Eagle Eye Cloud VMS Tested 2015

By Ethan Ace, Published May 28, 2015, 12:00am EDT

Genetec has added cloud VMS, Exacq is releasing theirs in a few months, DVTel's is planned for the end of this year.

But one startup has been building a new cloud VMS, from the ground up, for the past few years. Eagle Eye hit the market with the promise of $5/month cloud VMS. Even Michael Dell was interested, putting in millions.

In an industry lacking many new entrants, Eagle Eye has gained attention.

But how good is Eagle Eye? How does it compare to traditional VMSes? In what ways is it better and how is it worse?

This video shows an overview of the Eagle Eye interface from our testing:

We tested Eagle Eye's cloud VMS platform, using their 310 Combo Bridge, with cameras from Axis, Bosch, Sony, Hikvision, Dahua, and others to analyze Eagle Eye's competitive positioning.

Compared to Traditional VMS

Here are the features and limitations of Eagle Eye versus traditional VMS platforms:

Key Advantages

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Eagle Eye has several features not found in typical VMSes:

  • No setup cloud access: Eagle Eye's bridges and CMVRs connect and stream to their cloud servers without manual setup, port forwarding, VPNs, etc., typically required by VMSes.
  • Enterprise management built-in: Users may view any or all cameras attached to one or more bridges or CMVRs. Permissions may be assigned on per camera or per bridge basis. Typically, only mid or high tier VMS licenses include these features.
  • Cloud redundancy: All video stored in Eagle Eye's cloud is backed up across multiple datacenter locations, making it far less prone to failures than local hard drive storage. For US customers, three copies of video are stored on three different hard disks in two locations, providing backup in case of failure. Two copies of video are stored in other regions due to the smaller number of non-US based Eagle Eye datacenters.
  • Unlimited number of bridges/cameras per account: There is no hard limit to how many cameras may be associated with a single Eagle Eye cloud account. Capacity is only limited by the number of cameras a bridge or bridges may handle. Unlimited servers/cameras is generally included only in top-tier VMS licenses.
  • Simplified Maintenance: Since firmware/software updates are automatically provided and video is either stored or managed in the cloud, there is less need for on-site appliance maintenance.

Eagle Eye lacks several features found in traditional professional VMS systems:

  • No multi-camera playback or export: Cameras may only be searched one at a time, with no option to export multiple cameras, a core functionality that every 'real' VMS offers.
  • No standalone export player: Video exports from Eagle Eye's VMS are in open .mp4 format, with no watermarking or authentication, typically found in standalone VMS players.
  • PTZ and panoramic cameras not supported: Video streams from these cameras may work in some cases (the Axis M3007 panoramic and Q6035-E PTZ are both listed as supported), but neither PTZ control nor dewarping are included in the Eagle Eye web client. [UPDATE March 2016: PTZ support added.]
  • No alarm/event management: Eagle Eye supports only motion detection (server side) with no support for camera based motion detection, analytics, tampering, etc. Motion events may trigger email notifications, but no event list, complex rules, alarm acknowledgment or procedures are provided.
  • No advanced integrations: Integrations to third party analytic, access control, POS, or other platforms are not supported.
  • No video wall support: Complex multi-monitor users who want to share video tend to prefer or require this enterprise VMS feature.
  • No edge storage support: Eagle Eye does not support edge storage in cameras. All video is stored either in their cloud (using Bridges) or locally via hard disk (using CMVRs).
  • Limited mapping: Most VMS platforms allow import of images, CAD, or PDF floorplans for interior areas, which Eagle Eye does not support. Only Google Maps and polygonal shapes are supported.

Recommendations

For integrators looking to lead with the 'cloud' and who want an independent, up and coming VMS, Eagle Eye is attractive, as long as they can sell around Eagle Eye's many traditional VMS limitations.

For end users, outside of those who are solely choosing a VMS based on cloud support, the decision is much more complex given Eagle Eye's premium pricing (see details below) yet limitations on common features end users expect.

Competitive Outlook

The good news for Eagle Eye is that the company is only a few years old, so their offering is not 'bad', but understandably incomplete for this early in their lifespan. The company has developed a lot of features in a short time but faces far more mature VMS competitors that have had 10 - 15 years to flush out theirs. A lot depends on how fast and far Eagle Eye can eliminate their traditional VMS limitations.

On the other hand, the traditional VMSes look to be accelerating their own move to the cloud, with Genetec having gone through multiple iterations already, Exacq releasing their first version in a few months and DVTel coming later this year.

