From the chip up: building quality into every layer

Article
November 14, 2019
Customers expect the highest-quality video surveillance that technology allows. To deliver this, not only is it essential to control as much of the overall production process as is possible, it is also of significant benefit to produce the most fundamental aspect of the camera: the chip itself.

The ARTPEC chip – first released in products in 1999 and now in its seventh iteration – is the foundation upon which Axis is able to deliver the highest possible quality network cameras. Specifically designed for video surveillance, the latest ARTPEC-7 chip has more than 50 times the performance of the original. Controlling the design and manufacture of our own chip means that Axis can create the products best optimized for customer needs, while addressing the evolution of external factors, such as threats to cyber security.

In-house quality

The concept of high-quality in surveillance cameras can take a number of forms. Providing high-resolution images, of course, but also by functionality that serves every customers’ specific needs and which is easy to use. Central to the ability to meet every aspect of quality is the ARTPEC chip.

The result of two decades of development is a chip that is unique in the market, due to several factors. One of the main points is the fact that the ARTPEC chip is specified and developed in-house. While this might not sound special at first, it is, in fact, the basis for many benefits the ARTPEC chip delivers to customers.

Stefan Lundberg, expert engineer at Axis, explains: “The ARTPEC chip has always been optimized for efficient image processing and image compression – or in other words to fulfil the demand of high-quality network video of tomorrow. It allows us to provide network cameras that not only have extremely high image quality but deliver also high performance, good bandwidth efficiency and the ability to run analytics at the edge. And due to the in-house development, we can adapt the chip exactly to our camera capabilities and, thereby, our customers’ needs.”

Security at the forefront

With cybersecurity being an increasingly important aspect of IP-connected cameras and a core concern for customers, for a number of years ARTPEC chips have been designed with current and future threats in mind. Indeed, owning the design and control the manufacture of the chip itself allows for rapid revision and enhanced design in relation to the changing cybersecurity landscape.

Lundberg expands: “The fact that ARTPEC chips are designed in-house enables us to control the process – from architecture to finished chip - and make sure there are no gaps in the chain that allow for the introduction of security vulnerabilities. Knowing our chips in such detail gives us a higher chance to identify mitigate potential security risks much earlier than might otherwise be the case.”

ARTPEC 7

The latest generation of the chip, ARTPEC-7, also enables ‘built-in’ security features in Axis cameras, including signed firmware - which ensures that only secure authorized firmware can be installed - and secure boot, which prevents the booting of unauthorized firmware. Some cameras will also include a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) as an extra level of secure storage for cryptographic keys and certificates.

New functionalities with additional security benefits

Another significant benefit delivered through ARTPEC-7 which also has useful security benefits, is its enablement of powerful analytics ‘on-the-edge’, where cameras have the processing power to analyse data within the camera itself. A principal benefit is real-time object detection that will make it possible for Axis to develop powerful analytics that can automatically detect objects. These applications can be embedded directly into the device to analyse the video without having to send the data to a central server. And here lies an additional security benefit: analysing data, anonymizing and creating encrypted data within the device at the edge before it is transferred to the data center, significantly reduces the potential for sensitive data loss.

Constantly future-gazing

Development of the ARTPEC chips continues constantly in order to meet the customer needs that will impact what products we can do in the coming years. In order to decide which features are the ones that need prioritization, there’s a team of expert engineers that looks into the future to ensure the next generation chip design meets all potential requirements.

The control we have over all aspects of the end product through manufacture of the chip is, in our view, invaluable.

Lundberg concludes: “We are committed to the in-house development of our own chip because, first and foremost, it allows us to create optimized solutions for network video surveillance applications. This, ultimately, is the principal reason our customers and partners choose Axis cameras. That said, other aspects need consideration – from security designed from the foundation to lower overall system costs. The control we have over all aspects of the end product through manufacture of the chip is, in our view, invaluable. I’m sure we’ll see many iterations of the ARTPEC chip in decades to come.”

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