Milestone: from healthcare to smart city, video analysis looks increasingly beyond security

Milestone: from healthcare to smart city, video analysis looks increasingly beyond security


Dubai - Safety (or, as it is called in English, safety and security) has always been the number one purpose of management and video analysis systems, from surveillance to control systems. And this record, in all probability, is destined to remain so in the near future. But the technological potential made possible by the integration of software, hardware and recent generation architectures are enabling further application branches, ranging from the regulation of the flow of vehicles in the city to surgery, from support for people with autism to autonomous driving, from the management of accidents to that of airports, up to the parking meters of shopping centers.

An expansion of use cases that is determining a transformation not only at the application level, but above all in cultural and business terms, and consequently is modifying both partnerships and the regulatory and regulatory needs of the sector. And while the new trend of beyond security - as insiders call it - has become the absolute protagonist of the discussion, crucial aspects such as privacy and the many ethical issues that automated technologies of this kind touch cannot be forgotten. We talked about this, exclusively for Italia on the sidelines of the Mips2022 event in Dubai, with the CEO of Milestone System Thomas Jensen, a multinational with over twenty years of history in video management and based in Copenhagen, born in 1998 and today with offices in many countries of the world, including Milan since 2002.

Thomas Jensen, how a sector like that of video analysis is reconciling traditional uses in the security field with the emergence of new scenarios of application?

The most important part of our work, both in terms of business and the services offered, remains that of protecting people and companies. We are aware that this will not change, and indeed security applications are in turn increasingly in demand: with the Covid-19 pandemic, video analysis technology has been put at the service of managing distancing, and in 2022 the arrival of an armed conflict on European soil has further increased the demand and need for security. At the same time, however, the entire security industry, which by its very nature has always had a very conservative approach, today is faced with the challenge of innovating at the frontier of technology, offering smart solutions to its customers even in areas other than the core. business ”.

The main novelty you announced at Mips2022 is the arrival in 2023 of the Kite platform, with which your video management services will also move to the cloud. Someone criticized the company for moving late on this front: what do you think?

“It's true, like Milestone we have been criticized for not being the first in the sector to go to the cloud, but in a business like ours, speed is not the only thing that matters, quite the contrary. Obviously we have been working on this front for some time: Kite is a platform that was developed by Arcules, a spinoff company of Milescone born from our research and development department. As a company with a very long history in terms of software services, the move to the cloud essentially marks an almost total reinvention, with a portfolio that will be complete by 2023. All this by bringing together cloud, big data, analysis software and edge computing, given that today video technology is increasingly data driven ".

Speaking of data, which you obviously have in abundance starting from the images collected, what are the uses that you consider most strategic today?

"While companies like Facebook and Amazon are wondering how to monetize the data they have directly and in the best possible way, we work to extract useful information for our customers (corporate or institutional) and lead to concrete improvements and efficiencies. : a city in North America asked us to reduce urban traffic congestion during rush hour. From the analysis of the videos of the traffic monitoring cameras it emerged that the traffic flows affico had a strong asymmetry, with north-south displacements much greater than east-west displacements. We then determined what the ideal timing of the traffic lights was to ensure the best possible flow, and the benefit was evident. Remaining within the same example, let's say smart city, thanks to the video technology already installed in our streets it is possible to optimize the routes of emergency vehicles, and optimize the productivity of an entire city ".

Tra the most interesting areas of use is undoubtedly the healthcare sector, with applications that - beyond ambulance journeys in the city - range from video analysis of support sessions to children with autism to automatic alert systems in the room surgery if the health care team makes some macroscopic error: but how do you manage with video analysis in an intrinsically delicate and highly regulated sector such as that of health?

"In the healthcare sector, we do the opposite of what is usually done, that is, instead of starting from a technological product and finding its applications, we start by talking directly with healthcare professionals, to understand which are the main ones today problems and bottlenecks where video technology can be of support. To respect people's privacy we typically work with blurred videos, because we don't need to identify people. And an interesting aspect is that, in working to improve the efficiency of intervention in the event of road accidents or falls in indoor spaces such as hospitals, we are also able to obtain indications on how to reduce and potentially avoid the accidents themselves in the future " .

A model of smart city with video analysis services in the offices of Milestone Systems in Dubai photo: Gianluca Dotti / Wired This transformation, both for you and for other companies in the sector, also means changing interlocutors, modifying the way to communicate, differentiate partners… How is this transition taking place, towards health and beyond?

“To our partners, especially the new ones, we should no longer talk about products or solutions, but about final results such as satisfaction, problem solving in real time and so on. Video technology combined with facial recognition is useful for reducing addictions and countering gambling excesses, for example. Depending on the reality with which we speak, the objectives may be to increase productivity, to reduce urban pollution or road congestion, to combat specific social problems, to take care of patients, to enhance the effectiveness of a public health at the level of the national health system. It is no coincidence that a company like ours has chosen Make the world see as its motto, in the sense of allowing the most disparate partners to see, thanks to video analysis and the data driven approach, aspects that they could not otherwise grasp.

"Speaking as the CEO of a company that by force of circumstances also has a need for profit, collaborating with others is a question of survival: our existence makes sense to the extent that we are able to create bridges between technology and partners, choosing to do so with an open platform that also facilitates individual realities to embrace changes without the need to reorganize things from scratch. The culturally interesting aspect is that the paradigm is evolving towards the vision-ad-a-service, in which the partner wants to look directly at the final benefit, rather than at the technical details ".

However, it cannot be overlooked the fact that this new approach is accompanied by a different way of managing the information infrastructure itself ...

"What we call cloud vision, that is the functionality of vision as a service, also requires an obvious shift of services . But it also requires ever more powerful computers, and a shift towards edge computing. I would not speak of an infrastructure revolution but certainly of an evolution, necessary in a sector like ours which is intrinsically high in data consumption ".

Alongside hardware and software innovation, there are also increasingly strong regulatory, deontological and ethical requirements: what are the emerging issues, or which deserve to emerge more?

“I am convinced that to get the best out of the technologies we have available it is necessary to have more laws, more regulations, more rules. It might seem controversial, but the point is precisely to have well-constructed legislation, not based on prohibitions - which do not solve the problems - but which allows us to define what can be done, and how. We want to be regulated (in ways that allow us to responsibly develop our solutions) and we also self-regulate. Today we know that artificial intelligence in tasks such as image recognition already performs better than humans, with an error rate of less than 5%. Over time this threshold will drop even more, but how quickly it will happen will depend on the ability to train artificial intelligences: for this I believe a dialogue with the administrations is essential, to define adequate regulations, obviously with everyone's commitment to eliminate all possible bias.

“For this reason, rather than focusing on how video collection technologies are used, I believe it is important to focus on how data is used and processed. At the same time, the other aspect on which we are working in this phase that is expansive for Milestone is diversity, because a diversified work team is the first element to guarantee results that are as bias-free as possible: today, for example, among the 500 people who work at our headquarters, we represented 49 different nationalities ”.

One last curiosity. Although based in Denmark, you have chosen Dubai and the United Arab Emirates as the location for Mips2022: why this choice? A question of smart city?

“Not only for this. There is also, trivially, a question of crossing the restrictions due to Covid-19, and then above all Dubai geographically represents a meeting point between Europe and Asia, which represent two of our main strategic areas (together with North America, ed) . Since I assumed my role in the company in October 2020, the feeling is that I have been in the pits for two years awaiting departure, but now the restart of our face-to-face activities represents a fundamental moment for the whole ecosystem ".

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