Hikvision Cameras - Why Should I Specify Them?

I hope this question is not too silly, but as a consulting engineer, I am asking myself why I should allow Hikvision to be in my division 28 specification. With what I have been reading in this forum and elsewhere, with the possible security issues of a camera system manufactured in China, why would I ever recommend Hikvision to my clients when there are so many other brands just as good or better? After all, their financing from the communist party gives me reason to pause https://ipvm.com/reports/hikvision-communist-party and they are showing up on the this list from IPVM https://ipvm.com/reports/worst-camera-man-2016.

I would like to read the responses of the experts in this forum. Thanks


Tim, good question!

As their #1 critic, I'll start by emphasizing some positives - they are among the least expensive big brands out there, their hardware reliability is strong, their image quality matches up well with Western brands and they offer a lot of local support.

I think there are a lot of reasons not to use Hikvision and a lot to use them, so not an easy case.

That said, for any US government facility, I would not spec them unless the client fully understand the government / political background of Hikvision.

Thank you John, your response is helpful to me.

I think there are a lot of reasons not to use Hikvision...

I, for one, would like to hear what your reasons are, possibly in order of importance.

This is my honest impression of your objections and their ranking, I am close?

  1. National Security Threat
  2. Unfair Trade Practices
  3. Poor Cybersecurity record
  4. More imitation than innovation

While I won't argue that these may be factual, they still don't have bearing on my choice to install them.

1: National security threat - To non-gov clients, I doubt that they are a target for this vector.

2: Unfair trade practices - Name a brand that doesn't have components made in China by quasi-slave labor?

3: Poor cyber security practices - Axis has a much longer rap sheet. Any brand can be guilty of this. No one that I know makes 100% of their product in house. They all rely on third parties to produce portions of their products, be it hardware or software.

4: More imitation than innovation - That is somewhat natural for a company that is a decade or more behind in R&D vs other major brands. This may change with their massive budget. Time will tell.

Name a brand that doesn't have components made in China by quasi-slave labor?

Harley-Davidson?

Seriously though, I meant unfair trade practices e.g. predatory pricing, not unfair labor practices and humanitarian issues.

Tim, I hope you are giving equal pause to Axis as well. Recently, Axis had an issue that they still have yet to disclose. We still don't know what the exact issue was, but we will soon. The person who discovered the exploit is planning on making it public on the 18th of July.

As for why I install Hikvision, we do so because it is hard to justify the price premium for other "Western" brands for most installs. There are occasions where the premium brands have a certain model with specific features that make it worth the cost. But for the average install, 95%+ of the camera locations are well served by the Hikvision line of cameras.

Also, we install Hikvision for the 4 year warranty. This is usually better than other brands. It for sure is the best for the price segment. We also get local (read a few miles from me) support from out Hikvision rep. The product is stocked at numerous distributors and easy to procure. Their accessories are well designed with the integrator in mind. And they have a low DOA rate, in our experience.

Why I wouldn't install them, is a much shorter list. We don't have any Gov clients, so the Chinese ownership isn't really relevant to us. Not only that, but find any brand that doesn't include Chinese made parts. Not as easy as you think.

The other big reason is VMS integration. Their analytics aren't integrated into any major VMS that we are aware of. This will be solved when/if they release iVMS-5200 Pro to the US market. But, for now, if you need reliable analytics and value, Avigilon is the way to go. This will change in time as more analytics become common and integration with VMSs expand.

Jon thank you. As an integrator your opinions are important to people like me because we do not have the "hands on" that you do. Much of my information comes from sources like this:

https://ipvm.com/reports/worst-camera-man-2016

and this

https://ipvm.com/reports/favorite-camera-manufacturers-2016

Each of these surveys were filled out by integrators who use the products. It is fair to say that not all integrators use all products and many have favorites. Often those favorites are the products they know the best. I agree with both you and John H (above) about not specifying Hikvision for government projects, as I work on DOD, DOS, DOE and State of Texas projects and would not consider Hikvision for those projects. Thank you for your helpful response.

1. They're very, very, very cheap, especially considering the image quality they deliver.

2. Why do you need a second reason?

Ari, I understand that from the perspective of an integrator this is very important, especially when there is an "open spec" (any integrator competing for the project can submit any product that will work). Issues such as product support and product reliability is important to me personally if I am going to recommend projects. Several of the concerns from the surveys suggested some of these issues were a problem. Thanks

Sorry, I understood you question to mean "with all these well published problems, why are people still using Hikvision?"

The answer is the price is still really attractive even if you know about all the problems. And if the cameras are all on an isolated network with proper security, I could certainly see even knowledgeable integrators using them, especially if they're sick and tired of losing bids to trunkslammers.

