Panasonic Business Intelligence Kit ExaminedBy John Honovich, Published Jun 08, 2011, 08:00pm EDT
In May 2011, Panasonic introduced a Business Intelligence Kit [link no longer available]. The most noteworthy aspect of this kit is functionality that automatically detects faces and estimates the age and gender of people. This is the first mainstream commercial offering of this technology we have seen in the surveillance market. In this note, we examine the functionality, pricing and competitive positioning of the kit.
Let's start with the basics:
- The kit is offered as an add-on for Panasonic's NVR (the WJ-NV200). This NVR includes facial detection / recognition (see our overview of this function). The kit only works with this NVR and is not available to be integrated / added on to 3rd party systems.
- The kit adds face and gender identification, statistical analysis of people trends (breakdown of age and gender over time) and increases the watchlist size (from 16 to 64) and concurrent matching size (from 8 to 32) for facial recognition
- A 3 month free trial for the kit is offered with purchase of the NVR. The MSRP of the Business Intelligence Kit is $1,273 USD. By contrast the MSRP of the NVR with 1TB of storage is $3,273 USD(online pricing is about $2,000). We would expect online pricing for the Business Intelligence Kit to be $800 - $900 USD.
- The intelligence can only be applied on a single camera, automatically set to H.264, 1.3MP, 5fps (see operating manual [link no longer available] for details).
- In the technical documentation, Panasonic notes a number of limitations: matching may not work outdoors, for partially concealed faces, with strong direct light or when a subject is moving fast (see page 6 of NVR manual [link no longer available]). Up to 500 faces/people can be analyzed per hour.
- While the documentation does not cite a maximum FoV width, from their sample images, we suspect it is relatively narrow (12 feet or less wide).
Panasonic supports both a real time output for face/gender analysis and a statistical one. Below are examples:
Here is video from a Japanese trade show demonstrating the kit in action:
We believe the gender and age estimation has potential with some important limitations.
On the positive side:
- Gender and age estimation does not need to be extremely accurate nor does it matter if any particular individual is misidentified (unlike facial alerting which is highly sensitive to this problem).
- For retailers, this could be a useful feature as it provides them a data point that is not easily determined by traditional means.
- The pricing is fairly 'cheap' and one can try it out for a few months for free.
On the negative side:
- Only supports Panasonic cameras and recorders.
- Only supports 1 camera per recorder
- May have problems with various lighting and environmental scenarios (though less likely to be a practical problem as most use cases will be indoors).
At the very least, we think this will be a valuable marketing differentiator for Panasonic as this functionality is commercially so uncommon yet engenders interest and potential value. This is something we plan to test, minimally to better understand how well face and gender detection work.
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