Ambarella talks about home security trends

Ambarella talks about home security trends
Ambarella is an international SoC developer, providing low-power and high-definition (HD) compression and image processing solutions for professional and consumer applications, including security IP cameras, wearable cameras, flying cameras and automotive video processing solutions. Its camera SoCs for smart home solutions are supplied to service providers such as Comcast and AT&T, and to leading retail brands such as Nest, D-Link, Netgear, Canary, August, Samsung and more.

SMAhome team interviewed Jerome Gigot, Director of Marketing at Ambarella during CES 2016. He talked about the Company's latest IC technology and gave his observations on the home security camera market as well as the smart home industry. Gigot focused on four major market trends, including battery-powered cameras, smarter motion detection to save storage and bandwidth, higher video resolution and lower video bitrates, as well as the trend towards more and more devices integrating cameras such as video doorbells, connected switches and lights.

What are Ambarella's strengths?

To differentiate ourselves from our competitors, we offer state-of-the-art technologies with a focus on video quality instead of just price competition. We have introduced industry leading solutions for drones, IP-cameras and sports cameras, including pioneering 4K Ultra HD solutions. 
 
We also like to push the envelope. At this year's CES, we demonstrated one of our customer's VR (Virtual Reality) solutions as well as computer vision technology for automotive ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) as used in self-driving cars.

What are the major IC design trends for IP cameras and home monitoring applications? Please introduce your product development plans for 2016.

We launched the S3L SoC family for security IP cameras in October 2015. S3L brings the low bit rate benefits of H.265 to both Cloud-based home monitoring and mainstream professional cameras. We expect H.265 to begin volume shipments in China in 2016, and in other geographic regions in subsequent years. We believe that the H.265 format will be mainstream in the coming years, and adopted later this year or next year for consumer security. On the home security camera side, we have S3L for the high-performance consumer monitoring cameras and S3LM for the lower-cost models. In the professional IP security camera market we have S3, which includes our 4K Ultra HD video capability.
 
We also see increasing demand for analytics for smarter cameras, H.265 technology for lower bitrates, as well as continued interest in improved low light, HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging, smart zoom capability and wide-angle lens support.
 
We see the video doorbell camera emerging as a new category with features like 180-degree wide-angle viewing and image de-warping.
 
In addition to hardware, Ambarella supports a number of third-party software vendors that focus on both Cloud storage and analytics. Amongst others, these include Acer, Sighthound, and IntelliVision. For example, our SoC reference design for the video doorbell camera works with Acer's Cloud platform with integrated face recognition. This design provides higher security and convenience; registered persons are permitted entry without using a key or smartphone. For this design, accurate face recognition and a secure embedded system are critical. This is part of a broader trend of IP camera SoCs becoming smarter, more secure and more powerful. Analytics are key, because if you don't have good analytics, you will end up recording hours or even days of useless videos.
 
When we talk about Cloud services, we think about storage of recorded videos and bandwidth. We work with Tier-1 service providers and telcos to whom bandwidth savings are crucial. Our S3L SoC offers SmartHEVC, which divides the required bitrate by two and cuts the storage cost in half at the same time. SmartHEVC is Ambarella's own advanced optimization of H.265 and is tuned for typical surveillance scenes, offering additional and significant bandwidth savings over regular H.265. It's a very valuable proposition for our customers.

What are other benefits for adopting Ambarella’s SoC besides low bit rate?

S3L also features multi-exposure HDR imaging, 180-degree fisheye lens correction, low-light capability, ultra-low power, improved bitrate and a high performance CPU for intelligent video analytics. On the imaging side, low light capability and HDR processing are key technologies that Ambarella has developed across product lines from sports to automotive to IP cameras. Our SoCs also enable de-warping of images for support of wide angle lenses, and are very low power, allowing high resolution designs with small form factors as well as battery powered designs that can be placed anywhere.

Do you think the battery-powered wireless cameras will become mainstream in the home security camera market?

Battery-powered models and integrated IoT solutions such as doorbell cameras and cameras integrated into light fittings are driving the market. Battery-powered cameras are already among the best-selling models. Customers like the ability to place cameras in locations where it is difficult to run power cables to them, for example in high places or outdoors.

Since the outdoor cameras are getting popular, is there any distinguishable difference between the indoor and outdoor cameras in terms of design directions?

The key differences between indoor and outdoor cameras are the mechanical parts, like casing design and battery power. Outdoor cameras need to be weather and tamper proof, have HDR processing due to direct sunlight, be able to operate in high and low temperatures and have at least six months of battery life.
 
We've incorporated smart analytics into our SoCs for battery powered designs. Our S3L-based cameras for battery-powered designs are asleep most of the time, and will only wake up when triggered on motion. When the image sensor detects something, the CPU quickly boots and starts to analyze what's happening. It can filter out false alarms, caused for example, by birds or shadows. If something important is happening, the camera will turn on in less than 500ms, and, for instance, send a clip of the video to a users’ smartphone. The key advantage is that the camera can determine if the motion was relevant and if not, go back to sleep right away. This way, battery is significantly extended compared to other solutions that do not have the ability to run analytics locally on the SoC.
 
If you put an IP camera outside your home, you need a pretty long range. We see Wi-Fi as the most widely adopted technology so far and therefore use Wi-Fi for wireless communication.

When can we expect to see a 4K UHD home security camera available in the market? Will Ambarella launch the solution in 2016?

The security market traditionally follows trends in consumer electronics. Today, 4K is standard in televisions and many smartphones. We believe consumers will soon expect 4K in home security cameras. We have been shipping 4K into the professional IP camera market for about two years now and recently announced our S3L and S3Lm 4K solutions for home monitoring. We may see the first 4K home monitoring cameras next year.
 
The benefits of adopting 4K video technology include wider field of view, much better zoom capabilities, more accurate analytics and more advanced motion detection. While using a 4K home security camera can be challenging because of its high bandwidth, we think users can record locally with 4K video quality, and stream videos in 1080P resolution only. Also, using Ambarella's H.265 video compression technology provides up to twice the video compression of Ambarella's H.264 encoding technology, and delivers high video quality at very low bit rates. This improvement results in cost savings from reduced storage requirements and the ability to stream higher quality video over bandwidth-restricted networks. With our H.265, Ambarella-based designs can stream 4K video in under 2 Megabits per second, which is very low, though still a bit higher than transmitting in 1080P. 

Which applications are the most promising like energy management, climate control, safety, security, access control and appliances? Will Ambarella enter these fields in addition to the IP camera and home monitoring applications?

To date, our focus has been on video cameras, i.e. cameras that capture video to be watched later by humans. However there is also another class of cameras we call “sensing” cameras, which capture video purely for analyzing and extracting data from the image. For example, at the ISC West security show in April 2015, we demonstrated a camera for retail shops that could count people and provide feedback to the retailers about where people spent their time. In the future, we expect that sensing cameras will support a number of home applications and those typically require very low power, analytics and good imaging in challenging lighting conditions.


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