The Path of Innovation

Article
26 November, 2018
As the company which created the world’s first network camera in 1996, we can safely say that innovation is a core part of the company’s DNA. Continual innovation is a challenge, and we’ve interviewed Peter Rietz to understand more about Axis’ culture of innovation.

Peter is Director Product Management at Axis Communications. He joined the company in 2011 and is leading the team responsible for all video hardware products. Before taking on this position he was working as a product manager responsible for Video Encoders and Modular Cameras.

 

Where did the most exciting innovations for Axis come from?

AXIS Q6000-E Network Camera, one of many innovations from Axis
AXIS Q6000-E Network Camera, one of many Axis innovations

Peter Rietz:  Innovations are in the heart of Axis; the most visible ones are probably when we come up with something totally new and unexpected.  AXIS Q6000-E Network Camera, for example, combines a PTZ camera with a 360 degrees overview camera, merging into a single mechanical part and works like one camera. With the images from the overview you always have situational awareness and by clicking in this overview, the PTZ camera zooms in on the object and you get the details.

We also innovate to make our products easier to use, install and integrate, which brings a substantial cost savings for our partners in the end. A great innovation is Axis Zipstream technology, a software which compress video data in a smart way, substantially lowering the bandwidth and the storage needed without losing forensic details. This means great cost savings, less energy consumption for the system and less environmental footprint.

 

How many products are developed in line with direct customer feedback?

Peter Rietz:  Most products, if not all, are developed using direct customer and partner feedback as input. While we are developing a solution to replace an existing one, we always listen to our customers to understand what they like and what they think can be improved.

Axis employees and partners
To meet customers and partners, collect input and feedback is an important part of the product development process

However, it is also important to have your own ideas of what you want to do, as well as keeping a longer perspective than the current market needs, in order to innovate and differentiate ourselves from competition.

On the other end, when we design and develop new types of products, we will have a lot of interaction with potential customers that can express the challenges they want to overcome. It is very important for us to understand the main challenges, how the product will be used and the environment where it will be installed to devise a relevant solution. And of course, there is also a need for a lot of interaction and piloting to make sure the solution fulfills the needs it is designed for.

 

How much does potential use for the technology in the future play a part in the development stage?

Peter Rietz:  We try to look at our industry but also other industries to see what technologies could be interesting going forward. Technology can be of great use, but only when it helps us solve challenges we and our partners face. Sometimes it’s possible to find technologies that have been around for a long time, and suddenly we realize they could be useful. Radar is a good example of this; it has been around for decades, but only in recent years the automobile industry has started using it for cars.

Colleagues in a meeting, discussing the details of a project
Using already existing technology in new ways creates great opportunities for new innovations

This has been driving the development of the technology and has also made cost for it go down. We saw that we could have great use for it in a surveillance system, since a radar can find moving objects and see the direction and the speed it has even in total darkness, so we developed a radar detector that adds great value to our cameras.

You can come up with very smart solutions by being able to creatively combine products. One example is pairing a radar detector with a PTZ camera; this way you can make sure that the PTZ camera will track a moving object in a predefined zone, as well as create alarms for an operator and make automatic callouts using our speakers.

 

What do you think future innovations will look like? What will be the industry’s main driver in the next 5-10 years?

Peter Rietz:  There is no doubt that the continued digitalization, IoT platforms and deep learning will play important roles in the future of our industry. If you can combine data from different sources and add intelligence to how this data is used, it will bring a lot of value. We can lower the number of false alarms from a system and provide solutions that will help customers work more proactively with security, rather than find out what happened only after the fact.

 Much of the innovation will be in areas of integration of different devices, data management, analytics and how you deliver and present usable actionable output. It is however important to have substance in what you do and solve the use-cases of customers and partners first, rather than try to ride on a hype. It is not the technology itself that is interesting, but rather what use-cases we can support.