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EETE OCT 2014

Consumer-driven surveillance takes shape By Julien Happich Althou gh recording a crime does not prevent it from happening, banks, shop owners, city administrators and law enforcement agencies all take for granted that more video surveillance equals more security. And despite the fact that constant surveillance exerts an unwanted bias on society or may even lead to abuses, taking its toll on civil liberties, security is successfully sold all over the world in the shape of HD camera units with video analytics. Increasingly, the same all-out surveillance The unobtrusive Blink unit can stick just anywhere. SciFi scenarios that would chill most citizens are softly redefined from a consumer’s perspective, with more and more companies trying to seduce us with self-inflicted video surveillance, for the sake of feeling more secure or just to keep a tab on everything and everyone at home. With its Blink Kickstarter project, Boston-based Startup Immedia Semiconductor is hoping to bring HD video surveillance to the masses. Only a few hours short of the campaign’s completion, the company’s battery-operated and WiFi-connected HD home monitoring & alert system had reached over a million US dollars from over 6,000 backers, over five times its initial USD 200,000 goal. Immedia Semiconductor was launched in 2009 by a team of video processing and compression experts, three co-founders out of four having performed leading roles at Broadcom’s consumer electronics group, itself formed through the acquisition of their previous startup Sand Video. Prior to that, CEO and Co-founder Peter Besen, VP of Sales and Marketing and Co-founder Don Shulsinger, as well as CTO and Co-founder Stephen Gordon had worked together in 1991 startup Pixel Magic that they sold to Oak Technology four years later. Before it went on developing the Blink product, Immedia Semiconductor was already busy selling its ISI-108 Full HD and very low power video processing SoC for consumer applications. The company has another chip with less peripherals, the ISI-40, aimed at the automotive market. Both 8x8mm chips include a complete image processing chain, system processor, dedicated MJPEG and H.264 encoding blocks and a wide range of peripheral functions. They share the company’s unique noDRAM technology which reduces system power consumption and design costs by completely eliminating the need for external DRAMs. In these chips, the company also implements what it calls 3D noise reduction, for superior image quality but to support a more efficient video compression for lower bandwidth and storage usage. Both SoCs are in volume production and according to Don Shulsinger, both are gaining traction with design wins in car DVRs and in the wearable space. So why compete with OEMs by launching the Blink camera unit as a Kickstarter project? “Ten years ago, chip guys would sell to OEMs, the cycle was very long before the product idea came to the consumers”, told us Shulsinger in a phone interview. “Over the last couple of years, as we were shipping our ISI-108 SoC to OEMs to get people to use it, we realized the implications of the very low power capability of our chips for cordless home monitoring applications”, he added. “One way to validate the idea was to set up this Kickstarter campaign, and the public’s reaction was very strong as you can see”. “Here we can show consumers a real product backed by the right connexions with ODMs to deliver in volume. The Kickstarter campaign was also valuable to create a community of consumers all interested in defining the product” Shulsinger explained. So not only the Blink Kickstarter project will help generate chip sales and increase average selling prices, it also provided Immedia Semiconductor with tons of feedback that will help the company define its future product roadmap. Triggering upon motion detection, what makes Blink so unique and attractive compared to existing consumer-driven home-surveillance systems is its very low power operation and its affordability, enabling the sub-$50 palm-size unit to run for over a year on batteries, cordless. The company defines standard use as the capture of 4,000 motion-triggered five-second video-recordings per year (with associated alert messages). Through the Blink app, the Live View mode lets users access on-demand video streaming to check the different rooms where a camera is present, audio recording is also possible (other backers’ requests included two-way audio communication, variable length video clips or waterproof cases just to mention future likely developments). The paranoids will be able to constantly check their Blink smartphone app for a live video stream of the places they’ve just left; the jealous or overprotective ones will be able to monitor every gesture of their loved ones at home (and probably also track them through a separate GPS tag), while the unlucky will be able to witness a burglar intrusion first-hand (the camera won’t do much to stop the intruders). You should not worry about being caught off guard by your own devices, explains the company on its Kickstarter page, as a non-hackable, hardwarebased LED indicator and an optional audio alert let users know when Blink is recording, or in Live View mode. But get your phone hacked and your home will become the creepiest place on earth, until you remove these sneaky units. The Blink app running in Live View mode on a smartphone. 4 Electronic Engineering Times Europe October 2014 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE OCT 2014
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