Axis Communications

Axis Communications AB is a Swedish manufacturer of network cameras for the physical security and video surveillance industries.[4][5][6]

Axis Communications AB
TypeSubsidiary
IndustryVideo surveillance
Founded1984[1]
FoundersMikael Karlsson
Martin Gren
Keith Bloodworth
Headquarters,
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Ray Mauritsson, CEO
Jonas Hansson, CIO
Johan Paulsson, CTO
Fredrik Sjöstrand, CFO
ProductsNetwork cameras
Network video encoders
Network video recorders
Video management systems
Video analytics
Physical access control
RevenueSEK 8.6 billion (2017)[2]
Increase SEK 11.8 billion (2019)[3]
Number of employees
3,646[3]
ParentCanon Inc.
Websitewww.axis.com

HistoryEdit

Axis Communications originally started out as an IT company selling print servers.[7][8] It then applied its knowledge in networks and embedded computing to develop network cameras for the security industry.[9][10][11] Most of its products contain an embedded computer with some flash memory and run a custom version of Linux.[12] One of its major breakthroughs in technology was the development of JFFS, which extended the lifetime of the devices' flash memory.[13][14]

OriginsEdit

Axis Communications was founded in 1984 by Martin Gren, Mikael Karlsson and Keith Bloodworth in Lund, Sweden.[1][15] The company developed and sold protocol converters and printer interfaces for the connection of PC printers in IBM mainframe and mini-computer environments.[16][17][18] By the end of the 1980s, Axis Communications had opened its first U.S. sales office in Boston, Massachusetts and in the early 1990s started shifting its focus away from IBM mainframes towards networking and the TCP/IP protocol.[17][19]

ExpansionEdit

 
Axis 5600/5800 Print Server was the type of product that made inroads to a strong expansion of Axis business in the 1990s and early 2000s.

In 1991, Axis Communications introduced a multi-protocol print server supporting both TCP/IP and NetWare.[8][20] In 1995, the company introduced a file server independent, multi-protocol CD-ROM server, supporting TCP/IP (NFS) and Windows (SMB), for Ethernet networks, the AXIS 850.[20][21] Also by 1995, Axis Communications had opened sales offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo, Japan.[20]

Focus on network camerasEdit

In 1996, Axis Communications introduced the industry's first network camera, the AXIS 200.[22][7][23][24][25][26] This was followed in 1999 by the AXIS 2100 which was the first volume product using an embedded Linux.[20][27] In 2003, the company introduced the AXIS 205, the then smallest network camera.[20][28]

Founding of industry standards bodyEdit

In 2008, Axis Communications announced together with Bosch and Sony that the companies will cooperate in order to standardize the interface of network video products and form a new industry standards body called ONVIF (Open Network Video Interface Forum).[29][30][31][32] Axis Communications introduced its first product with ONVIF support in 2009, the AXIS P3301. There are now over 10000 ONVIF conformant products available.[33][34]

TodayEdit

Axis Communications operates offices in more than 50 countries and employs over 3,600 people.[35][36][37] According to a 2013 market research report by industry analyst house IHS Research, Axis Communications is the global market leader in the network camera and video encoder markets.[38][39][40] Installations include the City of Houston,[41] Sydney Airport,[42] Moscow Metro,[43] The White House and Madrid Buses.[44] In 2019, Axis Communications published a sustainability report stating that 80 percent of its network cameras and video encoders are PVC-free.[3]

On February 10, 2015, Japanese multinational corporation Canon Inc., which specializes in the manufacture of imaging and optical products announced a cash bid of 23.6  billion Swedish kronor (US$2.83 billion) to acquire Axis Communications.[45][46] While Canon is the majority shareholder, Axis is run independently. Canon's network cameras are now sold and supported by Axis Communications in the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) region and in North America since September 1, 2016 and October 1, 2016 respectively.[47][48][49][50] In November 2018, Axis Communications was delisted from Nasdaq Stockholm.[51][52]

On July 18, 2017, security researchers published a cybersecurity vulnerability in a piece of code called gSOAP. All ONVIF compatible security products were affected, including those from Axis Communications.[53][54]

In May 2018, Axis opened a new R&D office for software development in Linköping, Sweden.[55]

