Interview with Mr. Sudhindra Holla, Director, Axis Communications, India and SAARC and Mr. Sandesh Kaup, Country Manager, Milestone Systems, India and SAARC.
Could you please elaborate the technologies which are making big impact on our lives today?
Sudhindra: Surveillance is an ever-evolving technology. Axis Communications, initiated in 1996, is one of the market leaders in the network video technology. Axis has been the first in the industry to launch a wide range of products from HDTV cameras to thermal and network cameras. Innovation is a key focus area at Axis for example, zip stream technology that compresses videos and helps save on storage costs and bandwidth. We are also integrating other technologies with network video like adding network audio in a video surveillance setup to enable users to either automate announcements or make them from the command-and-control room. In addition, we have also introduced network radar system.
In the surveillance industry, one of the main challenges for large enterprises and customers is the openness of proprietary systems and independent systems. We are integrating our networks and platform to deliver an open platform to our customers. We also integrate with the video and command control systems of Milestone Systems.
We have witnessed a rise in cyber-attacks during the pandemic. To prevent security threats, our network cameras ARTPEC chipsets are enabled with features like Secure Boot which sets off an alarm to the user when the firmware is being tampered or a third-party tries to access the network using the camera. We put robust imaging and the cybersecurity features into the cameras, which makes Axis products one of the most cyber secure cameras and make them easy to integrate with platforms like Milestone Systems. These integrations let the users customize features according to their needs. With Milestone, we integrate a feature called ‘Optimizer’, wherein the commonly used settings pops up and makes it simple for customers to integrate as a technology.
How AI, IoT, analytics and other cutting edge technologies are integrated in video to give better choice to the authorities?
Sudhindra: Artificial intelligence has become the trend when it comes to camera being a sensor. Customers are now looking forward to automation with the help of AI/ML. This helps in processes like minimizing false alarms, automating alerts for operators only on specific stimuli like human intruders, and others. Our ARTPEC-7 chipset enables powerful AI features which is embedded in the cameras to support analytics. Axis has been in the forefront of recommending edge analytics which runs on the camera for lower network costs and less load on the network.
Today, customers do not prefer sitting in front of large screens and doing repetitive jobs. Hence, automation helps in making operations efficient using artificial intelligence.
Sandesh: The power of digital technology has been enhanced during the pandemic with video surveillance. It will emerge as a safeguard technology post pandemic too. Video technology will be in the forefront when it comes to crowd counting, distance detection and face masks detection. At Milestone Systems, we work with ecosystem community partners who help develop these technologies. We have partnered with technology companies where they build these analytics on our platform, to give a combined solution to our customers. Similarly, the edge analytics developed on Axis devices are integrated on the Milestone software leading to seamless integration of technologies. Customers can get all the important features required on our platform as a result of the joint integration of Axis Communications and Milestone Systems.
The major technologies which will drive and impact our lives are cloud,AI and video conferencing. Video conferencing has matured in the way we interact with our customers and partners. This technology has created jobs and driven innovation in the industry.
There is a national Artificial Intelligence Mission according to which AI is touted to be the bedrock of the Government of India’s effort to develop nine focus sectors like healthcare, agriculture, education, smart city and infrastructure, smart mobility, and transportation. As the smart city projects from the government is getting more prominence, we will see a lot of disruption of technologies which is turn will bring in innovative video analytics software vital to the sectors. Additionally, CCTVs integrated with biotelemetry can be monitored by paramedics to reduce response time in case of patient’s emergency. Hence, these technologies are not only going to enhance the services, but also going to help monitor the norms set by the government and civic authorities.
An integrated network of video cameras around the city will be the extra pairs of eyes and ears to help authorities in minimizing the spread of the virus, crowd detection with the help of AI, contact tracing, and mask detection as mentioned earlier. Milestone as a platform plays an important role here. We collaborate with companies like Axis to integrate all the technologies on edge. Axis brings in a lot of value to us through this integration to deliver solutions to our end users. .