Ari, I couldn't agree more, "trunk slammers" as you call them seem to create more problems than they solve after the project. A good division 28 specification will require a company to have been in business for at least 5 years (should be more) and have commercial liability and general liability insurance along with bonds if necessary. This alone will usually will cull out the "fly by nighters". I understand that not all projects have engineering specifications or even competent engineers. Its tough on everyone when short sighted owners and general contractors go with the lowest price.

My response?

You should not. Under any circumstances.

Obviously many disagree, but I refuse now and have refused to sell Hikvision for quite some time. The known security exploits, the "ties" with the Chinese government (aka the largest hacking organization in the world), and the poor overall quality (notice I did not say poor quality relative to the price) are not where I want to be and not what I represent to my clients.

Some will choose to play in that area because they think it's the only way they can compete, or because they make so much money with it that they don't have a choice or try to find a way to justify it being OK. For me, it's just not, and never will be. I've lost a lot of projects over the years because I sell value and not price, and I've got no problem with that. On to the next.

The reality for me is that there are phenomenal and competitively-priced alternative products out there that are better quality, more reliable, and I don't have to try and justify the fact that I'm effectively installing malware all over my customer's premises every time I put it in.

My goal with my clients is to build long-term relationships that are profitable for both sides. I'll turn down work if I'm not confident in the solution, and I won't sell a customer something that is poor quality just to sell something to them. I consider my reputation to be about the only thing I have, and I refuse to sacrifice that for a product that I wouldn't install in my own home.

Overall, I view Hikvision as the point where the industry simultaneously was dumbed-down and exposed for what it largely is, which is entirely driven by greed, not what is best for clients.

I'll go ahead and don my asbestos-lined flameproof suit now.

>Overall, I view Hikvision as the point where the industry simultaneously was dumbed-down and exposed for what it largely is, which is entirely driven by greed, not what is best for clients.

Back in analog days, some manufacturers came out with the idea of proprietary cables so you couldn't mix and match cameras from one manufacturer and a DVR from another. This basic idea, to increase sales by making their products proprietary, gets recycled every half decade or so.

My point is, shortsighted greed in this business is nothing new.

I'm certainly not arguing that greed is new. However -- and maybe I'm romanticizing or giving too much credence to the past -- but I do feel like that what is new is blatant disregard for what is best for the customer. Obviously manufacturers are going to try and lock folks into proprietary systems, and to a degree, I think that is on the client if they opt for a system that they know is proprietary. That clearly doesn't excuse jackleg integrators who lie about whether something is proprietary. But, I view the proprietary argument much differently than I do an argument about not disclosing to your customer that oh, by the way, this company is owned by the Chinese government and odds are that you'll be hacked, potentially by a backdoor in these products, at some point in the near future.

...not disclosing to your customer that oh, by the way, this company is owned by the Chinese government and odds are that you'll be hacked, potentially by a backdoor in these products, at some point in the near future.

Is that really what you say to your customers?

I think you might need to read my post again....

...read my post again...

Ok, I did. Here is what you said:

Obviously manufacturers are going to try and lock folks into proprietary systems, and to a degree, I think that is on the client if they opt for a system that they know is proprietary. That clearly doesn't excuse jackleg integrators who lie about whether something is proprietary. But, I view the proprietary argument much differently than I do an argument about not disclosing to your customer that oh, by the way, this company is owned by the Chinese government and odds are that you'll be hacked, potentially by a backdoor in these products, at some point in the near future.

I think you are saying, "Its one thing to sell a system and not go out of your way to tell them what they are buying is actually proprietary, but on the other hand you absolutely need to tell them that 'oh by the way, this company is owned by the Chinese government and odds are that you'll be hacked, potentially by a backdoor in these products, at some point in the near future'

I admit I could be wrong; I'm not 100% sure about 'jackleg', and the 'oh by the way' seems to have an element of sarcasm in it, though I'm uncertain what it's purpose.

If I still have it wrong can you say in another way?

Thanks.

Tim- Thank you for an excellent question. I am sure as an experienced consultant you know that a camera in a box can transmit nothing. It takes a network and IF you have a properly designed network you can certainly mitigate to a large degree any concerns as far as security goes, security is a moot point strongly emphasized by competitors due the fact Hikvision is the leader world wide in production of IP video cameras, its not even close whoever is second. So ask yourself this: if the cameras are such a major security threat why do 10's of thousands of qualified firms use them every day? Its just like John Honovich said "they do make a product at minimum equal to the best western made products". I have personally installed and/or designed electronic security systems for 40 years, I can use any product I choose, I have made a choice to use HikVision because I understand economics, I am able to purchase the products at a very reasonable cost and just as important as costs receive excellent LOCAL TECHNICAL support (if needed)before during and after the sale. Out of 1000's of cameras we have put into service I can count on one hand the failures.

