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Written by Gerard Figols

AI at the Edge – The new generation of cameras will change society for the better

Cameras are about to change the way we live and work and all for the better. With security cameras around the world predicted to reach one billion in 2021, the combination of Artificial Intelligence and the latest generation open camera technology will change the world’s perceptions from Big Brother to big benefit.

AI and open camera systems are the game changer. Imagine a world where the cameras are not just watching and reporting for security but having an even wider positive impact on our lives. Where they switch on and off street and building lights as people come and go, where traffic jams are predicted and vehicles are automatically rerouted, where more tills are opened just before a queue starts to form and where cameras identify our personal shopping habits and show us how we might look in the latest outfit based on our likes as we browse.

In the technology world, we call this AI at the Edge. The very latest generation of cameras are capable of running three different AI applications at the same time. They can effectively observe and process information and instigate actions all based on our wishes. The changes to daily life I described earlier may seem subtle but they can very quickly accumulate to massive social benefits, for example, in the areas of energy and environmental conservation. There are also major economic benefits for industry. These types of intelligent camera applications are the very basis for automation and the introduction of industry 4.0 where processes are automated, monitored and controlled by AI-driven systems.

And many of the applications, with their commercial and social benefits, are still to be imagined. We are about to see an explosion of AI camera applications in the same way that we experienced an explosion of smartphone applications. For example, Panasonic’s latest AI-driven cameras are open systems. This means there is a software developers kit that enables any developers to work on their own apps to run on the cameras. Our industry experience allows us, as the hardware specialists, to focus on what we do best; building long-lasting, open network cameras capable of capturing the highest quality images required for the latest AI applications. While application developers can concentrate on bringing to market specialist applications for a variety of different uses. Much like the App Store and Google Play for the smartphone, AI camera applications will proliferate based on market demand and succeed or fail based on the value they deliver.

These applications, of course, will emerge as the existing generation of cameras are updated to the new open and intelligent next generation devices and the existing role of the security camera will also continue. But rather than relying on the security cameras for evidence when things have gone wrong, we will increasingly be able to use AI and the cameras in a proactive way to prevent incidents. That could be monitoring and alerting when health and safety guidelines are being breached or spotting and flagging patterns of suspicious behaviour before incidents occur.

Many have been concerned about the potential impact of cameras and AI on individual privacy and worry about a potential Big Brother influence but I firmly believe this will not be the case. The use of AI technology in the camera system is really about the ability to generate and analyse meta data to quickly recognise patterns of information - rather than a focus on individuals and their identities. The technology provides us with better, faster and more accurate information. It is then up to organisations to decide how they best use that information. On that front, I am pleased to say that Europe already has some of the strictest privacy regulations in the world and as our regulators continue to catch-up with the advances of the technology, we will see these protections continue. We will continue to find a way to balance security and freedom. Alongside this, I also believe that people’s attitudes will start to change when they see the incredible benefits this technology can deliver. I hope that we will be able to redefine our view of cameras – not just as insurance – but as life advancing and enhancing.

It is helping to make these benefits a reality that drives the team at Panasonic Security Solutions. We believe these technology advances are truly disruptive and AI-driven cameras will be a game-changer for commerce and society and look forward to seeing these efforts come to fruition.

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