Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) Comparison 2010

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jul 21, 2011

This report provides the most comprehensive analysis available of the growing video surveillance as a service (VSaaS) market, examining the benefits, challenges and impact of these offerings including 22 leading providers. This is the second version of the report.

Why Should I Care about Video Surveillance as a Service?

Bringing Software as a Service (SaaS) to physical security, Hosted & managed video have the potential to make video surveillance cheaper and easier to deploy and use.

More specifically, in the short term we expect managed & hosted video to:

  • Re-shape the home and small business market segments for video surveillance
  • Force traditional video surveillance providers to enhance their product offerings

Companies Covered

To provide you an in-depth understanding of the approaches being offered, we analyze the products, pricing and positioning of 27 diverse solutions.

This is a fast changing market segment with new entrants joining the market every month and dozens of startups around the world.

What are the Key Differentiators?

We were surprised to see the level of diversity among providers, with companies not only targeting different markets but fundamentally different architectures and widely varying pricing. In our report, we examine the 8 key differentiators we saw:

  • Camera Support
  • On-Site Setup Complexity
  • Channel Partner / Strategy
  • Video Management Sophistication
  • Market Segment Targeted
  • Local Storage Support
  • Hosting Scalability
  • Pricing

What's the Future of Video Surveillance as a Service?

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Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) is dangerously close to becoming over-hyped. While we understand the hype machine abhors a vacuum, managed / hosted video is just not ready for the mass market. We think many analysts are in love with the concept and the broader use of SaaS but ignoring the competitiveness of the features, pricing and competitiveness of today's managed / hosted video surveillance offerings. Most offerings are toys and fairly expensive ones at that. For instance, review our test results comparing Axis' hosted offering to Axis's own (limited) VMS software and then compare that to Milestone, a more common 'enterprise' class system.

We think managed / hosted video surveillance has a great future but it's going to take a while to get there - both to develop mature products and get the pricing competitive for the mid-market. In the long run, we think managed / hosted video is going to have a significant impact on the market disrupting the manufacturer and integrator incumbents. However, let's be prudent here and careful about understanding the real offerings and competitive value.

Some products for some applications are ready for use but it's important to be critical about what to recommend and use, especially at this early state.

How do we Evaluate VSaaS providers?

We examined each provider based on a list of 20 questions/criteria. Those interested in reviewing the criteria or submitting their VSaaS solution should download the IP Video Market VSaaS Questionnaire.

Who Will Benefit from this Report?

The primary audience for this report are integrators, dealers and service providers who are looking to select managed/hosted video offerings. Larger end users who want to know what is on the leading edge will also benefit.

Category Benefits

Certain benefits exist for all providers in this market.

Access of surveillance video from a public secure website

The most universal benefit of managed / hosted video providers is that users can watch live video from a public secure website hosted by the managed / hosted video provider.

By contrast, in traditional video surveillance, the user would have to connect directly to the user's own recorders. Such direct connections generally required cumbersome networking changes or use of additional software on the viewing PC. 

Access from a public secure website solves 2 common problems of traditional video surveillance:

  • As managed/hosted video can be accessed through web browsers, this eliminates the need for installing dedicated video surveillance viewing software. Some traditional systems support viewing by web browser but they are generally the minority. All managed/hosted video systems support viewing through web browsers.
  • With managed/hosted video, users can view outside the company's internal IT network. This makes viewing from home or on the road simple. By contrast, the overwhelming majority of traditional video surveillance systems are not viewed outside the internal IT network.

Hosted video -- off-site recording

By definition, any system that offers 'hosted video' provides off-site recording of surveillance video. The term hosting refers to the service provider's hosting of the video at their own facilities. Video is generated at a customer's site, transferred across the customer's wide area network (commonly DSL or cable modem) and stored at datacenters managed by the hosted video provider. 

Managed video -- on-site recording

By definition, any system that offers 'managed video' provides remote management of video stored on-site locally at the user's facility. The term managed refers to the service provider's ability to manage video stored at other locations. When video is requested, the managed video provider generally establishes a connection between the requester and the appliance at the customer's site storing the video.

Hosted and managed video are not mutually exclusive. Some providers offer a combination of hosted and managed video with a portion of the video stored locally and a portion stored remotely.

In fact, we expect that the most common approach by vendors will be to use a combination of local and remote stored video that users can view without knowing the physical source of the video. Specifically, we believe local on-site recording will be critical to growing the market. Indeed, we see rapid growth in providers adding on-site recording to their packages.