Can you get hands on LOCAL support for any AXIS camera? Or Bosch? Or Panasonic? Or Longsee?

After its all said and done what about exorbitant licensing fees? Has anyone mentioned that HikVison takes the stance ZERO LICENSE FEE. NO IP Camera licensing fees, no software fees. Ask your next client would they like to pay or not to pay? Do more homework, ask more dealers that actually use Hikvision instead of complain about Hikvison before you finalize any decision.

Thank you for reading.

Marty, thanks for the response it is very helpful. I did not mean to sound like I was complaining about Hikvision, as a consulting engineer I do not have hands on with the equipment which is why I rely on integrators and experienced users to inform me about products in the market place. I am asking questions because I am trying to get perspective from experts both pro and con in the market. At least part of the value I add as a consulting engineer is objectivity for the client. When my clients ask me for my advice, my intent is to give them objective technical information and to be fair in my analysis because I do not rep any product nor am I affiliated with any particular line of surveillance cameras. Based on the survey cited earlier, I probably should also be asking integrators about Pelco, Arecont and Samsung which also did not get good ratings in the survey.

Do you have concerns about the survey itself? What are your thoughts about the other manufacturers mentioned?

Ill chime in on this as well, If you were to ask me 3 years ago what I though of Hikvision I would have told you cheap Chinese crap... today I am a Hikvision dealer. I install these cameras on the shores of Lake Superior, these things are buried in snow, in temperatures that would give a snowman shrinkage and we have not had a single failure. The exterior grade cameras are rock solid, image quality is there, WDR performance is there, price point is there. I also agree I wouldn't use them on a Gov't facility, but I have no issues installing them on customers facilities, and we ensure the network is locked down. We also scan our customers networks quarterly with a Nessus scan and have only had one vulnerability that was resolved with a firmware upgrade, so that makes us look good in the eyes of network auditors.

thank you

Hi Marty

regarding the zero licensing fees you are correct on the 4200 platform but for your info the 5200 pro there is a license per camera in the hik business model in South Africa it is minimal but does come inline or slightly lower with other vms vendors but includes a very interesting twist access control capability

regards

Kelly

We have installed MANY Hikvision cameras over the last four years and have had no issues; we hold licenses in 13 states and have been in business for 25 years. We're far from being truck slammers. We use Hikvision because they have a broad range of high-quality, low-cost cameras and professional grade cameras. Most people only look at the value series cameras and forget that Hikvision has a smart series line of cameras.

Our customer base is RX, Fuel Stations, Manufacturing, Retail, high-end residential, distribution centers...thousands of random SMB's.

Do I have concerns about the Chinese government involvement? Sure I do. But at the end of the day, I save my customers a lot of money and most of the time they could care less. I don't know if this wave we're on right now selling Hikvision will last, if it doesnt. We'll go back to selling Bosch or look at other options.

I think HikVision makes good products but I don't agree with the fact that they are backed by a Communist government that injects money into them so they can disrupt markets overseas. It's ridiculous, you can buy a HikVision 4MP dome of Bullet style camera with true WDR for $150. That's insane. A couple of years a go dealers were loving the pricing because they could go out and make juicy profits. Now every dealer is flogging the same Hik product and dealers are saying is getting tougher to make money. This also because you can buy Hik OEM kits at Costco dirt cheap and since Hik is being promoted by everyone it's easy for savvy end users to search for pricing online.

Id like to think that this model is unsustainable but when you're backed by a communist Chinese government this might become the status quo.

As a manufacturer, I can see why you would be against them. As an integrator, I have a different perspective. I don't want to do one huge project a year making huge margins. That one project is easy to miss out on. I would much rather have hundreds of potential clients to choose from. Sure, you can't serve them all, but the more potential clients, the more likely I am to stay booked all year.

Hikvision and their disruptive pricing (UBNT too) allow my clients to finally afford a quality system. They were unable to afford or justify spending $50k before, but $10k is in their ballpark.

Now about the Chinese gov subsidies, as a competitor, I see how this is unfair to you. However, I see it through a different prism. I am going to take their subsidies as much as they offer. Hell, my clients love that some Chinese gov official is PAYING for half of their hardware! I see it as us taking advantage of their offer. We are essentially burning through their capital.