The challenge will be for Eagle Eye to narrow the traditional VMS gap before the incumbents can eliminate Eagle Eye's edge on the cloud side.

Pricing

Eagle Eye subscriptions vary in price depending on resolution (SD up to 2MP) and storage duration, from none (management only with local storage) to a year. MSRP ranges from $5 for management only plans, to $7 per month for short term (7 day) SD only storage, to $23/month for 30 days of 1080p video.

Note that these prices are MSRP, not dealer price or street price. Eagle Eye informs us that many dealers incorporate these prices into leases and managed services agreements, so actual prices to end users may vary widely.

Hardware Pricing

Eagle Eye hardware pricing also varies, depending on number of channels, analog camera support, and on board storage (up to 50TB in CMVRs). Prices start at about $300 USD MSRP for their smallest Bridges, the 300 series.

Note that these prices are considered a one-time setup fee. If the bridge or CMVR should fail, Eagle Eye replaces the unit at no charge. Additionally, all feature updates are included at no extra charge, with no support agreement or upgrade plan required.

Price Comparisons

The big pricing difference between traditional recorders and Eagle Eye is Eagle Eye's requirement of an ongoing subscription. By comparison, the cost of most recorders is paid mostly or entirely at the time of purchase.

Relative to entry level recorders (e.g., Dahua, Hikvision, etc.), the hardware pricing is similar but the ongoing subscription costs make Eagle Eye far more expensive.

Relative to mid-tier VMS appliances (e.g., Milestone Husky, Genetec SV-32, Exacq NVRs, Axis S10, etc.), Eagle Eye pricing for the managed only version ($5 per channel per month) is in a similar overall range to those competitors. The traditional VMSes charge more for the appliances (Eagle Eye hundreds of dollars, traditional VMSes thousands). Offsetting this is Eagle Eye's monthly subscription fee, which for 16 cameras adds $2880 MSRP for 3 years).

With Eagle Eye's hosted 30 day HD offerings, Eagle Eye is far more expensive than any traditional on-site VMS, by roughly 2 to 3x over a 3-year period.

Physical Overview

In this video we review the physical construction of the 310 Bridge. The Bridge is a 1U rack mount device with a few notable features:

  • Dual Ethernet, segmented between camera LAN (supplying DHCP to connected devices) and WAN ports (used to connect to the customer LAN, external cameras, and the internet).
  • Analog cameras connect via dongle to multi-pin port on rear of unit.
  • Local mouse/keyboard/monitor connections for troubleshooting or advanced configuration only; They are not required for basic setup.

Bridge Configuration

Bridges and CMVRs are added to the user's account by entering the "Attach ID" found in the included documentation with the unit attached to the internet. The unit then initiates an SSL tunnel connection to Eagle Eye's servers and is added to the account. Once connected, users may begin adding discovered cameras (below).

Users may also configure when the bridge offloads video to the cloud (work hours, non-work hours, or other), and select how much bandwidth this upload may consume. By default, the bridge is set to "Auto", which periodically tests upload bandwidth to determine available throughput. If users prefer to throttle upload further, they may select lower speeds than available bandwidth.

Bridge Metrics

Also in the bridge configuration screen, users may find "Metrics", which displays historical usage data for bandwidth consumed, bandwidth measured, storage in vs. offloaded, and free and used disk space. This data may be helpful in troubleshooting. For instance, if bandwidth is too low for video offloading to complete in a given upload window, users may see used storage increase daily, until the entire disk is filled. Tested speeds vs. bandwidth consumed may also be used to determine if a site's internet connection is too slow to handle streaming/uploading using current settings.

Bridge configuration and metrics are reviewed in this video:

Camera Support

Eagle Eye's supported cameras list is notably shorter than most VMSes, a few hundred cameras vs. 1000+ or more common in platforms such as Exacq, Genetec, Milestone, etc. According to Eagle Eye, this is because they fully test each camera they list as supported, which involves basic support for video (and audio if available), I/O, PTZ, etc. Eagle Eye also develops tests each camera for "optimal" default settings, adjusting both main and secondary streams, which are pushed to the camera when connected.

Adding Cameras

The bridge automatically discovers supported cameras on the local network. To add a camera to the bridge, users typically only need to click the green plus sign next to each camera and update username and password. Note that cameras on different subnets are not supported, only those on the local LAN.

Unsupported Cameras

Cameras not specifically listed on the supported device list typically are not discovered by the Bridge, or discovered, but listed as unsupported. If a camera is shown as unsupported, users may click a button to submit a support request to Eagle Eye, which follows up to work with the user to add a driver for the camera. Eagle Eye claims a 3-4 day typical turnaround time for camera support. However, during our tests, we submitted three of such requests, and two of three were complete in a day, with the third taking two days.