AcquisitionsEdit

On February 1, 2016 Axis Communications acquired Citilog, a video analytics provider for traffic and transportation security and safety applications.[56][57] On May 30, 2016 Axis Communications acquired 2N, a provider of IP intercom systems based in the Czech Republic.[58][59] On June 3, 2016 Axis Communications acquired Cognimatics, a video analytics provider for retail applications such as people counting, queue measurement and occupancy estimation.[60][61]

TechnologyEdit

Network camerasEdit

Axis Communications develops and sells network cameras for many applications. Products include PTZ,[62] vandal resistant,[63][64] thermal,[65] outdoor,[66] nitrogen-pressurized,[67] HDTV,[68] wireless,[69] motion detection[70] and progressive scan[71] cameras. It introduced the industry's first thermal network camera, the AXIS Q1910, in January 2010[72][73] and the industry's first HDTV network camera, the AXIS Q1755, in December 2008.[74][75][76] In March 2020, Axis Communications entered the body cam market with its own open architecture system competing with market incumbents Axon, Digital Ally, Wolfcom and Motorola Solutions with its Watchguard Video brand.[77][78]

ARTPECEdit

ARTPEC (Axis Real Time Picture Encoder) is an Application-specific integrated circuit developed by Axis Communications which powers many AXIS cameras. Work on ARTPEC-1 started in late autumn 1996 as off-the-self chips at the time did not have the performance level that was needed to power a network camera.[79] ARTPEC-1 was first released in the AXIS 2100 Network Camera in 1999. The AXIS 2100 was the first mass-produced product in the world to use Embedded Linux.[79][80][81] ARTPEC-1 paved the way for the next generation of chips which will bring even more performance.

ARTPEC-2 was launched in 2003 which allowed cameras to stream MPEG video. ARTPEC-3 was released four years later bringing H.264/AVC to the line of the products and allowing for HDTV video quality. In 2011, with the launch of ARTPEC-4, AXIS focused on the two remaining issues with digital cameras at the time which were limited dynamic range and light sensitivity. Lightfinder was the solution and at this point they released the first progressive scanned camera that outperformed existing analog interlaced CCTV cameras at the time. ARTPEC-4 also allowed AXIS to develop a new WDR solution that allowed cameras to see well in challenging light environments.

 
An old AXIS 2100 network camera
 
A modern (P13 series) network camera from Axis Communications, circa 2013[82]

In 2013, ARTPEC-5 brought a new WDR technology called Forensic Capture.[83] 3 years later ARTPEC-6 added new levels of security, better image quality, processing speed, and Forensic WDR.[84] In 2019 ARTPEC-7 was released and first began shipping inside the AXIS P1375 Network Camera.[85] The processor introduced Lightfinder 2.0,[79] High Efficiency Video Coding, Deep learning processor,[86] and more security features such secure boot, which prevents booting of unauthorized firmware.[87]

 
An AXIS P3717-PLE Network Camera, circa 2019. This device has 4 adjustable camera heads allowing for 360 degree coverage of an area. The camera is powered by an AXIS ARTPEC-6.[88]

ARTPEC-1,2,3 are based on AXIS' custom processor architecture ETRAX CRIS.[89] ARTPEC-4,5 are based on the MIPS architecture. ARTPEC-6,7 are based on the ARM architecture.

P-IrisEdit

P-Iris (Precise Iris Control) is a type of network camera lens that together with specialized software installed in the camera itself regulates the iris opening through the use of a stepper motor for contrast, clarity, resolution and depth of field.[90][91][92] P-Iris maintains image quality by continuously adjusting the iris position.[82][93] This position, also referred to as a specific f-number, is where the lens works best and optical errors are reduced.[82] P-Iris was developed by Axis Communications and the Japanese lens maker Kowa.[94][95]

If the iris closes too much in bright situations this causes diffraction in the image.[94] P-Iris is used for Megapixel and HDTV network cameras because of the compounding effect caused by the smaller size of the pixels in the image sensor [94][95][96] Megapixel and HDTV network cameras are based on a megapixel image sensor (1 million or more pixels) and have significantly more pixels than standard resolution network cameras. A smaller pixel can't gather as much light as a larger pixel as it has less surface.[92] This results in a need to be able to precisely adjust the levels of light coming into megapixel and HDTV network cameras.[92][97][98] The first product incorporating P-Iris technology was the AXIS P1346 network camera.[92][96]

