Less is less: Using cameras to reduce energy consumption

September 14, 2018
Last year, by August 1 the global population had used up all the resources Earth could naturally replenish in a year. The Overshoot Day, when we pass the threshold of how much food, water and energy our planet can renew, it’s coming earlier and earlier every year, meaning, since the 1970s, we’ve been living off resources borrowed from the future. A debt that has grown so big that we’d need 1.7 planets to compensate future generations.  

Whenever you leave the lights or the heat on at night in your company’s building, while no one is around, you are impacting negatively on the planet sustainability. A study conducted by the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, suggests that “the building industry is regarded as the most energy intensive sector with buildings accounting for close to 50% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions”.

Like any global issue, there is not a single factor to blame, but a series of situations and behaviors that have led to this point. And like any global issue, there is no single way to solve it, but everyone can do something to help.

Luckily, businesses are waking up to this issue. In 2007 an investigation found that Canary Wharf, a large financial district in London, was wasting millions of pounds of energy by keeping the lights in the offices on the whole night. Canary Wharf Tower alone, was emitting the same quantities of CO2 as more than 4,000 transatlantic flights each year. Ten years later, new developments in the area are slated to be carbon net zero or positive by 2030. If you feel the same drive to contribute, cameras can give you a hand to minimize your environmental impact and save the planet through reducing energy consumption.

Two ways to reduce energy consumption

Cameras are not only good for catching criminals, they can also help you significantly reduce your energy consumption. How? There are two ways, one direct and the other indirect; the former is saving energy by only using it when needed, while the latter starts earlier, in the production chain.

One of the biggest challenges of calculating how much energy you need is assessing how many people use each part of a building e.g. a room or communal area and when. Often this is calculated based on statistics that span the whole of the building, not the single rooms. However, with the aid of cameras, data can be gathered to make these statistics more accurate.

Cameras to regulate lights and heat

Cameras to lower energy consumption
Network cameras can help minimize power consumption by providing insight into when lighting adjustments need to be made.

One example is Aalto University in Finland, which used Axis cameras with on-board data analytics to create an intelligent feedback network of live surveillance. The cameras register the presence of people in a room in real-time and deliver the data to the system regulating the lights and the heat. By doing this, the university is making an energy saving of 15-18 %, saving money as well as the planet.

Now you might be tempted to argue that keeping the lights on at night is a good way to discourage crime and that bright lighting is necessary for cameras to capture the highest quality images possible. However, you’ll be glad to know this isn’t the case.  First of all, various studies suggest that actually a dark building deters crime more than an illuminated one. Second, innovations in camera technology, such as Axis Lighfinder, which has extreme light sensitivity, so it can deliver color mages in as little as 0.18 lux or lower, makes it possible to obtain high resolution pictures with color in conditions of almost total darkness.

Increased safety and reduced carbon footprint

School district of Rock Hill enhanced the security and experienced significant electrical savings, by using Axis Lightfinder technology.
School district of Rock Hill enhanced the security and experienced significant electrical savings, by using Axis Lightfinder.

You can ask Rock Hill schools about it. The North Carolina campuses wanted to improve the security of their buildings but also reduce their carbon footprint, so they resolved for a ‘campus blackout’ and used the Lightfinder technology to upgrade their video surveillance. This way each of the 27 schools was able to save thousands of dollars in energy bills. As you can see, being greener is convenient for the planet and for your wallet at the same time.

These examples show direct ways of controlling energy consumption, but there’s also a subtler – yet no less important – way to further reduce energy use.  The use of any electrical products implies energy consumption that gives rise to environmental impacts and emissions that run the risk of damaging water, air and land. Unless manufacturers help to reduce energy consumption, it can impact an organization’s ability to reduce its carbon footprint.

Energy-efficient cameras

To tackle this problem, Axis products are built in a sustainable way and are made to be energy efficient. This is a key priority for Axis, so at the development stage every camera is designed to be more energy-efficient, while maintaining functionality.

Through innovation in camera technologies and features, we can now see significant improvements in operational efficiencies in surveillance systems. Through increased processing power built into high resolution cameras and features like multi-view streaming, the field of view from each camera is significantly improved and several areas can be monitored from one unit. This means fewer devices are needed (and therefore less energy needed to power the system), without compromising the quality of the images or the reach of what can be monitored.

On the flip side of this, certain applications in surveillance situations may mean less range is required, so by having a wide ranging, powerful camera, you may be using energy unnecessarily. There are often times when the surveillance area is more vertical than horizontal in shape, such as staircases, hallways, aisles, roads, runways, or tunnels. In these situations, the traditional landscape format is not optimal as it creates video streams where a large part of the field of view – specifically the sides of the image – is redundant and the image quality is not maximized because the full area and resolution of the camera’s image sensor is not utilized, which also wastes bandwidth and storage. Cameras with features optimized for such situations can address this waste of energy. For example,  Axis Corridor Format gives a vertically oriented, “portrait”-shaped video stream from the camera, which is adapted perfectly to the monitored area, maximizing image quality while eliminating bandwidth and storage waste.

These are just a few examples of how innovation in camera technology can improve energy consumption rates and save money. To learn more about how cameras can be used to reduce energy consumption download our whitepaper, How can IP surveillance systems positively impact a business's energy usage.

By making the electronics you use to tackle the issue of energy consumption more energy efficient and using data to make sure you are optimizing the use of energy in your organization,  not only can you save your company’s budget, it will contribute to create a sustainable future for the whole planet.