Home >Industry >Sweden’s Axis to tap digital surveillance market in India

Bangalore: Thirteen years after Axis Communications AB built the world’s first network camera, one that digitizes video signals and transmits them over Internet protocol (IP), the Swedish company is looking at India to help it propel the global shift in technology.

India, where video surveillance is limited to closed environments, is poised to jump the curve—analog (closed circuit television, or CCTV) technology to digital—from closed spaces to public places.

New market: Axis’ India country manager Prakash Prabhu (left) and Axis president and chief executive Ray Mauritsson. Axis is currently deploying a city surveillance project in Kolkata. Hemant Mishra / Mint

With over a dozen corporate and government customers in India including a few international airports, the Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, D.Y. Patil Stadium in Mumbai, Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd, Wipro Ltd and ITC Welcomgroup, Axis is now eyeing large infrastructure projects in the country.

The projected $10 billion (Rs47,500 crore) cumulative spend on homeland security in India by 2017, according to the market research firm Frost and Sullivan (F&S), is the market that “intelligent" surveillance providers are eyeing.

Having deployed at least 15,000 cameras in one of the most advanced security installations of the world at Moscow Metro, Axis is looking for tenders in the Indian transportation sector, which F&S estimates, will spend $3.6 billion in security by 2017.

With India being a victim of terrorist attacks, there is a surge in the awareness and demand for electronic security, said Dhiraj Wali, vice-president and head, Bosch Security Systems India. Moreover, due to the Commonwealth Games next year, the whole infrastructure needs to be beefed up to meet the security standards, he adds.

Axis, which leads the global market with 31.2% market share according to an IMS 2009 report, is currently deploying a city surveillance project in Kolkata. It intends to add significantly to the 200 system integrators in India it already works with since it made its direct entry into the country in 2007. Cameras comprise only 40-50% of the networked security system, information technology comprises the remaining 60-50%, said Brijesh Vijh, national head for security at HCL Security Ltd, a year-old subsidiary of HCL Infosystems Ltd. HCL provides system integration to Axis and other vendors including Sony and Bosch.

Vijh estimates the “exponentially growing" Indian IP surveillance market to be at Rs1,000 crore. Most of the requirement today is from the government, he said, having recently completed a city surveillance project in Bhopal that uses about 500 cameras. “Several cities and critical infrastructure managers are seeking IP surveillance."

Axis’ India country manager Prakash Prabhu likes to draw an analogy from the GSM (global system for mobile) communication adoption in India, which though late, has proven spectacular. “We expect the IP surveillance sector to witness the same acceptance," said Prabhu, whose job right now is as much selling Axis technology as educating the end customers and surveillance sales channels that security is not a cost.

Apart from the traditional sectors, retail holds promise in India, said Mauritsson, since outlets can use analytics in network video to create “heat maps" and analyse customer behaviour to optimize space utilization and promotion. He speaks from experience, having deployed thousands of cameras across the US retail stores of Target Corp.

For around 50 years, the world has relied on analog systems, where the technology has pretty much remained static. Now, IP video is transforming CCTV surveillance, Wali said. The digital medium allows added functionality and reduction in system cost, he said. In fact, claims Axis, IP-based systems of 40 cameras have a lower total cost of ownership than analog-based systems, and 32 cameras is the breakeven point for IP systems versus analog.

Any IP-based technology has found good acceptance in India, said Parminder Kaur Saini, program manager, information communication and technology, F&S.

So far it’s been gaining ground in large enterprises and governments because of the initial cost but as volume picks up, costs will dip. Users should choose the applications that suit them, she said. “IP surveillance is out of the test and trial period but people should choose applications and accompanying technologies with care."

In the fragmented global security market, Axis, Sony and Bosch, are currently driving the adoption of open standards through the Open Network Video Interface Forum Alliance to address interoperability issues. “Some 100 vendors, representing 60% of the market, are part of this but we aim to make it pervasive within a few years," Mauritsson said.

Incidentally, HCL’s Vijh worries not about interoperability but the entry of inferior technology to India.

“We have to be careful about not allowing obsolete technology, for instance from China or Taiwan, to enter India," he said.

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