Corridor formatEdit

Corridor format is a video surveillance format for HDTV network cameras making full use of the 16:9 aspect ratio when monitoring narrow view areas such as staircases, hallways, aisles or tunnels.[99][100] When using the regular landscape video surveillance format for narrow view areas, the full resolution of a HDTV network camera is not utilized as large parts of the field of view are redundant.[101] Corridor format technology turns the 16:9 aspect ratio into 9:16 while HDTV standards such as full frame rate and resolution are maintained.[102] Either the HDTV network camera is installed sideways or the 3-axis lens is rotated 90 degrees when mounting the camera.[103] Then the video image is rotated back 90 degrees by the internal camera software.[102] Corridor format can be accessed by software vendors through an open API.[104][105]

LightfinderEdit

Lightfinder is a technology that allows network cameras to maintain details and colors in very dark and low light conditions compared to conventional day/night technologies that provide a black-and-white image.[106][107] It consists of a high performance low light CMOS image sensor, an optimized lens and a custom-designed ASIC chip running specialized software for image processing.[108] Algorithms fine-tuned to the characteristics of the lens and image sensor allow for better image quality in near darkness.[109] Lightfinder technology helps identify people or vehicles in demanding video surveillance applications such as construction sites or parking lots.[107][110] IR illuminators are often no longer required.[105][107] The first product incorporating Lightfinder technology was the AXIS Q1602 network camera.[105][111]

ZipstreamEdit

Compatible with existing H.264 network infrastructure and video management software, Zipstream is a more efficient H.264 implementation reducing network camera bandwidth and storage consumption.[112][113] Zipstream analyzes and optimizes the video stream in real time. It reduces the bit rate of the video stream by applying the concepts of dynamic Region of Interest (ROI) and dynamic Group of Pictures (GOP).[114][115] Forensic details like faces and license plates are isolated and preserved, while irrelevant areas such as walls and vegetation are sacrificed by smoothing in order to reduce bandwidth and storage consumption.[116][117] Zipstream has been further developed to automatically adapt to PTZ camera movements and support the concept of dynamic Frames per Second to optimize the video stream's bit rate in real time.[118]

Video encodersEdit

Axis Communications develops and sells video encoders allowing for video from analog systems to be converted into digital format for IP networks.[119][120] Recent models are now based on the H.264 video compression format lowering bandwidth and storage requirements without impacting image clarity.[121][122] The company sells 1-port, 4-port, 6-port and 16-port video encoders as well as rack-mountable systems for large installations.[123][124][125][126][127]

Video management softwareEdit

Axis Communications sells a full-featured video management software which it markets under the name AXIS Camera Station.[128][129] The software provides remote video monitoring, recording and event management functionality.[130][131] Its API allows the integration with other systems such as point of sale and access control.[128][131] Axis only sells a light-weight remote-viewing application under the name AXIS Companion.[132]

Video analytics softwareEdit

Axis Camera Application Platform, an open API, enables development of applications by third parties that can be downloaded and installed on Axis products.[133][134] This allows software companies to offer video analytics applications for Axis network cameras providing functionalities such as recognition, counting, detection, and tracking.[135][136]

Physical access controlEdit

Axis Communications started offering physical access control systems in late 2013.[137][138] The first product was the AXIS A1001 network door controller.[139][140] It had an open interface for integration with other IP-based security system components and third-party software.[137][141] The AXIS A1001 network door controller was the first ONVIF conformant physical access control system available on the market.[142][143]

Network audioEdit

In March 2015, Axis Communications introduced its first network audio product, a horn speaker providing talk-down audio functionality for security applications.[144][145] In September 2016, it introduced two network audio loudspeakers for background music and for live or scheduled announcements in retail stores.[146] In September 2017, Axis Communications expanded its network audio offering with an analog to IP audio converter and a PA system.[147][148]

RadarEdit

In 2017, Axis Communications introduced its first radar – the D2050-VE – which allowed for minimization of false alarms, analytics, classification of objects, and more auto-tracking capabilities for AXIS PTZ Cameras.[149] In 2019 AXIS introduced the D2110-VE radar which has Machine learning and Deep learning capabilities.

ControversiesEdit

In the 2020 report Out of Control[150] Amnesty International criticized Axis Communications for supplying surveillance technology to China’s public security apparatus.[151]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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Coordinates: 55°43′07″N 13°13′13″E / 55.7185°N 13.2203°E / 55.7185; 13.2203