20 years in the blink of a… camera

Martin Gren

Axis introduced the market’s first network camera back in 1996. It was called the AXIS 200 and started the journey for what was previously an IT company to today’s leader in video surveillance solutions.

The story behind AXIS 200

I remember that I had the idea to design and manufacture a network camera during a trip to Japan together with a potential customer. At the same time, my colleague Carl-Axel Alm had the idea to construct an IP-based video conferencing system.

We sat together and developed our ideas further to turn the concept into reality. Admittedly, you could not consider the AXIS 200’s performance as optimum when we brought it to market on September 17, 1996. It managed one image per second (fps) and needed 17 seconds to generate a single D1 snapshot. That was virtually useless for normal video surveillance applications – but it did finally lead to success in remote monitoring, and we saw the opportunity for a video surveillance market of the future that, although it was completely analog, was definitely on the way to digitalization, like everything else today.

Luckily the performance has improved today – way beyond what I or Carl-Axel could have predicted then. It‘s a fact that network cameras from Axis Communications today deliver up to 60 fps in HDTV 1080p resolution compared to just one fps at 0.1 Mpix 15 years ago. That‘s a 600-fold improvement.

A prominent “early adopter”

I had a deal with management: If we could sell more than 10.000 units of the AXIS 200 network camera, we would create an independent camera business unit. We did, and I got my camera business unit.

You won’t believe what kind of attention our first network camera got with the visionaries of the time. A couple of years ago, Apple’s Steve Wozniak got in touch with me. He still had held onto his AXIS 200 network camera from back then.

Apple's Steve Wozniak and Axis' Martin Gren with the first AXIS 200 network camera.
Apple’s Steve Wozniak and Axis’ Martin Gren with the first AXIS 200 network camera.

Twenty years sounds like a long time, but for me it has passed so quickly. Little did we know back in 1996 that we would be at the forefront of a massive wave called the Internet of Things. But that’s what it was, and now with the whole world talking about IoT, we feel like we’ve had a ringside seat in watching this trend develop.

Here’s to the next 20 years!