And I know the reply to this idea is "they are doing it to spy on us and steal our secrets!" Well, too bad for them that we know how to secure our networks. We know how to create VLANS and firewall them. It is like a jail and their cameras are inmates. No info gets in or out that we don't allow. We screen all of the mail. Offending data gets tossed in the shredder (dropped).

Tim,

Hik makes good products, but I wouldn't specify them for any jobs. You're putting your reputation on the line.

I'm concerned about the value of the dollar and that Chinese partially government owned corporations are buying American assets.

I'm concerned about re-selling a product whose profit aids not a corporation but a Chinese owned and controlled business.

I'm concerned about a manufacturer that makes hundreds of different cameras all with different firmware when all we really need in the American market is a couple of quality cameras at various resolutions etc. - again not countless cameras all with one feature different etc.

I want a partnership between a camera manufacturer and an open VMS - one in which every feature of said camera is controllable through said VMS, I don't care about ONVIF support - it doesn't work.

I don't want an IP camera whose features are only accessible through a browser interface and can only integrate with the same manufacturers NVR.

I don't want to sell a $100 camera - I get nothing out of the sale - it turns into only risk for me with service - we roll the truck to warranty a $100 camera and guess what we lose money.

I think about when I was young, my politics and business ethics have evolved, the world is smaller now and gets smaller every year but we can choose to do business with any company we want and any manufacturer with Hikvision's history and how that company is run and who they primarily do business with and who owns the company - yes it does have significant pull on whether we choose to do business with them. Its not always about how cheap the product is and can we make money selling it.

Is the Chinese gov really profiting? I see it as them subsidizing the cost of the product. There aren't many other manufacturers that can meet their pricing. At least not ones with similar sales and support structures in place. The amount of capital that they are spending leads me to believe this isn't a short term profitable venture. They are playing the long game. Eventually they will need to turn a profit, all without the capital backing of the Chinese gov. They can't keep burning cash forever.

Jon I think the idea in government subsidizing is to help their companies gain market share and they make those profits back (theoretically) on future tax revenues. Growing up in the semiconductor market, I have seen the same thing from several Japanese companies in the early 1980's where companies like Sony and Hitachi were subsidized by their government and those companies dropped the bottom out of the North American market on memory chip prices. This tactic forced several large American companies like Motorola, TI and probably others (I dont recall) to get out of those markets. By the mid-1980's prices were actually higher than originally as those companies began to recover losses. I dont know if that is the strategy or not today but it is one that has proven effective in the past. You would think that American companies would be protected by Tariffs, but that was not the case in the memory chip market.

Bottom line is that as Chinese companies grow and gain market share along with increased revenue streams, they will recover their "investments" through future tax revenues.

Undisclosed 5 integrator... Man you need to speak up more you have lots of good thoughts.

You're telling me what you need and what you want to be successful. In my role, I often am asked to assist construction managers in qualifying good subcontractors and to make recommendations. I do not make decisions on their behalf but I do make recommendations. Having qualified and capable low voltage companies saves money in the long run for end users. Thanks for the perspective and the things to look for, it is very helpful.

If I was a consultant, I would recommend an independent VMS because this would provide my customer with choices, choices between different IP camera manufacturers and their products.(Stay with me - I'll get back to cameras in a second)

For example, these camera manufacturers market their products, my customer goes out/hears about this great new camera and decides they want the benefits of such and such a product. They call me up, but I sold them this Hikvision NVR. Well that camera that really adds value to the customer's surveillance solution, guess what it isn't compatible.

So turn this around, we sell Hikvision cameras - what VMS would you recommend? A Hikvision NVR is really the only thing I could recommend.

As a systems integrator, we know that it is the integration between the VMS and the camera that matters/is important.

Can we change frame rate on motion, can we change resolution of the camera when a door is propped open? Can the customer or technician push changes to the cameras through the VMS directly or do they have to go to the web page of the camera directly or use the camera manufactures tool to do so? Take a new panoramic camera from Hikvision, who cares about it if it isn't supported by anyone, who cares that it is $250, dewarping is only possible with a Hikvision NVR I am assuming. Oh yeah they come out with a new one every three months.

The answer use to be Axis - they had tremendous relationships with the various major VMS companies. This is no longer true. Samsung/Hanwha paid to play - a lot of money was spent to get into the major VMSs and it worked, they come out with a new camera (and they have - too many IMO) and in general the next release of the VMS supports those features.

Look out for Vivotek - they have done and are doing the same thing.

In contrast take EXACQ - they don't integrate with any camera in general - they just get the video to work. That is not integration. One camera supports motion on the edge, the next camera in the series - it doesn't. I would be scared to be a consultant in these situations, you specify a camera - are you sure what is possible with that camera and the VMS - well you better check if its Hikvsion, who knows.

