axis appears to gets many things 'right' with this release, it does not come without potential troublespots or painpoints.

FoV Not Wide Enough: While 97 degrees is wide for general surveillance camera applications, it is common for video intercoms to have 120 or even 180 FoVs to mitigate blindspot risks and to see users no matter where they are positioned at the door.  The A8004-VE has a FoV suitable for most single door openings, but a double door or wide entrance may not be fully seen by the camera.

No Access Integration: While the unit supports operators manually 'buzzing in' visitors, it does support a direct linkage to a card reader or even Axis own 'Entry Manager' software.  If the door is also connected to an access control system, the A8004-VE must be installed as completely separate with no shared components and only linked together manually in the VMS.

Remote Control App Available

While the A8004-VE has not been released for sale, 3rd party app development has already built a smartphone/tablet control interface via Axis' ACAP: 

The application claims that it enables any iOS, Android, or Windows 7/8 based device to be a standalone remote master station. Instead of requiring operators be directly logged in to an integrated VMS or website, the app forwards all call requests over cellular connections and any user with the free app can interact with users at the door and control connected locks.

Licensing costs about $260 for three door stations, but the app is a free download to all mobile devices.

Compared to Analog Video Intercoms

Low cost analog based video intercom systems are widely available for less than $500, including offerings from Aiphone (ie: AX Series), Viking (ie: E-35 [link no longer available]) , and Honeywell (ie: H-BUS [link no longer available]). However, integrating those offerings typically required manual configurations, video encoders, and are difficult to control remotely which are major claims of the Axis A8004-VE.

Compared to IP Video Intercoms

Mobotix: The IP-based T25 generally offers the same or better features, but comes with a price tag starting at ~$900 per unit. The T25 offers a 3.1 or 5MP camera, but also offers additional RFID card reader and keypad modules for direct integration with an access system - a feature the A8004-VE does not offer. 

However, VMS integration with the T25 is more limited due to Mobotix lack of ONVIF camera support (which Mobotix says they are in the process of addressing / rectifying).

Aiphone: The analog intercom manufacturer also offers IP-based systems, with the IS series being most common. The IS series offers a wider FoV at 170° with Pan and Tilt functions compared the A8004's 97°. However, Aiphone is not directly supported in VMS platforms, the camera is less than 720p resolution, and an IP-based single door system costs over $2500 due to a mandatory base server being added to the required hardware.

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