Can you please share some of your Indian based projects?
Sudhindra: The segments in which we did fairly well despite the pandemic are thesmart city projects, the commercial segment, the larger Indian enterprises and IT-ITES companies both globally and in India. We also saw uptake in the critical infrastructure and manufacturing as well.
Karnal city is one of the recent projects in India. We have over 25 cities using Axis cameras for a wide range of purposes. Some of our big safe city installations are Hyderabad City, Nanded, and Junagarh.We have worked with Milestone in the retail sector, for example Cafe Coffee Day a few years back. All their outlets are running on the Axisplatform. In the healthcare sectorwith Milestone, we had made the installation in the Kalinga Institute of the Medical Sciences, Bhubaneshwar, one of the largest medical sciences organizations in the country. We have also worked in projects withNovotel, Mindtree, Persistent Systems and many of these installations have been withMilestone.
Could you please highlight your cybersecurity solutions?
Sudhindra: Axis has a very clear cybersecurity policy to workwith our ecosystem partners, including Milestone Systems where we make our systems as secure as possible with a robust firmware. Hence,if someone tampers the firmware, the camera doesn’t boot because it looks at a very secure boot function whereas if someone tampers to get through into the network, or attacks the camera, it will not boot but shut down and alert the operator. There are very strong authentication, encryption features andpasswords. Most of the hacks around the world happen because of weak password, so in Axis, the moment you login we force the operator to put in a password which is different from the standard one. All these features put together make our camera very robust and secure. We have constant updates and upgrades by working with ecosystem players where we come with firmware, very similar to a MS or Apple, or any leading networking system like a Cisco works. They come up with standard firmware whenever somebody reports a vulnerability.
Being a European origin company, we don’t have any back doors in our products. Even though you hear about a lot of back doors and products coming in from some of the vendors, we don’t have any such things. We are a Swedish organization- with open and transparent in what we do and what we provide to our customers, and we abide by the laws when it comes to privacy and cyber security and so Axis boasts about one of the most cyber secure devices and cameras, you can ever find.
Sandesh: Most of video management software is vulnerable for cyberattacks and the main foundation of cybersecurity is a strong encryption. We use the latest encryption technology provided by Microsoft; the latest Microsoft CNG encryption modules are supported by our software. We have built our encryption on these technologies which makes our platform robust and protected from cyber theft. Moreover, we are GDPR compliant which is a European standard which has been issued by independent and recognized institute. It has a European privacy seal, and this certification proves compliance with criteria catalogues V201701.Our XProtect Corporate 2019 R2 is the first major VMS product to obtain GDPR ready certification covering all our core VMS functions.
How does your camera technology work in different circumstances?
Sudhindra:Axis has been one of the pioneers to provide solution for any type of light conditions. Very clear HD footage and images when it comes to indoor light or outdoor light, which most of the cameras, can do but the real challenge comes when the light conditions are not so good, and you need to provide the clear footages even in darkness. Axis helps in providing the color footages, images and evidence grade video even in low light, which is quite challenging for a camera to adjust in bright and dark areas. The camera can get overexposed or less exposed and it has to adjusts to this particular exposure in a scenario. For example, are walking from daylight into a tunnel, a camera will have to adjust itself for more exposure and under exposure and yet give you proper footages and videos. Hence, we call this as the wide dynamic range or the WDR feature, where the light compensation happens, and the camera still gives you evidence grade video.
The other scenario which we are seeing an uptake is the perimeter applications as and when there is not enough light or absolutely no light in some of the areas. Here comes the role of the thermal cameras. Since you will not be able to see the images or the footages like how you see in an optical camera, but you can see whether it is a vehicle or a human or an animal even, in an absolute darkness and take an action accordingly.
We also have specialty cameras like, if you want to install a camera in a very cold climates or in a desert, we have a camera that can go up to minus 60 degrees and plus 70 degrees as well. These kinds of installations are very ruggedized installations, with stainless steel for anti-corrosive environments, like chemical plants or factories.
