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Smart cameras focus on insights versus information

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Google’s Nest has had a mixed track record in recent years, but the company’s smart cameras could represent a turning point. The Nest Cam IQ incorporates Google’s facial recognition software, and can alert users to the presence of unknown visitors.

“When designing Nest Cam IQ, we focused on what we’ve learned from our customers, which is that people don’t want more information, they want insights,” said Matt Rogers, Nest co-founder and chief product officer. “So we combined intelligence with excellent image and sound quality to deliver the insights customers need, at the right time.”

Analyst Lee Ratliff, senior principal analyst at IHS Markit, said the Nest Cam IQ probably uses an ARM Cortex-A microcontroller core rather than the ARM Cortex-M that is more common in internet of things devices. He said the system requires much more compute power than the average connected device.

The camera’s processing power can help reduce the bandwidth needed to send images to the cloud, Ratliff said. He said images are compressed to a fraction of their original size before they are transmitted. Even more importantly, the camera’s embedded intelligence enables it to select the images that will be sent to the cloud. Instead of streaming video to the cloud, smart cameras can identify visitors that need attention and send video of those people or animals to the cloud. From there, the video can be sent to the user’s smartphone.

Paul Teich, principal analyst at TIRIAS Research, sees smart video streaming as an important use case for intelligent IoT gateways. He said intelligent video gateways can run an image against a database and send the image to the cloud, along with an alert, if the person is not in the database.

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