Winners and Losers Fall 2012

By John Honovich, Published Sep 25, 2012, 08:00pm EDT

Recently, surveillance innovation has been underwhelming. Indeed, this Spring, it hit a low point, with incremental advances in video quality and a boost for edge storage being the most notable trends, raising questions about what would come in the fall, when new releases are typically less significant.

However, while me-too releases were fairly minimal, a surprising number of niche innovations appeared. Though none of them are likely to re-shape the industry, with so many interesting new options, we are excited about the potential to improve various projects in the near future. If you have been ignoring what's new, now is actually a great time to take a closer look (see our 50+ new products directory and, inside, our top 12 niche new choices).

In addition to our top 12 niche new choices, we will review the following segments:

  • Megapixel cameras
  • Thermal cameras
  • Storage
  • Surveillance lighting
  • VMS
  • VSaaS/Cloud
  • Video Analytics (specifically face recognition and demographics)
  • Wireless

Finally, we will review the progress (or lack thereof) of the following companies:

  • Axis
  • 3VR
  • Arecont Vision
  • Avigilon
  • Bosch
  • Cisco
  • Genetec
  • March
  • Microsoft
  • Milestone Systems
  • Mobotix
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • In the last 6 months, covert/wearable IP cameras have gone from nothing to quite promising. It is not a huge, mass market application for but retail and the police, it is quite important.

    The two most specific improvements for covert/wearable that the shift to IP bring are:

    • Higher resolution - moving from SD to 720p, 1.3MP or 3MP
    • Panoramic imaging - combined with higher resolution, like other IP cameras, 180 degree capture is possible with dewarping

    Here are a few new products that deliver this:

    With big brands making a push, we would expect a number of smaller manufacturers to follow in the next year.

    Top 12 Niche New Products

    These may not be the 'best', nor the 'biggest', nor certainly the products with the broadest appeal. However, they are all different enough that one or two of them may be worth you investigating further:

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    Here's a review of shifts in major segments:

    Megapixel cameras - Outside of the covert/wearable trend, megapixel camera introductions were fairly minimal. 360/panoramic is probably the other big notable, not so much for it being new but because vendors keep on jumping in (now Axis, Panasonic and D-Link). Minor moves include Bosch and Samsung introducing MP 'value' lines. Possibly the most interesting was Arecont's preview of a 12MP WDR multi-imager panoramic camera - an important improvement to a line that is already attractive and with few direct competitors (note: release is not yet scheduled - expect it sometime in 2013).

    Thermal cameras - While FLIR released an incremental improvement, the big newsmaker is DRS who is shattering price points for thermal both for fixed and speeddome offerings. The prices are so low that they are literally close to high end day/night cameras, which is amazing despite the marketing hype that FLIR and Axis touted over the last few years. We are interested to see how well DRS can perform overall and are working on a test here.

    Storage - Unless you are counting edge storage, which continues to be a big trend (with e.g., Axis improving their offering), there is not much new. However, Intransa released sunglasses and, according to them, they were a big hit (Intransa continues to dominate chotchkies giveaways).

    Surveillance lighting - Typically not much new, especially outside of Raytec, but two new companies are offering interesting alternatives: Startup Nuoptic is offering varifocal IR illuminators that can be controlled remotely over serial connections. CAST has a low voltage perimeter lighting system that has potential.

    VMS - No real trends, just a handful of VMS companies with modest improvements.

    VSaaS/Cloud - Despite the hype, very few new cloud releases. The most interesting was March adding cloud services (managed video) to its existing DVRs/NVRs, a nice template for other manufacturers.

    Video Analytics (specifically face recognition and demographics) - I am not sure if there was a single new substantive release in security video analytics (thanks OV). However, both 3VR and Cognitec were marketing new demographic solutions and iominscient was pitching science fiction facial recognition.

    Wireless - About as dead as the storage market and with gorilla Ubiquiti still recovering from the counterfeiting crisis, not much good news to discuss. If you are looking for something 'new' or different, check out white space wireless or using cellular for surveillance.