'Plug n Play' not a category benefit

'Plug n Play' setup is one of the most important benefits of managed / hosted video. However, this is not a universal or category benefit yet as some providers do not offer 'plug n play' setup (see ByRemote and IVR Controls below).

Definitions of 'plug n play' vary causing great confusion. We define 'plug n play' as a system (camera, encoder or recorder) that automatically connects to a central management server without having to (1) setup IP addresses, (2) setup DNS information, (3) forward ports or (4) change firewall configurations.

We expect that all hosted / managed video providers will support 'plug and play' setup. We caution against choosing a supplier that does not offer such setup.

'Plug and play' setup provide a number of clear benefits:

  • Eliminates the need to send a technician with IT skills. Without a 'plug n play' setup, the technician will need to investigate the customer's networking setup and make a variety of changes. Such changes can vary depending on the type of broadband service the user has, the choice of routers, etc. By contrast, low tech installers can handle the job by themselves.
  • Lowers the cost and time on-site to setup system. Because it eliminates on-site networking changes, this can save hours of time and separate trips by installers and IT technicians.
  • More reliable system over the long term: 'Plug n play' systems are generally not impacted by changes in broadband providers, networking configurations or replacement of routers. By contrast, non plug n play systems can be taken off line by any of the above changes.
  • All of these benefits are especially important in facilities with low camera counts (16 or under). In these facilities, the costs of networking and troubleshooting can be a significant burden.
  • For the providers themselves, not offering 'plug n play' significant increases their operational costs and forces them to either absorb it over a longer term contract or mark up the monthly service charge.

On-Site vs Off-Site Storage Tradeoffs

A key debate in this market segment is the location of surveillance video storage. An important trade-off exists between storing on-site and off-site:

  • Off-Site storage eliminates the need for any storage appliances at the customer's site. No storage appliances on site eliminates most on-site service calls (that result from hard drive failures). Furthermore, it ensures that the video cannot be tampered with or stolen by any adversary (e.g., a burglar stealing the DVR). On the other hand, because 90%+ of user's have limited upstream bandwidth, off-site storage generally requires significantly lower frame rate and resolution compared to on-site storage. Specifically, where 4CIF (640 x 480) recording at 10-15 fps is becoming common and easy to do with on-site recorders, off-site recording is more likely to use CIF (320 x 240) and 5 fps recording.
  • On-site storage eliminates the need and dependence on the customer's network connection. Even if the customer has limited bandwidth or unreliable bandwidth, recording at high quality levels can continue to occur. The video provider only needs to access video when a user requests it.

While customers would like to have the benefits of both, given the tradeoffs we believe that most customers will prefer the majority of their video stored in on-site storage. 

  • Pricing for on-site storage will be cheaper than off-site storage. On-site storage significantly reduces the charges the provider needs to pay for bandwidth and storage arrays. Such savings can be passed to customers.
  • Off-site storage will force the customer to use much lower video quality than if they had on-site storage. As video quality is a frequent complaint by users, we think that this will be a significant negative for off-site storage.
  • Megapixel cameras will only be practical with the use of on-site storage. Upstream bandwidth available for most users would barely support a single megapixel camera at a low frame rate. Given megapixel camera's ability to increase quality and reduce camera count, we believe this increase the attractiveness of using on-site storage.
  • As examined in the differentiations section, SD cards and NAS appliances are making on-site storage inexpensive and easy to use.

We do believe off-site storage has value. However, its best use is likely to come as a complement to on-site storage, providing redundancy and security against on-site failure or theft.

Managed/Hosted vs Traditional DVR/VMS Deployments

Managed/Hosted video surveillance competes directly against traditional DVR/VMS deployments. Since they both the same fundamental functions - providing access to live and recorded video -  it would make little sense to deploy both.

We believe the benefits of managed/hosted video are modest and incremental compared to traditional video surveillance deployments. While easier and less expensive setup and access are valuable, these are not technologically disruptive or revolutionary.

Because of this, we believe that broad acceptance of managed/hosted video requires these solutions to have a Total Cost of Ownership comparable to traditional systems.

In contrasting cost, we segment the market into 2 categories: under 4 cameras per site and over 4 cameras per site. We base this categorization on the fixed cost of deploying traditional video surveillance even if only a few cameras are deployed on site.

