George Bentinck, product manager for camera systems at Meraki, was tasked with the job to track the path of sheep grazing behavior for the Australian government’s Department of Primary Industry. In any other method, cameras would be set up in the Outback and viewers could watch and track where the sheep grazed over time—something that would take hours. Not with the Meraki MV security cameras.
Cisco Meraki’s security cameras keep the video entirely on the camera itself because the majority of security camera footage is never seen or used—viewers don’t need to watch long footage of sheep nibbling on grass. Big files of video would also be difficult to retrieve over the Outback’s small Internet connection. Without even seeing the video, viewers could use Meraki MV’s heat mapping technology to see the general path of the sheep over time. This got the right data to the right people in the quickest way. This study was accomplished using the MV71, and the newest iteration of Meraki’s security camera includes even more—machine learning and artificial intelligence technology.
The analytics, Bentinck says, shows how the true value from video is in its data. The Meraki MV are cameras where you don’t have to watch the video to get what you need.
There needed to be a big transformation in the security camera industry. Existing technology is complex, it requires expertise, and it needs a lot of pieces of equipment. The Meraki team sought to create the alternative, something that only needed the Meraki MV camera itself. Using the advancements of the mobile phone and Meraki’s cloud technology, all of the camera’s video, smarts, and intelligence is kept in the camera.
Video not only is a huge data source, it also has significant privacy implications. For these reasons, the video is kept on the camera while Meraki cloud technology is used for the management, operation, and scaling of the video. For example, if you are managing a restaurant chain with Meraki MV cameras in kitchens throughout the country, you can watch feeds remotely through connection of the cloud.
The feeds can be seen in a web browser on the Meraki dashboard, where all of the analytics for the video is stored as well. The dashboard is Meraki’s unified, multi-platform management tool where users can operate various devices and deploy software and apps. All of the data managed is also encrypted by default.
A sensor for the enterprise
The Meraki MV doesn’t only track sheep. Through machine learning technology, the camera can perform the detection, classification, and tracking of people. This can be extremely helpful in businesses like retail.
“What we’ve discovered is that many problems that customers have when they want information out of video are derived from understanding people, where they are and what they’re doing,” says Bentinck, “You can take this information the camera is able to detect using machine learning and say, how many people are in that queue? How long is the average wait time? Did someone walk in and go to the right? Or the left?”
The applications of this can also be made for safer working—being able to tell when there’s not enough people monitoring a machine. Or in education, where educators want to find out when a child left the building or if their IT equipment is safe in classrooms at night.
With endless uses of the Meraki MV, the team truly envisions it as a sensor for the enterprise. Because it comes from both Cisco and Meraki, this camera for the future is both IT and digital security aware.
All about design
A striking feature about the new Meraki MV12 is its physical design—a noticeable difference from any other security camera in the market. The team found that customers were looking for smaller, more discreet cameras. For those installing anywhere from one to many thousand cameras, the box the MV12 comes in opens like a chest for ease in accessibility.
The team made sure that quick and easy installment was something integral in the design. You won’t find any tape or stickiness in the box or camera itself. Protective plastic on top of the camera’s screen is constructed as a twist-off cap, and not peel-off film. The MV12’s instructions aren’t formatted like a booklet, but rather, a pamphlet that fits the size of the top of a ladder. This was done to make sure installers weren’t flipping through big pages of notes. The screws and notches are fitted in a small slab of foam rather than in a plastic bag to avoid pieces dropping.
In the final phases of the MV12’s design, the camera systems group invited non-team members into a room with a camera, a ladder, and a book of instructions. If the normal person couldn’t install a MV12 camera on their own, they knew it wasn’t ready for the public.
The democratization of AI
So Meraki’s new camera is sleek and beautiful and can do everything, therefore the cost must be high, right? The team wanted something better for everyone.
The democratization of machine learning was a goal in the creation of the Meraki MV. All you need to get started on your journey is one camera—nothing else.
“You can be an international retail brand who can afford really advanced tech, but what about other people who can’t afford it or aren’t as tech savvy?” says Bentinck, “We shouldn’t limit or prevent access to tech that could advance your operation or business. You can be one coffee shop and use machine learning. That’s really cool. With the MV12 we can make that possible.”