    Finally, a review of company moves:

    Axis - Axis continues to dominate new product releases, both in number and significance, including the covert line, low cost minidomes, VMS killer improvements, more low light cameras and their first panoramic camera. They are so big, so broad and have such high quality, it is hard to imagine them not outgrowing the market, which is a little crazy given their already large size. Can any camera company threaten Axis? And now, despite their protests that ACC is just a DVR killer, we think they have a strong foundation to reshape the low-end of the VMS market.

    3VR - 3VR has their most interesting new offering in years - a new demographics analytic that detects gender and age. While they are the not the first in surveillance (Panasonic released similar last year and Cognitec announced at ASIS), 3VR's is the only one bundled with recording and supporting 3rd party cameras, making it easier to use in 'regular' surveillance deployments. Plus, with their planned release of software only soon (about time), it gives reason to reconsider the company.

    Arecont Vision - Of the 3 major products Arecont showed at ASIS, only 1 is scheduled for release in the near term, making it difficult to assess their actual 'real' advances. The MegaBall has improved aesthetics compared to their own dome and box cameras, which should help them but it does not mark a big shift competitively. The other 2 introductions were billed as 'technology demonstrations' and do not have a firm release date (sometime in 2013). The 40MP panoramic may be interesting because of its overall resolution (does it replace 120+ analog cameras :) but we suspect its low light and WDR performance will be dreadful. The future product that has the most potential is the 12MP WDR panoramic that will likely have the best all around imagining of this series and in a notably smaller form factor than previous generation AV panoramics.

    Avigilon - Product releases were solid but not exceptional. While there were no new cameras introduced at ASIS, Avigilon released PTZs a few months ago (which was not exceptional). Their major ASIS release was incremental advances to their VMS which should help close the gap (somewhat) against Milestone and Genetec (especially given their historical enterprise management limitations). Avigilon got the most attention for its Kinect/Minority Report demo which was great marketing but is not actually being released.

    Bosch - Nothing huge for Bosch but their new WDR camera has potential at the high-end and their expanded value line plus their edge recording improves their positioning modestly.

    Cisco - Granted their past problems have set the bar low, but Cisco is rectifying past mistakes.

    Genetec - For the second show in a row, not really any major announced advances. Relative to the VMS market, not a major negative but surprising given their own track record.

    March - The acquisition seems to be proceeding fairly smoothly with the March team evidently taking over in the US - a good move considering March's stronger brand and team compared to acquirer Infinova. Plus, again, the managed cloud offering is a smart move.

    Microsoft - They will likely win a number of city deployments, if only given their deep connections and use of other Microsoft products but we think it is unlikely for them to be a major player in PSIM generally.

    Milestone Systems - Never a dull moment with Milestone. The Silicon Valley announcement is silly and likely to amount to very little but certainly will get some naïve people excited. On the other hand, the HTML5 client release was interesting and generated a lot of debate. While it has a clean UI, the lack of support for ~1/3rd of users is going to be an issue, especially when they promote it as being 'browser agnostic'.

    Mobotix - Their big new release was the S14 and their top recent product segment was panoramic cameras. With Axis now releasing both, this is not good for Mobotix. While Mobotix will likely view this as copycating (i.e., Mobotix's Apple, Axis is Microsoft, etc.) and Mobotix does have advantages in high end features, Axis's broad 3rd party support and lower prices hurts Mobotix's ability to expand. On that point, when will Mobotix support H.264 video streaming and ONVIF? This is an incredibly destructive and pointless holdout.

    Samsung - This year, Samsung released two very low cost lines - for SD and now MP. As a big brand with attractive prices, they are becoming an interesting alternative to Acti, Vivotek, Arecont, etc.

    Sony - Sony showed their upcoming Generation 6 cameras which are scheduled for release early 2013. Given how modest the improvements are, how long it has been since Generation 5 and with Axis relentless introducing new products, it does not seem to be enough to maintain their ground. Sony obviously is in no risk of going away but it is disappointing not to see more from a company with such a strong track record in IP cameras.

    The Field

    We left out lots of big companies, like Pelco, Tyco, Honeywell, Interlogix, Verint, etc., - all of them continue to do what they do with little major movement. At some level, this is come to be expected and unless they release a cake, it does not make much sense to criticize in any detail.

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