Under 4 camera per site

Hosted video can command a greater premium for deployments under 4 cameras. This is because in those deployments the cost of setting up a system and deploying a DVR or NVR can be a high percentage of the overall deployment. Even with 2 or 3 cameras, a user still requires a PC on site and the same networking setup that larger setups would require.

For instance, a 2 camera system with a monthly service fee of $20 per camera would have a 3 year cost of $1,440. That might be close to the cost of dedicating a PC and the setup involved in configuring the video surveillance software and enabling remote access.

Over 4 cameras per site

Traditional video surveillance systems benefit from economies of scale as one reaches 8 or 16 cameras.

For instance, an 8 camera system with a monthly service fee of $20 per camera would have a 3 year cost of $5,760. This is a few thousand more than an 8 channel DVR/NVR and on-site setup. Moreover, with 8 cameras, upstream bandwidth limitations will limit the quality of video recorded by off-site hosting providers.

Because of the relative economics, we believe $10 per camera per month is an important price point to motivate the broader market to adopt hosted/managed video. We believe this can be achieved through the use of on-site storage.

Vendor Financial Benefits We Find Questionable

Vendors offer a number of financial benefits that we believe most end users will not full recognize or accept:

  • Energy/HVAC costs: Vendors claim that eliminating on-site recording offers substantial cost reductions on power usage for both cooling and running traditional DVRs/NVRs. However, at small sites, the DVR or NVR is usually just put in a back office or underneath a desk. Users at these sites rarely itemize and account for such costs.
  • On-site system maintenance costs: Vendors claim substantial savings can be achieved from reducing costs of maintaining DVRs/NVRs. These estimates are generally based on database or web servers that require complex maintenance or updates. By contrast, DVRs and NVRs operate more like clocks, requiring little to no optimization or upkeep. While hard drives on video surveillance recorders fail, the actual economic cost per site tends to be minimal.
  • Operational expense vs Capital expense: Managed/hosting vendors argue that the monthly fees for their services provide more financial flexibility than the significant upfront cost of buying DVRs. This benefit is limited by the implicit interest rate that users would absorb if the service's multi-year cost was significantly higher than the cost of a DVR/NVR.

While these elements should help convince buyers, we believe these should drive only modest overall price increases.

Differentiations Among Hosted / Managed Video Providers

The hosted / managed video surveillance market is quite young. As such, there tends to be significant variance in the features and tactics of various providers. This section examines the key differences and how various vendors approach the market.

Camera Support

Camera support tends to be much more limited for managed/hosted video providers than for traditional DVRs/NVRs. These limitations can be broken down into 2 groups:

  • Analog vs. IP: Some providers only support IP cameras while others only support analog. Still others will support analog cameras but only through the use of additional COTS encoders. For instance, iControl, Lorex, Starvedia and Viaas only support their own IP cameras and no analog cameras. By contrast, OzVision only supports analog cameras.
  • Breadth of IP Camera Manufacturer Support: Some providers offer support for many different IP cameras. However, this support may require on-site setup and configuration (that is, these cameras are not supported in a plug and play fashion). Generally, providers only provide plug n play IP camera support for their own IP cameras because such support requires loading customized firmware. Two exceptions are VideoCells (which supports plug n play for multiple IP camera manufacturers) and Envysion (which does not have plug n play for IP cameras but does support plug n play from the appliances they deploy on site).
  • Breadth of IP Camera form factors: Providers supporting IP cameras tend to support a limited number of form factors. For instance, supporting cube cameras is common but domes, bullets and MP cameras tend to be less common. The major exception is Axis who leverages its extremely broad range of cameras in its hosting service. 

On-Site Setup Complexity

As we examined in the beginning of the report, most suppliers provide 'plug n play' support at least for their own IP cameras and on-site appliances. While this is not universal (ByRemote, IVR Controls and a number of smaller players require on-site configuration), we believe that such an approach will be at a steep disadvantage to the growing majority that support 'plug n play.'

Channel Partner / Strategy

All of the providers covered in this report that charge a monthly service fee sell through channel partners (dealers, service providers or integrators). Some had previously sold direct to end users (for example, Alarm.com and ByRemote) but they have now changed to pure channel distribution. Channel partners generally sell, install and service for these providers.

Three of the providers, Axis AVHS, iControl and VideoCells act more as software providers as hosting providers themselves. Both offer the underlying software for their channel partners to host and brand. (note:VideoCells offers their own hosting as well, though only sold through channel partners).