In the oil, gas, or the pharma manufacturing facilities explosion protection cameras are required, i.e. when an explosion is supposed to happen in the facility you don’t want the spark to spread like wildfire since every device can act as a spreader of the fire and we need to contain the spread through our explosion protect cameras. We are seeing a lot of interest coming from the market, especially from oil and gas sector, petroleum sector, pharma companies.
What are your unique features as compared to others in the market?
Sudhindra: One of the key benefits we bring is integration with other devices. There are not many who can integrate audio, radar, access control, different IP sensors- all making it work as a single system. seamlessly with platforms, like in Milestone Systems.
When it comes to our low light performance, we are challenged by the customer, and we ask them to see the low light performance. They install two different cameras and see the Axis difference when it comes to the footage and the image quality. it also helps in reducing bandwidth. We are one of the pioneers with a technology called a zip stream, where we bring down the storage requirements from anywhere between on an average 20 to 30% which is huge. We ensure that around 98% to 99% of cameras can be recycled, which means we are absolutely environment friendly in our sustainability efforts.
We are amongst the greenest when it comes to how much energy our cameras use. On an average they consume 50% less power as compared to others. This in turn means saving on a five or seven-year deployment with large systems, the power savings can run into crores. ,
Our integration of audio is quite unique too. In the entire range we offeracross the cameras along with compliance with GDPR across our product line. We give a five year warranty on our cameras and our failure rates are absolutely low, with around 5%chances. Lastly, when you install with a platform, like Milestone Systems, we can bring up our network in no time. You can easily upgrade the firmware of many cameras in one groupthat can operate with Axis Communications and Milestone Systems integration.
How are you managing your work environment during this challenging time?
Sudhindra: During the initial days of the pandemic when the nation went into a lockdown, we turned more digital. At least I’m more digital than what I was before the first wave hit. We initiated a lot of webinars Academy trainings, and started running them on a digital platform to get in our customers, consultants and partners to attend. There’s one message which I always gave to the team is to ensure responsibility, let’s respond to our requests coming in from partners, customers, consultants. Let’s not run away. Hence it was a learning experience of sorts.
We kept the communication channels amongst our teams and ecosystemopen. We heard some very kind words from our customers, partners and consultants who said we were one of the very few companies not just in the camera space or the security space, but in general in the IT space who kept the communication on, and we continued with the same. We eventually returned to office sometime in later part of 2020 when we did alternate days and encouraged the concept of 50% time in office and 50% in work from home, but again came in April, the second wave hit, and we are back to working from home. This year we have automated a lot of our processes and intend to come back slowly. Most of our employees have taken the first dose of vaccination and some of them are taking the second dose as well. we intend to resume office from mid July, probably on a 50-50 basis or start experimenting on a rotation basis. We get things done through teams or zoom or webex these days.Howeverfor me it’s very heartening when I get to meet our colleagues in office. For me, the organization culture is when you walk into an office and see how employees conversing over a casual coffee or lunch. For me the cultural element is something that I really miss a lot and I get inspired by meeting colleagues so in a way I’m all geared up to go back to office.
Sandesh: From a Milestone perspective, we miss office too. We have adjustedwell to the work from home situation and what we have realized is that between waves, we have to obviously meet customers, do our activities and whenever we are stuck at home we meet our customers through teams or through zoom meetings. Wehad a lot of trainings and since we are a software company it was critical from a deployment perspective.We can do remote deployments,support our customers remotely, most of our installation can also be done remotely.We have created virtual labs within Milestone, and we can actually invite our customers into the virtual labs where they can do a hands-on training.
We have accepted that the next normal may not always be face to face interaction and we need to get adapted to the new way of life. Everything has its own pros and cons, but what we feel is that at least we are connected, we talk to a lot of people through these interactions, and we can still run our business from our homes. Obviously, we need to be a little more cautious going forward when we actually start meeting our partners and customers.