Beware Phony ManufacturersBy: John Honovich, Published on Feb 20, 2013
There's seemingly thousands of security manufacturers, making it incredibly difficult to figure out what's the best. Worse, so many of these 'manufacturers' are really 'relabelers' or 'custom configurators' that basically order off the shelf components from Asia and slap their logo on it.
You definitely want to know what your manufacturer truly is and you probably want to think twice about 'manufacturers' who are not really manufacturers. In a very popular recent IPVM discussion, we examined whether a manufacturer was 'real' or not, using a number of important investigative techniques. We share them below.
8 Steps to Investigate 'Manufacturers'
- Check the Company's Website
- LinkedIn Company Profile Check
- Number of Employees Company Has vs Number of Products
- Engineers / Software Developers On Staff
- Patents Issued
- Wayback Machine Check
- Company Headquarters
- Photo Comparison of Products
Company Website Check
True manufacturers typically:
- List names of employees, specifically management team members with engineering backgrounds.
- Keep an updated news sections with additions in the last 3 months
- Offer multiple white papers / in-depth technical documents
If a company website is missing more than one of these, it is a bad sign.
LinkedIn Company Profile Check
Almost all manufacturers can be found on LinkedIn, typically in their massive company directory [link no longer available]. You can find estimates of how many employees a company has and what positions they hold. For example, see LinkedIn company profiles for Axis [link no longer available], Pelco [link no longer available], Arecont [link no longer available], Milestone [link no longer available], Genetec [link no longer available], etc.
Look for total number of employees. If less than 10, that's a bad sign as manufacturing requires fairly significant teams to deliver even a single product.
Number of Employees Company Has vs Number of Products
Often phony manufacturers will pretend to 'make' numerous lines - from PTZs to fixed cameras to IR cameras to DVRs to encoders, etc. The more lines a true manufacturer has, the more people they need. For every line a manufacturer says they make, they will easily need 10 to 20 employees, probably more. That's why when you see a 'manufacturer' with 4 or 7 or 13 employees, be careful. They may be a reseller or relabler in disguise.
Engineers / Software Developers On Staff
Moreover, look for engineering and software development positions. If they are truly building it themselves, they will have many. You can scan through LinkedIn via the company's profile page. It is a bad sign if almost everyone is in sales and marketing.
True manufacturers typically have patents issued or in progress. This is to help protect their development efforts and are done even if the company never has any interest or plans to sue anyone. If your 'manufacturer' cannot produce any patent applications (or issued patents), this is also not a good sign. Use google patent search and enter in your preferred manufacturer.
Wayback Machine Check
The Internet Archive "Wayback Machine" keeps records of old website versions. You can often find out the history of a company using this. True manufacturers should show a steady increase in products added, rather than nothing one day and 5 new lines the next.
When manufacturing, you need lots of employees and a physical place to put them. If your 'manufacturer' claims to have 8 different lines and their office looks like this on Google Maps, you might think twice.
Photo Comparison of Products
A common technique of pretend manufacturers is to relabel Asian products. If you suspect this, you can grab the URL of an image from their site and put it into Google image search (using the camera icon to search by image). Here's an example of a match from Google:
If your Western 'manufacturer' products match photos from an Asian manufacturer, you should strongly investigate who is actually making the product.