Many of the hosting providers allow their channel partners to re-brand the services under the channel partner's own name and brand. This, of course, includes Axis AVHS, iControl and VideoCells, as well as Alarm.com and Secure-i.

Only a few of these providers sell direct to consumers over the Internet including Archerfish, Lorex and Vue - all of which are more focused on the home market.

Only Envysion has focused on the small box retail market adding in key retail features such as PoS integration and exception based reporting and utilizing a DVR appliance that directly connects to analog cameras used in most retailers.

Video Management Sophistication

Hosted / managed video providers tend to offer basic / entry level video management functionalities. While most support live and recorded video, only a few support video analytics or third party system integration. Enterprise management is one area where managed / hosted video providers tend to be strong. Because these systems are designed to manage thousands (or more) cameras across hundreds (or more) locations, usually managing multiple systems is available out of the box for no extra charge (contrast to traditional systems where this often requires an additional server and licensing costs).

Only 2 providers surveyed offer video analytics built in: Archerfish and Viaas.

Only 1 provider surveyed offers PoS integration: Envysion.

No provider surveyed supports access control integration - an important limitation for larger organizations.

Local Storage Support

Currently, a number of hosting providers do not integrate on-site storage into their services including Alarm.com, iControl, Starvedia and Vue. 

However, we believe that on-site storage will become the dominant mode of storage for managed/hosted video over the next 2 - 4 years. Specifically, we see a number of trends and tradeoffs driving this:

  • Incorporating SD cards into IP cameras is becoming quite common. Already, Archerfish, Viaas and VideoCells support cameras with SD cards on-board. For the home or small business market where managed / hosted video is being targeted first, we believe the limitations of storage of SD cards (currently 16 - 32 GB) will not be a problem.
  • Incorporating 'plug n play' NAS devices or DVR appliances is becoming common. Envysion has used managed DVR appliances from the start. In the past year, Axis AVHS has added 'plug n play' support for NAS devices.

 

Hosting Scalability

While most hosting providers are small today, supporting hundreds or thousands of customers, growth in the use of these services will require greater scalability - both in the amount of video stored and the number of people simultaneously requesting access to video.

I have not analyzed this point in detail. However, a few providers have called out extensive work on optimizing scalability as a key but overlooked element of these solutions.

Pricing

Pricing tends to vary between free and $20 per month. Higher pricing is most significantly correlated with off-site/hosted storage. The free offerings all provide either no storage or just on-site storage.

The following is a summary of ongoing pricing per provider. [Note: All prices are end user / MSRP or estimates of end user pricing. None of these are dealer prices. All providers charge for cameras/equipment separately (except for a promotion by Connexed).]

  • Archerfish Quattro or Solo: $7.99 per month per device, undisclosed off-site storage, this is an improvement from Nov 2009 when the price was $25 per month for up to 4 cameras, no recording
  • Alarm.com: $19.95 per month up to 4 cameras, 50MB recording, only $9.95 for Alarm.com remote monitoring customers
  • Axis AVHS: providers software, channel partners set pricing
  • Connexed: $30 per camera per month with volume discounts and free appliances with 3 year contracts
  • Envysion: $9 - $12 per camera per month, video stored on-site
  • iControl: $10 - $15 per month for 1 to 2 cameras, video stored off-site
  • Lorex: Free, only viewing for IP cameras, video recorded on-site for DVRs
  • OzVision:$9 per camera per month includes 1 month of storage hosted
  • Secure-i: $15 per camera per month, live viewing only, $40 per camera per month includes 30 days of hosted storage
  • Starvedia: Free, only viewing for IP cameras
  • Viaas: $9.95 per month, video stored on-board camera
  • VideoCells: $15 per month includes 1 week of hosted video storage
  • Vue: Free first year, $20 per year following years, 2GB storage

 

Supplier Examination

In this section, we provide an analysis of the product, positioning and pricing of 14 suppliers.

Archerfish

Archerfish, a spin off of video analytics provider Cernium, offers 2 main products - the Quattro, a 4 channel smart encoder for analog cameras and the Solo, a smart IP camera with built in storage. For background, see a review of Cernium's Quattro.

The Quattro requires opening up a port in a firewall for remote live viewing and offers for recording through connecting a USB drive. Its most important feature, by design is the system's real time alerting. An independent review of the Quattro found that it could distinguish people and vehicles but was 'hit or miss' with many false alerts for objects outdoors in a driveway.

