Adoption of battery-powered outdoor cameras has grown in North America recently. Ambarella, which produces image processing chips, has played a pivotal role in the latest developments. The company’s solutions minimize power consumption while delivering crisp images.Adoption of battery-powered outdoor cameras has grown in North America recently. Ambarella, which produces image processing chips, has played a pivotal role in the latest developments. The company’s solutions minimize power consumption while delivering crisp images.
As the iconic product for home security, various types of smart cameras have been launched in the smart home market. Those cameras require not only smooth and quality images, but also intelligent video analysis in order to get a higher level understanding of their surroundings. Ambarella, the renowned designer of low-power, high-definition (HD) and ultra HD video compression and image processing solutions since 2004, is putting its efforts towards intelligent video analytics for next-generation cameras. Ambarella’s customers range from cable company Comcast, to home security equipment companies like Canary, Nest and Ring, and security system and services providers such as ADT.
William Xu, Product Marketing Manager at Ambarella explained in an interview with SMAhome how Ambarella’s design enables home security cameras to become smarter.
"Intelligent video analytics are utilized so that cameras can recognize and distinguish the objects that they see. The more accurate information that can be acquired from the camera footage, the better that camera can be applied for more intelligent applications,” said Xu.
Take the latest video doorbell designs, for example. These can distinguish themselves from previous generations of video doorbells thanks to their intelligent analytics functionality. With the embedded Ambarella solution, the doorbells perform intelligent computing to detect people and differentiate them from un-interesting motion, such as movements in the grass, or a car or dog passing by.
In addition, one of the key challenges of smart cameras is that they are always on, thus generating heat continuously. High-quality cameras also use High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing in order to better render high contrast scenes. HDR increases the amount of data processing required, which in turn also increases the power consumption. This is a key challenge for any smart camera design, as those cameras usually tend to be small and as such cannot dissipate much heat. Ambarella has made it one of its specialties to focus on low power designs and to try and solve those fundamental power challenges.
If used in a clever way, intelligent analytics can actually help to conserve power. For example, for a battery-powered camera, the camera can be in sleep mode most of the time, thus conserving power, and as soon as there is an event, the device will quickly power up and analyze the video. At this point, the device’s built-in algorithms will try to figure out if what the camera sees is a human, a package, a dog or something else, and then decide whether the event is worth recording. If not, it will shut down immediately and go in to sleep mode again, thus saving even more power.
What Ambarella is doing is also called “computer vision” which deals with how computers can be made to gain high-level understanding from digital images or videos. Service providers are interested in computer vision to make their products better and smarter, for example, notifying users only when a camera has detected a person rather than other kinds of motion, therefore reducing false notifications and reducing network usage.
“Intelligent and accurate analytics are very important to many of Ambarella clients’ product roadmaps. There will be more and more smart and low-power cameras available in 2017.”
Ambarella’s S3Lm reference designs are made for battery-powered cameras and smart video doorbells. They have built-in core functionalities like two-way video and audio communication as well as smart scene analysis. Clients may make custom adjustments that suit their individual needs. The software development kits also allow manufacturers to reuse previously developed software.
Ambarella’s S3Lm Elektra-S is a smart, wire-free reference design for battery powered IP cameras. The Elektra-S provides crisp 1080p video at very low bitrates producing excellent low light video quality with low power consumption. The reference design’s smart Quick-Motion-Detect algorithm filters out false positives (like trees blowing in the wind or animals walking by) in order to achieve optimal battery life.
Ambarella’s S3Lm Daredevil is a smart doorbell reference design for battery powered and circuit powered doorbells. The S3Lm Daredevil enables 1080p High Dynamic Range (HDR) video, with digital Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) capabilities, so that users can see packages or items that have been placed at the bottom of their front doors. At the same time, intelligent video analytics can detect people, faces and package delivery or removals at the same time.
However, Fermi Wang, CEO of Ambarella commented, “there is still a long way to go for the so-called smart camera to be truly fulfilled. We are just at the beginning of the smart camera age.”