Q&A: Bosch Video Systems & Solutions’ Michael Seiter And Magnus Ekerot On Smart Technology, “AIot”, And Plans For 2021
Q: Mr. Seiter, Mr. Ekerot, you both joined Bosch Building Technologies’ business unit Video Systems & Solutions as Senior Vice Presidents in March 2020, when the Coronavirus pandemic was just beginning. How did your business unit get through 2020?
The crisis was also felt at Bosch. At the same time, demand has risen for solutions that keep businesses open and protect people’s health. We offer corresponding video solutions that can make a significant contribution to containing the pandemic.
Overall, we managed the past year well despite the challenges and have been growing again since the third quarter compared to 2019. We see good opportunities for further growth in 2021.
Q: Has the Corona crisis again accelerated the development of smart technologies in the security technology market, and does the security market in contrast to most industries benefit from the crisis more than it suffers?
The Corona crisis has definitely demonstrated that the future lies in data-driven solutions. Thanks to our product development strategy already being based on this, we at Bosch were very quickly able to develop new products for the ‘New Normal’ and to expand existing products accordingly.
To give one or two examples: in cooperation with Philips, we very quickly developed a people counting solution for retail operations – smart Philips displays in conjunction with smart cameras from Bosch that provide protection for staff and customers. The In-Store Analytics software solution was also implemented with additional features. Shop owners can now make decisions based on customer movement data such as “Where do we position products to avoid queues or crowds?”
HTD involves a touch-free monitoring system to accurately and speedily identify people with heightened skin temperature
The latest highlight is the Bosch Human Skin Temperature Detection solution, in short HTD. This involves a touch-free monitoring system to accurately and speedily identify people with heightened skin temperature at control points in offices, factory floors, or airports. The benefits of previously existing solutions on the market are sometimes called into question. Competitors are often unable to deliver what they promise because, for example, the measured temperature of the skin does not correspond to the core temperature of the person, or fluctuates, due to environmental influences. Therefore, we developed a software-based solution that, in compliance with GDPR, first allows people with potentially elevated body temperatures to be filtered out, and in a second step, allows medical personnel to perform a more targeted fever measurement.
Q: You see a lot of potential for the video security industry in new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. What specific opportunities do you mean, and how are you leveraging these technologies at Bosch Building Technologies?
Bosch has committed itself fully to an “AIoT” – AI meets IoT – strategy. The development of AI algorithms and software, in general, is at Bosch significantly driven in the security space. By AIoT, we specifically mean the networking of physical products and the deployment of artificial intelligence.
With AI we aim to enable clients to understand events at an ever-deeper level and predict them in the future – the keyword being predictive – so that they can act proactively. This is particularly important for health and safety. An example is the Intelligent Insights solution where the user can anticipate potentially dangerous situations, for instance in maintaining social distance and a maximum number of people numbers in any one area.
Q: From your point of view do you have an advantage over other suppliers when it comes to AI-based products in the video arena?
The analysis and utilization of video data have long been front and center with us. Since 2016 we’ve been following the strategy of offering AI applications in the form of integrated intelligent video analytics as a standard in our network cameras.
Data such as color, object size, object speed, and direction are all measured. Simply put, you can say this is seeing and understanding – which is the principle behind smart security cameras. Today it’s much more a question of intelligent, data-based solutions than collecting high-quality pictures and storing them for the record.
Bosch has been investing heavily in AI for years, from which we can benefit greatly in our area. In the first quarter, for example, we will launch a vehicle detector based on deep learning that is already running on our cameras. This will create significant added value for our customers in the area of intelligent traffic control.
Q: Mr. Ekerot, what advantages do customers have in AI-based video security from Bosch?
A key advantage is strong customer focus with tailored solutions that are at the same time modular and scalable through new AI algorithms
A key advantage is our strong customer focus with tailored solutions that are at the same time modular and scalable through new AI algorithms. Take the example of Camera Trainer, a machine learning software that can be directly uploaded to Bosch network cameras. The camera is thus trained up on recognizing objects and situations – tailored to the specific needs of our customers. If the camera detects the defined scenario, it performs a predefined action in real-time – for example, a count or an alarm.
The latest example is our new camera platform Inteox. As a completely open camera platform, Inteox combines Bosch’s intelligent video analytics with an open operating system. This allows programmers to develop specific software applications – or apps – for various application purposes. These can then be loaded onto cameras – the same principle as an app store for smartphones. To sum up, Bosch AI applications support customer-specific needs related to data analysis while enabling totally new applications within and beyond the video security market.
Q: Can you name a specific current project where Bosch has deployed an AI-based solution?
A current ground-breaking project using our smart cameras is being implemented as a pilot in the USA. Smart Ohio enables users to configure more intelligent traffic flows and thus ensure mobility, safety, and the efficient use of roads today and tomorrow.
The new vehicle detector mentioned by Mr. Seiter also plays a central role here. Our overall goal is to provide connected smart sensor solutions for public and private transportation agencies to enable them to operate their roads safely and efficiently.
