Pros and Cons - Automating Firmware Updates

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Jul 01, 2015

Firmware and software updates are one of the most tedious tasks in surveillance, so why not make them easier? While other devices, like PCs, phones, and other consumer electronics have featured automatic updates for years, few manufacturers even automatically check for, let alone perform updates. 

In this note, we look at Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Exacq and Speco proceses as well as the advantages and disadvantages of automatic updates and easing this process.

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Comments (9)

Updating firmware is a good idea, but you are best sandboxing some camera first as a trial. Also factor in you may / will need to update the VMS in some cases. :)

Typical scenario : Problem with Axis camera and Exacq VMS

Step 1. Call Axis tech support who immediately insists you must upgrade the camera firmware. Upgrading firmware does not solve issue (has it ever?)

Step 2. Hang up with Axis, call Exacq tech support who immediately blames the camera firmware which is newer than what they have tested and officially support.

Step 3. Upgrade Exacq client/server out of sheer frustration. Recording breaks completely, or other problems appear.

Step 4. Submit trouble tickets to everyone.

Step 5. Wait 6 months, other companies submit similar tickets. Both companies fix bugs with updates. Upgrade furiously.

Step 6. Take note of magical combination of working camera firmware and VMS software. NEVER LOSE THIS INFORMATION. HOLD ON TO IT FOR DEAR LIFE.

Funny cause it's true....

I think 6 months is an exaggeraton but we have certainly seen that basic pattern, and not unique to Axis / Exacq either.

Having worked with Exacq for over 3 years, and using almost exclusively Axis I have not had this experience. Yes we have had issues with firmware and yes they were not solved within one week, but there has always been a workaround that 'temporarily' resolved the problem until the proper solution was introduced.

I do understand and sympathize how frustrating it can be, if combinations do not work as they should. This was also a reason why we opted to leave 'other brands' and to go for Axis.

As for the automatics updates : I use a policy where the VMS updates are used in-house after the initial release and only after several weeks we apply them in the field. As for firmware updates for camera's, this is more tricky. New camera's come with new firmware and if they are working reliable, then we would upgrade older versions IF and only IF we have a problem with that camera on a site.

For most of our large customers the system is off line with no WAN access so automatic updates from the web don't work out so well. Automatic firmware updates on the other hand are a huge time saver.

I have noticed some cameras when firmware update revert to default settings.

Particually annoying as then have to go through the camera settings and readjust

Glynn,

Yikes. I hope that manufacturer sees that as a bug. Who was it? And has it happened more than once?

I consider that software update is a must. However i would have some of the following conditions met:

- posibility of programing this automated update. for example in the morning when there is no activity

- not using the newest software (on version older)

- update only 1/3 of the system. monitor for 1-2 month and than update all

- make sure you can downgrade easily

- save all config from the old setup (cameras and VMS)

When Juniper issued automatic updates to routers in the past, It all but killed Blackberry for several days. A well designed an secure camera network, isolated from internal and external networks should only need firmware updates to address a measurable issue, or to gain a feature, or improve reliability. I do think keeping firmware current is important, but an uncontrolled update makes no sense. Imagine your best client with 100 cameras that factory reset to the same default IP address. Upgrading firmware, software upgrades, feature enhancements, can all be sold as part of a maintenance support plan.

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