The Quattro has an MSRP of $1695 that includes a kit of the smart encoder and 4 analog cameras.

In November 2009, Cernium's Archerfish added a smart IP camera to their existing 4 channel smart encoder for the home market. Called Archerfish Solo, the camera embeds storage and analytics into an IP cube camera managed by Archerfish's hosting service. The camera is indoor/outdoor, has integrated WiFi support and provides intelligent search (see product comparison table).

This looks to be a substantial improvement to their first Archerfish product (the Quattro).  In January 2010 for the CES show launch, Cernium disclosed that the price of the Solo will be $399 USD.

The Quattro can now be bough direct from Archerfish on-line. The Solo is available for sale from Amazon.

Monthly subscription fee is separate and is $7.99 per month per device (either Solo or Quattro).

Alarm.com

With 200,000 current customers and 800 dealers, Alarm.com is leveraging its foothold in the security monitoring market to expand into video surveillance. The video service was launched in November 2008.

The service consists of a series of IP cameras (basic, budget class indoor, outdoor and pan tilt cameras) with special firmware loaded to automatically connect the cameras to Alarm.com's monitoring center and provide remote recording and client viewing. Alarm.com seeks to differentiate from tighter integration with its security monitoring services (for video verification, etc) and lower prices (since it is leveraging an existing monitoring center and customer base.

Alarm.com's pricing tends to be fairly inexpensive yet more constrained on storage provided. Additionally, the pricing varies based on whether the customer is bundling video with alarm monitoring or is purchasing video only.

For video only, up to 4 cameras and 50 MB of storage has a $19.95 MSRP per month (note: unlike most providers, Alarm.com does not price per camera). Up to 8 cameras and 250 MB of storage is $29.95 MSRP per month. When bundled with alarm monitoring (the more common approach), the MSRP is $10 less. Cameras are sold separately.

Alarm.com also offers a number of mobile viewing/remote control options that is consistent with the broader trend of many hosted providers.

Alarm.com only sells through dealers, ending its direct customer sales 2 years ago. Earlier this year, MicroStrategy, the previous majority shareholder sold their stake in Alarm.com for $27.7M USD.

 

Axis AVHS

Axis offers AVHS, a software platform that enables hosted/managed video. Channel partners license AVHS from Axis and can set up their own hosting services. Axis does not offer AVHS directly to end users and channel partners are free to brand the offering. Axis is one of the early entrants to hosted video surveillance and has more than a dozen global partners (for background see our test and overview of the AVHS software solution).

Leveraging its broad product line-up, Axis supports approximately 20 cameras and a NAS appliance with 'plug n play' firmware allowing no on-site networking configuration.

Axis does not set end user pricing. See our description of Secure-i for details on product packages and pricing from an Axis AVHS partner.

 

ByRemote

ByRemote is one of the first companies to enter Managed Video/ Video Surveillance as a Service. Given the high level of interest in this area, I recently spoke with them to learn more about their business strategy / technical offering.

ByRemote has their own VMS software. The provide 2 offerings: hosted, where cameras are directly connected to their software running in their data center and managed, where an appliance with ByRemote's software is loaded on a PC local to the cameras. The MSRP per camera starts at about $20 per month.

ByRemote sells only through dealers (prior to Jan 2008, they sold direct). ByRemote is building a network of dealers who sells the service to end users. Dealers can set their own prices and sell the cameras (the cameras are in addition to the $20 per month).

ByRemote offers continuous recording at a default rate of 1 frame per second. They say they commonly support 4-6 cameras per site with these settings. ByRemote does not use Axis STS.

Setting up IP cameras with ByRemote requires setting up DDNS and port forwarding to enable ByRemote to connect to cameras remotely.

I think this approach, using dealers and requiring on-site setup, will be a niche play. I think the best probability of success for hosted video surveillance is to sell direct, online only and bundle in the cameras for the cost of the subscription. Right now, at $20 per camera plus the cost of the camera and install, the economics are not extremely attractive relative to traditional video surveillance offerings.

 

Cameramanager

Cameramanager is a Netherlands based VSaaS provider offering integrated support for Axis and Panasonic hosted cameras and an on-site storage appliance. They use a dealer network and do not sell direct to end users. They report 10,000 current customers.