To give your clients an affordable and reliable solution.

I agree with Undisclosed 5 Integrator. I just don't trust Hikvision and I really don't want to support their business practices. That being said we do sell it but I feel uncomfortable doing it.

I'm going to bow out on this discussion after this comment because I've made my stance pretty clear.

But what you just said is really key for me -- "we do sell it but I feel uncomfortable doing it."

At the end of the day, I think anyone who sells Hikvision should be required to ask their customer 3 questions:

  1. Are you comfortable purchasing a product that is not just made in China, but from a company that is directly owned, backed, and subsidized by the Chinese government?
  2. Are you comfortable purchasing that same product, now not just knowing that it is subsidized by the Chinese government, but also has been found -- on multiple occasions -- to contain malware?
  3. Are you comfortable with the fact that the same product, owned by the Chinese government and found to contain malware on multiple occasions, has a disclaimer in their EULA stating, in effect, that they are not responsible for your system being hacked -- which should be noted, they are the only manufacturer to have such a disclaimer?

If you ask your customer those three questions and they still say "bring it on", then I don't suppose there should be any further discussion. But if you're not asking your customer those three things at some point in the process, then I, personally, think a disservice is being done to that client.

And with that, I'm done here. I don't think many minds are being changed one way or the other. :)

If you ask your customer those three questions and they still say "bring it on", then I don't suppose there should be any further discussion.

If they don't then, then one needs to ask the fourth question, "Would $1000 make you more comfortable?"

Great information indeed but I have one question please:

Could you give me a list of all of those manufacturers that claim they will be responsible if the system is hacked?

Really, do you think that Hikvision is the only company that has inadvertently had Malware creep into some not all products? What about the clock radios or a million other devices we buy from China everyday?

What about the I-Phone its made in China? Should we all ditch our phones just because it is made in China?

Apples and oranges. Get it Apples? That is a classic "strawman" argument.

Anyway, if Apple were a company fully owned by the Chinese government and not a trendy hipster company from California my guess is the iPhone would not be quite as popular.

I'm pretty sure we've all done business with one of the companies on this list, in either our professional or private lives, at one time or another.

I'm pretty sure we've all done business with one of the companies on this list...

Directly done business with?

Honestly, I don't recognize a single company on that list with the exception of the first one, Air China, on which I've never flown.

Which ones have you done business with?

  1. Of all the things in my post, you take away the part about manufacturer responsibility. That is the definition of "grasping for straws."
  2. You use the term "inadvertently" as though you are confident that the presence of malware is unintentional. I find that stance to be laughable.
  3. Sure, the iPhone is "made" in China, to exacting specifications, with the most secure OS on the planet (said as an iPhone hater and an avowed Android user). Oh, and one other small detail....Apple isn't owned by the Chinese government.

Thank you and yes I may be more confident than the average dealer. This discussion over Hikvision and Malware and so forth is 'old hat'. We are all entitled to our opinions, I tend to base mine on experience. I have personally installed thousands of Hikvision cameras and recorders, many, certainly no where near all on networks that have the potential to touch the internet. Never had any problems that would lead the conclusion HikVision has created 'back doors' or anything besides a product that sells like hot cakes, is license free and customers keep asking for more. So while all the complainers, woof woof woof, I feel for your concerns all the way to the BANK.

Laughable?

So you know, without any doubt, that Hikvision has purposely installed Malware on any device and sold that device to the General Public in North America?

That's a strong statement to make.

If you don't have that solid proof that can be substantiated here in this forum than you are denying the fact your statements are based on a mentality that overlooks common sense and the boundaries of general wisdom.

Marty, don't you know that a couple hundred companies inside and outside of China got together and wickedly conspired to use a infected Apple IOS compiler, similar to the one the CIA created, to inject someone else's malware into their apps, for a couple of weeks before apologizing and pulling the app?

Marty Calhoun so when all of your all of your competition is bidding on the same projects as you with the same Hikvision equipment at the same price point. Is Hikvision going to be the one that is laughing all the way to the bank?

I have personally installed thousands of Hikvision cameras and recorders...and customers keep asking for more.

Marty may be laughing all the way back from the bank by that time...

Marty is laughing BOTH ways to and from the bank!!

Michael In our area Hikvision supports the team that got on board first when everyone else said I was crazy to do this. That was many thousands of cameras ago. Now the Hikvision team knows I am 100% behind them so they in turn support me. There are many bids today where I compete, it boils down to qualified staff #1 that can install larger systems (most of our systems are (125-300+ IP cameras) in a short amount of time, in a first class manner, Period.