Embed SD Cards inside IP Cameras?

Author: John Honovich, Published on Nov 15, 2012

Would it be a good idea to embed SD cars inside IP cameras? With edge storage becoming a hot trend, could this help drive adoption and increase satisfaction of edge storage use? In this note, we look at the pros and cons of the approach.

Background

Many devices like iPhones and iPads embed SD cards inside the devices, allowing no way to remove or swap them out.

However, IP cameras almost always offer an external SD card slot to add in one's own card in the field, like below:

sd card insert

Pros of Embedding SD Cards

We see a number of important advantages in embedding SD cards inside of IP cameras:

  • Reduces vandalism / theft risk: Especially in indoor box cameras, where the card might be sticking out the back, embedding means that the only way to destroy the recording is to steal the entire camera.
  • Eliminates the use of cheap/crappy SD cards: When users choose their own SD cards, they may pick something readily available or inexpensive. However, that increases the risk of failure. By embedding a certified, high quality SD card, the manufacturer can limit service  issues.
  • Reduces setup time: Adding one's own card requires buying it, installing it, formatting and dealing with any issues therein. Having it embedded can save 10 to 20 minutes per camera.

Cons of Embedding SD Cards

On the other hand, clearly there are drawbacks:

  • Requires adding more model options / SKUs: This will increase cost and complexity for manufacturers, distributors, etc.
  • Restrictions on adding more storage later: Users are basically screwed if they decide they need more storage later (though presumably the camera manufacturer could offer an external SD slot in additional to the embedded SD card).
  • Problems if the SD Card Fails: Servicing a failed embedded SD card requires either (1) sending the whole camera back to the manufacturer or (2) opening up the camera internals and risking damaging the camera. Either way, this is painful. The practical risk here is dependent of the expected lifespan of SD cards which is still hotly debated, especially for demanding ongoing use in IP cameras.

Future

Today, using edge storage is in its infancy. We do not see manufacturers motivated to add more model options yet. Plus, edge storage is relatively limited for HD camera use (at 32 - 64GBs) so there might be significant pressure to upgrade the card in the future (to 128GB, etc.).

However, we think this has potential in the future as usage increases and SD card sizes become good enough for most surveillance storage needs. The segment where we see this making the most sense is the home/SMB markets where embedding SD cards can make the use of edge storage 'turn-key'.

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