Hostage As a Service - Meraki, Rhombus, and Verkada

By John Honovich, Published Apr 05, 2021, 09:15am EDT

Hostage as a service is a metaphor for the rising trend of video surveillance that requires ongoing payments to stream video from the cameras one has bought. Watch the 1-minute video overview:

Update: We have added a 5+ minute, more in-depth video, to explain the issues and risks:

Buyers buy cameras from these providers and 'own' them. But, contrary to decades of established practices, what they bought gives them no right to even the most basic use of those cameras. The cameras will not even stream video without having to pay those providers additional payments every year. If those payments stop, the buyer still 'owns' the camera but the cameras are useless, essentially bricks.

Until the last few years with the rise of Meraki, Rhombus, and Verkada, buying video surveillance cameras almost always meant being able to stream that video where and when you want, without having to pay ongoing fees.

Effectively, the cameras one 'owns' are now being held hostage:

  • If you want to stream video from those cameras you 'own' to any other system, you cannot or, at best with Meraki, you will have to continue to pay Meraki for the right to stream video from a camera you 'own'.
  • If the companies raise prices for their annual licenses, as an 'owner', you either need to pay it or brick the cameras.
  • If you buy cameras from other providers, even open, non-hostage taking ones, you cannot view those cameras in the same interface, a critical element for professional video surveillance, pushing 'owners' of such devices to use only those devices or brick them.

Locking in customers to this hostage scenario is no accident. It is the outcome of financial planning for these Silicon Valley companies, as Meraki and Verkada's founder explained:

A world where enterprise video surveillance systems are effectively held hostage by providers is in a long-term negative for everyone except for the sellers of these systems and violates well-established norms of what it is for someone to buy a camera and the right to use what one has bought.

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