  • For Axis, the cameras must support AVHS firmware.
  • For Panasonic, BL-C / BB-HCm models are supported. The MAC address of these Panasonic cameras must be provided to enable remote flashing for their service.
  • Cameramanager provides an on-site storage appliance, called the Local Storage Unit or LSU, that communicates with their service. This appliance is optional. However, if it is used, monthly pricing is lower and bandwidth constraints are reduced. The hardware cost of a 9 channel / 500 GB appliance is approximately 1274 Euros.
  • In addition to the web interface, CameraManager provides an iPhone app.

Pricing is structured into two categories - offsite vs. local recording (refered to as live subscriptions because no off-site storage is included. [Note: Prices in Euros. Multiply each price by 1.3 to convert to US Dollars (current exchange rates)]

  • For offsite recording, the monthly service charge is 15 Euros for up to 2 cameras, 25 Euros for up to 4 cameras, 46 Euros for up to 9 cameras and 81 Euros for up to 16 cameras. This includes one week of recorded video.
  • For the live subscription (using the LSU for on-site recording), 10 euros for up to 2 cameas, 15 Euros for up to 4 cameras, 25 Euros for up to 9 cameras and 46 for up to 16 cameras. Video is recorded on-site. Pricing also includes health monitoring and software upgrades for the LSU recorders.

For this service, we find the on-site recorder to be especially attractive. On the other hand, given its pricing, we question the value of paying so much per month, when similar capability can be done by setting up remote access. Review our comparison/critique on pricing and practices in managed video marketing.

 

Connexed

Connexed offers an on-site appliance that manages transferring of video to their centralized storage center. The appliance records and compresses the video locally (on-site) and then transfers the video over time (overcoming limited bandwidth and ensuring the network is not overloaded). The Connexed appliance supports encoders and IP cameras but not directly connected analog cameras.

Connexed sells primarily direct, including on-line sales and search engine marketing.

Base pricing for Connexed services is $30 per camera per month (with volume discounts). Appliances are sold separately running from $999 to $2999. With a 3 year contract and annual pre-pay, they offer free appliances.

 

Dropcam

Dropcam is a recent entrant providing hosted video services. An AnandTech test of Dropcam provides a good overview (but poor understanding of the VSaaS marketplace).

Product Options

Dropcam's approach is to use COTS IP cameras (currently from Axis - M11 series), load custom firmware and stream video to their cloud management service. Dropcam offers two camera options, both cube camera, a basic version (called 'Dropcam')and a more advanced version with audio (called 'Dropcam Echo').

Pricing

The product pricing is $199 for the 'basic' Dropcam and $279 for the advanced/audio 'Echo'. Dropcam offers 3 ongoing plans. Live monitoring only is available for free (no monthly charge). For 1 week of continuous circular recording, the monthly charge is $8.95; for 1 month of such recording, the monthly charge is $24.95.

Key Product Points

The following are key features (or ommissions) in the offering:

  • Maximum resolution is QVGA (320 x 240) for live and recorded video
  • No local archiving is provided. All archiving is done in the cloud.
  • No 3rd party camera support / no analog support
  • The web UI is simple single camera viewer but has an easy to use slider for scanning through video (see demo)
  • Emphasize social / sharing of video

Channel Strategy

Dropcam sells direct on the Internet under its own brand.

Competitive Positioning

Compared to other market entrants, Dropcam has a very basic, limited product offering:

  • Limited product options: only 2 cube cameras that are relatively expensive (though consistent with Axis prices). Most AVHS providers have a lot more options for both IP and analog encoders.
  • Limited resolution: At QVGA, the maximum resolution is less than almost any other provider in the market.
  • Limited scalability: With no on-site storage option, both video quality and number of cameras supported are constrained.

The two most interesting elements we find are:

  1. Free live monitoring: We think this will be attractive to those who just want easy remote access. However, since the resolution is relatively low and the custom firmware blocks local recording, the attractiveness of this is limited.
  2. Clear direct Internet sales: While a number of providers only sell through dealers or are split amongst approaches, Dropcam is focused on building a direct to end user model that might be easier and cheaper for small deployments.

We are skeptical about the utility of the current 'social' features. While it's the big buzzword of the valley currently, the benefit of their sharing video is limited (beyond easy remote access that most VSaaS providers offer).

Dropcam is receiving a solid amount of Silicon Valley coverage. While Valley comentators are impressed, such endorsements reflect poor understanding of the broad number of global competitors. It will be interesting to see how Dropcam develops and what product advantages it can achieve.

 

DVTel

DVTel's Mexican manged video deployment and DVTel's general approach to managed video is examined.

