Column by IntelliVision: Camera analytics revolutionizing the smart home

Column by IntelliVision: Camera analytics revolutionizing the smart home
After many fits and starts over the past two decades, the Smart Home market is finally showing signs of growth with many analysts projecting rapid expansion. As shown in Figure 1, between 2015 and 2020, in North America the number of households that have adopted smart home systems is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30 percent, resulting in 46.2 million smart homes. The European market for smart home systems is still in an early stage and 2–3 years behind North America. The number of European households that have adopted smart home systems is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 54 percent during the next five years, resulting in 44.9 million smart homes by 2020.
As shown in Figure 2, the most popular smart home device has been the connected camera. It has proven invaluable for the most popular use cases for a smart home. Whether for home security or home automation, the connected IP camera is a critical component. While the connected camera has proven an essential smart home device, the market is only now starting to realize the full potential it can potentially provide the Smart Home.

As is the trend with most consumer electronics, the connected IP camera continues to increase in CPU capability. Besides improving basic camera functionality (e.g. higher resolution, higher frame rate, reduce band-with, etc.), this allows camera manufacturers to add advanced software features that previously could only found in cameras costing over $1000. Specifically, Video and Audio Content Analytics, VCA and ACA respectively, can now affordably be embedded into consumer cameras, thereby improving the Smart Home experience.

VCA & ACA for the smart home

VCA is defined as the capability to automatically analyze video to detect and determine temporal and spatial events. Today, most consumer cameras have passive infrared sensor (PIR) to detect motion. While inexpensive, any motion within the PIR’s field of view, such as a tree branch moving, triggers an event. The majority PIR triggered events are not useful and considered false alerts (FA). VCA addresses this issue by monitoring the video and only sending a motion event if the video meets certain criteria set by the user or camera manufacturer. While advanced motion detection is considered a very basic VCA, it is of very high values as it significantly reduces the number of FAs sent from the camera.

ACA is similar to VCA except it uses audio to detect events. Many Smart Home cameras support 2-way audio communications. The camera’s microphone can be used to provide the audio input to the ACA. 

There are many other VCAs and ACAs that can now be integrated in consumer cameras that make them “Smart” and increasingly useful in residential environments.

Integrating VCA / ACA into smart home cameras

Smart home cameras typically are one of three types: Indoor, outdoor, and more recently door-cams. VCA and ACA technology can be deployed in all three types of cameras. The market challenge is how to best to use the powerful technology to address various Smart Home use cases. Some common use cases are listed below with a few examples of how VCA and ACA can help address these situations.

Below are some use case examples:

Home security – Safety

It can be argued the most valuable smart home device for home security is the camera. With VCA and ACA, cameras can provide meaningful, real time alerts on a variety of events.

As an example, a door-cam with face recognition can automatically lock the door if a strange face is detected or conversely, unlock the door if a recognized face is detected. If loitering is available, an alert can be sent if an object and/or person enters and remains within the door-cam’s field of view for longer than a certain length of time.

Home Automation (HA)

HA systems perform one or more actions based on one or more triggers, such as time of day. HA systems are rules based, typically described as If-This-Then-That (IFTTT) logic. In current Smart Home Systems, the camera is used as the action in IFTTT systems and not the trigger. That is to say a trigger, such as a sensor going off, will notify the rules engine which then can command the camera to start recording.  VCA or ACA in the camera enables the camera to be used as the IFTTT trigger. As an example, if the door-cam detects the sound of glass breaking, it can send an alert and turn on the stereo and lights.

Baby / Assisted care

While live video feeds are commonly used today for helping to monitoring the elderly and infants, VCA and ACA can be very useful when the camera’s A/V signal is not being actively monitored. As an example VCA and ACA can notify you if the light in a room is suddenly turned on or off, if a door is opened, or if more than one person is detected in a room.

New trend – Cloud based VCA/ACA

Smart Home systems typically have cameras in the home connected to a cloud based backend connected to an APP or web portal. It is possible to put the VCA and ACA functionality in the Smart Home Cloud instead of in the camera. Since the Cloud has much more computing capability, more powerful VCA and ACAs can be supported and with greater accuracy.  

Enhancing functionality and value

This report presents an introduction to VCAs and ACAs and some use case examples of how they can become part of Smart Homes systems. These examples represent the tip-of-the- iceberg on how today’s camera analytics can be deployed to improve the functionality and value of the Smart Home. Over time many new VCAs and ACAs will become available increasing their value in Smart Home applications.

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