The Intelligent Insights can anticipate potentially dangerous situations, for instance in maintaining social distance and a maximum number of people numbers in any one area
Q: Mr. Seiter, you have been involved with the topic of mobility for some time. What experience from your previous job in the automotive business of Bosch might help you when it comes to further develop the video portfolio of Bosch Building Technologies?
There’s a lot to tell. First of all, the development of core algorithms for video-based solutions, whether for autonomous driving, for vehicle interior monitoring, or for our Bosch Building Technologies video systems, all come together at Bosch’s Hildesheim location. This gives us considerable synergies and allows us to bring R&D results to market faster and more flexibly.
Essentially, assisted driving systems use AI algorithms that process ever-increasing volumes of video data. Attempts are being made to imitate the human being and enable the vehicle to understand better the surrounding environment with its ‘eyes’. This predictive capability is especially critical with autonomous driving. For example, key questions include: “How should the car respond and what could potentially happen next?” “What kind of environment does it find itself in?” etc. There are many activities in this area at Bosch that in my new role in security we can also strongly benefit from.
I am now bringing a lot of this experience and existing R&D achievements to Bosch Video Systems & Solutions, which also results in further synergies with our mobility division: At Stuttgart Airport, autonomous driving is already being implemented together with Mercedes-Benz and the parking garage operator Apcoa as part of the “Automated Valet Parking” project, or AVP for short, in which intelligent video systems from Bosch Building Technologies are making a significant contribution.
Mr. Ekerot, you have a lot of experience in the video security area. Where do you position Bosch Building Technologies now in this market and what specific goals are you pursuing?
Our clients are looking for reliable partners and products. We are a strong brand; you can rely on Bosch products. Bosch is a thought leader in video and a pioneer in AI applications in this field since 2016. Data security is everything to us: Our products conform to the EU’s GDPR regulations. Beyond that, we have an extensive camera portfolio that complies with the US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for video security devices. This enables our portfolio to be deployed for example within US government buildings.
We are planning to conclude more software maintenance agreements with our clients in 2021. These deliver investment and future security for our customers and include for example a ‘patch guarantee’ along with regular updates with new functionalities. This is the first step in a comprehensive plan to access new revenue channels for us and our partners delivering the best technology and excellent service to the end-user!
Overall, many new products will be launched this year and this trend will intensify. Our goal is to establish new product families that follow a simple principle: “The development and delivery of disruptive, predictive video solutions that every user can trust because of the underlying sustainable forward-thinking mindset.”
It’s been much discussed of late that Bosch is one of the very first companies globally that operates on a CO2-neutral basis. How does sustainability impact your business?
IoT solutions are actually sustainable and contribute to environmental protection
Our IoT solutions are actually sustainable and contribute to environmental protection. For example, our cameras are sustainable in that they remain up-to-date through software updates and needn’t be constantly exchanged for new ones. Our systems demonstrate sustainability also operationally as they can be managed remotely. System integrators don’t need to be physically present, thus avoiding unnecessary travel with its accompanying emissions.
All in all, Bosch Building Technologies develops ways to accompany and support our clients in reaching their climate goals via new technologies. This can be done, for example, through improved energy efficiency, the total cost of ownership models, organizing and simplifying the supply chain, and helping our customers meet their social responsibilities.
The Power of Bosch helps us here to leverage company-wide research to be two steps ahead, a shade faster, when it comes to new technologies and initiatives that our and future generations will benefit from. I should also say that I am personally very proud to work for a company that set an ambitious climate goal for itself and achieved it!
Can you already share a preview of your technology innovations in 2021?
We see great market potential for our cameras that use artificial intelligence and can be updated flexibly throughout their lifecycles. I have already mentioned the deep learning-based vehicle detector in our cameras.
More such solutions – also for other applications where object and person recognition are important – will follow in the course of the year. And the best part is: with AI, the more data we collect and the more intelligently we use it, the better the solutions become and the more added value they bring to the customer. This will revolutionize our industry!
Another example is our cloud-based solutions, for example for alarm monitoring. Here, we can now also integrate third-party cameras and, building on this, offer and jointly develop our intelligent software-based solutions. This gives our customers more opportunities to take advantage of the opportunities created by AI.
The trend towards integration of the various security technologies seems to be driven mostly by the rapid progress in software development. Does this affect full-range suppliers such as Bosch and what specific plans for fully integrated security solutions do you have for the future?
Naturally, this suits us as a full-scope supplier. Bosch solutions are deployed in many cross-domain client projects. We have experts for the different domains under one roof and a strong brand with the same quality promise for all areas. Nevertheless, it is always also about specific domain excellence. Only when you master all different areas and have profound and proven expertise in each of them you can succeed in integrated cross-domain projects. The respective business units craft their future strategies and innovation roadmaps with this in mind – as we do in the field of Video Systems & Solutions.
Our business unit offers fully integrated Bosch video solutions that can be extended and operated on open systems. This is why we drive open platforms such as Inteox, to offer customers from a wide range of industries the right solutions. Our Bosch Integration Partner Program that we launched in 2012 is also heading in this direction – every product can be integrated into multiple other systems and VMS solutions.
In summary: At Bosch, we are both a one-stop-shop, but also an open-system, meaning we offer customers maximum flexibility in their choice of products and services.