Users may optionally add cameras via RTSP addresses. Unlike most VMSes, this requires two address:

  • First, the RTSP address to the H.264 main, high resolution stream. This is used for recording and full resolution monitoring.
  • Second, users must supply a lower resolution MJPEG stream, used for preview, thumbnails, and mobile devices.

While the first stream is typically not difficult to find, many users may not know how or where to find a camera's secondary MJPEG stream, making this method more complex than submitting a support request.

Adding cameras, unsupported models, and RTSP are all covered in this video:

Camera Configuration

Camera configuration is significantly different from many VMSes due to Eagle Eye's default multi-stream operation. When connected, Eagle Eye pushes their recommended default settings to each camera, but users may individually configure resolution, frame rate, compression, etc., as in other VMSes.

In addition to these settings, a maximum bandwidth setting is configured for each camera. By default, Eagle Eye selects 50 Kb/s for most preview streams. The web interface warns users if frame rate, resolution, or compression are adjusted to levels which may result in bandwidth usage beyond what is selected (as calculated by Eagle Eye during their camera integration process).

Retention Configuration

In addition to resolution, users select a retention period for each camera. This retention period directly relates to the user's subscription plan. So, for example, a user changing retention period from 7 to 30 days will result in an increase in subscription fees, while changing from 30 to 7 will decrease these fees.

Motion Detection

Users may create motion detection regions with unique names and sensitivities for each camera. Alerts may be sent based on motion in one or all of these regions, with recipients and schedule (business hours, after hours, etc.) selectable for each.

Camera Metrics

Similar to bridge metrics discussed above, each camera provides a metrics view of consumed bandwidth and packet loss to assist in troubleshooting and sizing available bandwidth.

These topics and more are discussed in this screencast:

Live View Operation

Live view in Eagle Eye is simple, with cameras viewed in typical split screen layouts. The secondary stream of each camera is shown by default. Users may click on any camera to view the full resolution recording stream.

There are two types of layouts:

  • Automatic: Layouts are automatically generated for all cameras with specific tags, or lacking tags, and simply one containing all cameras. These layouts require no user intervention to create, but cameras may not be reordered or resized.
  • Custom: Users may create and save custom layouts, containing any combination of cameras, in split screen views. Cameras may be resized (small, medium, large) and moved in whatever order users prefer.

Regardless of which layout is used, cameras may not be reordered or resized simply by dragging and dropping. Instead, users must edit the layout to rearrange the view. This prevents novice users from changing a layout unexpectedly, but more advanced users may find changing layouts tedious.

Playback

Playback is accessed via the "History" button (resembles a small clock) on each camera pane. From this control, users enter timeline search, which includes typical controls such as play, frame-by-frame, etc. Users may also skip to the next "key image" (different from "key frames", aka I-frames), which jumps to the next motion event.

Clips may be downloaded in standard formats, playable in most media players, but there is no standalone executable player. Additionally, clips are not watermarked.

Thumbnail View/Gallery Viewer

By clicking the zoom out button, users may bring up the "Gallery Viewer", a thumbnail search, which allows video to be quickly scanned for events, objects appearing/disappearing, etc. Zooming out further reduces the size of thumbnails, from a 3x3 view, to 4x4, to 5x5. Thumbnails may be set to either 5 minute intervals or key images (the beginning of each motion event).

Multi-Camera Export Lacking

Notably, unlike many VMSes, Eagle Eye does not support synchronized playback, and multi-camera export is not available. This may slow investigations when multiple cameras are involved. Eagle Eye informs us that multi-camera playback is on their roadmap, with plans to release in Q4 2015/Q1 2016.

The above issues are reviewed in this video:

Mapping

Cameras may be placed on a Google Map using Eagle Eye's map view. Since Google Maps is used, users are limited to outdoor cameras only, or approximating the camera's location inside a facility. Users may also use polygon and line drawing tools to create crude floorplans on top of the map, but this is a time consuming process and still limited compared to importaing images or other floorplans.

Multiple floors may be added to the map if a user's facility is more than one story, with the ability to switch between floors or view all cameras overlayed on one map. Once a camera is placed, it may be rotated and its field of view "cone" extended, but not resized to represent the camera's actual field of view.

Clicking a camera or cameras opens a video stream in a popup, allowing users to view multiple cameras at once. Additional functions, such as camera history, Gallery Viewer, and setup, are available on each stream as they are in other live views.

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