Let’s say you’re at the cottage and your home alarm goes off. But home is hundreds of kilometers – hours – away. What do you do? If you’re like Brendan Harrison, co-founder of Camcloud, you start a company.
“Our origins stem from one time I was at my cottage in Eastern Ontario,” said Harrison in a recent interview. “My home then had a traditional alarm system. I received a call, and as I wasn’t close to home the security company offered to disable my home alarm remotely or call the police. I told them as I didn’t want to drive all the way back home for a false alarm, they had better call the police. They did so, and I ended up getting a $150 bill from the police for what indeed turned out to be a false alarm.”
This incident inspired Harrison, along with co-founders Dan Burkett and Alen Zukich, to start Camcloud.
“We’ve made it our mission to deliver a solution that is easy-to-use, reliable, completely cloud-driven, and requiring no specialized on-premise systems,” said Harrison.
The cottage false alarm incident got Harrison thinking about the flaws of most video surveillance solutions, which were too expensive and complicated, and too time-consuming to manage, especially for a small business.
The standard solution at the time was little more than cameras linked to a standalone computer that did the recording for a single location. Harrison, Burkett, and Zukich wondered if it was possible to eliminate the server, moving the management into the cloud.
“We eliminated the need to have a piece of hardware, like an appliance or a server, at 100 different locations. So we avoided replicating all that infrastructure. We reduced the maintenance costs, and it simplified the deployment.”
The case for the cloud-based solution was compelling. Storing critical surveillance footage safely offsite and reducing complex onsite hardware were two key benefits. It also provided access and management of a private cloud archive with multiple cameras on the web with mobile apps.
Replacing proprietary hardware in the cloud for many clients involved interfacing with a variety of cameras. As a result, Camcloud’s solution is hardware-agnostic – it can work with a wide range of cameras. This allows companies to knit together cameras across many locations.
The emerging solution filled a real market need, particularly with small- and medium-sized businesses. But Camcloud had yet to find its true focus and have its biggest success.
Eliminating the single remote machine, and taking the recording and monitoring to the cloud, has made Camcloud’s solution particularly valuable to companies with multiple locations. Camcloud’s multi-user feature allows users to efficiently manage a large number of cameras, users, and physical locations.
Remote management was expanded to include camera health checks that detect problems with a customer’s cameras.
“You get to store all your video surveillance in the cloud securely in your own account. You get away from equipment getting stolen and camera management scalability. These are the benefits we bring. We offer a hardware-free approach to this space.”
By offering a modern solution to the age-old problem of security installation, access, and deployment, Camcloud has earned huge accolades for their solution. In 2016 they won the Best New Product of the Year Award for Cloud Solutions and Service from Security Products Magazine.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning For Intelligent Monitoring
Once the solution was in the cloud, Camcloud was able to take advantage of developments in artificial intelligence (AI), using machine learning to solve a problem that plagues other systems.
The issue arises with motion detection. It is costly to monitor cameras 24/7 for businesses, but especially for those with a large number of locations and cameras. Motion detection is critical — setting off an alert when the camera detects movement. The problem is that cameras can’t distinguish between something harmless, like a tree branch moving in the wind, and a real threat such as a person on the property. Once again, false alarms are costly in terms of time, and can also result in charges for when police or security respond where there is no threat.
The answer, said Harrison, is in leveraging machine learning to understand when a motion should be ignored and when it requires investigation.
How was it possible for a relatively small startup to develop a complex AI solution? The company did receive the support of a government-funded university collaboration, but their solution required much more than a clever algorithm. To be fully implemented, machine learning needs to learn. That requires a huge amount of data designed to teach the algorithm to tell the difference between, for example, the movement of a tree branch and that of a person. And it must have data for a wide range of other conditions, and be able to learn how to make distinctions.
This is where having their solution in the cloud gave them leverage. This type of library of data, it turns out, was already available from Amazon Web Services (AWS), their cloud provider.
Today, Camcloud is offering a world-class AI solution that will detect and respond appropriately when people, vehicles, animals, and hundreds of other types of object are detected in video surveillance footage. Customers can now use the optional and affordable Cloud AI module to analyze and classify motion events detected by their camera.
Despite the high level of technical sophistication, Camcloud is able to make their solution affordable to a wide range of companies. Cloud hosting eliminates many hardware costs. AI-based monitoring allows companies to manage a large number of cameras in various locations without expensive human intervention. This has allowed Camcloud to expand its customer base, which is highly varied and is now drawn from many sectors, including “small businesses, food chains and schools [who] all want security and peace of mind.” And yes, Camcloud also serves cottage owners.
Solutions to Client Challenges
Many current video surveillance solutions are too complicated and expensive, and can be time-consuming and difficult to manage. Customers often have problems to solve. They have varied requirements, some of which may include requiring surveillance with easy access, no hardware, and only cloud-based while being supported with mobile access.
Harrison is excited about solving those problems. What he is most proud of? “Seeing our customers use our platform, use the technology for more active operational management and drive efficiencies in their business.”
Camcloud has found reliable ways to solve the many complex problems that can arise when the security of its customers is paramount. Business owners have many other important things to focus on every day; they don’t need to be worrying about surveillance.
Engaging the Customers in a Competitive Market
Surveillance has become an increasingly competitive market. With the likes of Google (Nest), Amazon (Ring) and Apple’s smart home, the market has become swallowed up by the home automation space.
Leveraging the cloud, Camcloud found a niche and addressed a real customer need. From their initial “cottage solution,” they found that customers were coming to Camcloud and saying, “We love your open platform and want to use it for our business.”
Camcloud has found that other businesses — integrators and resellers — are contacting them, asking how they can sell their service.
Camcloud recruits channel partners who are installing the cameras. “But then,” said Harrison, “what they can do is offer our cloud-based service instead of an on-premise service. Our partners love our platform because it allows them to mix and match the cameras they use depending on their specific needs.”