General Technology Approach

DVTel is using their same VMS system for general commercial use (Latitude), while adapting processes and services for managed deployments. DVTel has not developed new software nor has it changed its market focus to the residential/SMB market (which is common among many providers).

Specifically, DVTel is leveraging networking infrastructure provided by partners to provide end to end connectivity to subscriber's sites. DVTel has not developed 'plug n play' cameras. Cameras connect to DVTel recording and management services over telecommunication networks.

Mexican Deployment

TelMex is positioning DVTel's managed video offering as an enterprise service to its customers. The system leverages MPLS - a networking technology that enables secure wide area communications for private businesses across many sites (e.g., a bank branch with hundreds of branches throughout Mexico). The DVTel video surveillance service is bundled with broadband private network access as a 'value-added' offering.

For this deployment, DVTel is managing the service with their employees providing local, on-site administration and service for the system.

Telmex is targeting business with 50 cameras or greater that value redundancy and maximum uptime. To that end, Telmex has set 99.95% service availability for the DVTel video surveillance and its private network service. The system is designed for redundancy and active back-up to meet this requirement. In addition, if a camera is broken for any reason, it must be replaced at no charge within 4 hours.

Because of these requirements (which are high end if not unique), the monthly pricing is high with $30-$90 per month for the camera and an additional $30-$90 for the service/storage.

 

Envysion

Envysion offers a managed video service supporting its managed DVRs (called EnVRs) that are deployed on-site. These DVRs support both directly connected analog cameras and third party IP cameras.

Envysion does not offer its own IP cameras nor does it support IP cameras without the use of its managed DVRs.

Of all the managed / hosted video providers, Envysion is the most focused at the retail market and provides some of the most sophisticated video management options including:

  • Integrated Point of Sale recording and searching
  • Integrated Exception Based Reporting (EBR): PoS integration helps for individual transactions but exception based reporting is critical to identify costly and hard to identify illicit trends. Envysion integrates Exception Based Reporting directly into its service. While EBR is a well accepted tool of retail security management, buying a dedicated EBR system can be quite expensive. Integrating it with your DVR can be quite time consuming and suffer limitations. Envysion makes EBR easy and inexpensive for small box retailers who often cannot otherwise afford it.
  • PCI Compliance: To store sensitive information such as credit card information or account numbers, systems must be PCI compliant. Linking such information to video can identify and solve high value crimes. Exception Based Reporting Systems generally are PCI compliant and they can be linked to a DVR. However, most small box retailers do not use this because of the cost and complexity involved. Envysion offers PCI compliance built right into the DVR, making it both low cost and simple to use.
  • Global Management offered with no set-up: Since most small box retailers operate multiple stores in remote locations, the ability to globally administer, upgrade and maintain those systems is critical. Envysion offers global management built-in with no server setup required and no additional cost.

Envysion sells through channel partners.

End user costs for using Envysion are approximately $9 - $12 per month per camera. The on-site DVR appliance is sold separately at approximately $1200 - $1500.

Unlike many other managed/hosted video providers, because of the use of an on-site appliance, Envysion is less price competitive in 1-3 channel applications and more competitive for larger channel counts.

iControl

Upstart iControl contends that IP video in the home is not about safety and security. It is about staying connected to one's world. He provides some personal example citing that his kids are the most important content in his life but no way to get to it today. 

iControl's service is focused on resolving this problem, allowing people to stay in touch with their home when they are away from home. To do so, they provide their own proprietary iHubs and wireless IP cameras that are designed to be plug and play as well as secure. Pricing is targeted at under $100 for the cameras and $10-$15 per month for the service. Subscribers will be able to access video from their PCs and phones away from home. Up to 30 second video clips for events will be recorded to the cloud (but local storage nor general recording will not be available). They also plan to integrate their service with other systems within the house. He gave an example of "turn my heat on when I am driving up to Tahoe for vacation."

While their thesis of staying connected was validated by 20 focus groups, the use cases he provides contradict their approach. For instance, iControl's examples of non security and safety applications for the home market included (1) getting a notice if someone is at one's front door or (2) if one's daughter walks near the pool. Not only are both of these fundamental examples of, respectively, safety and security, determining these activities requires the use of video analytics that this service could not reasonably offer at today's technological maturity nor price points.

Numerous competition exists for IP video at the home market, most of which is cheaper and requires lower consumer uptake to justify the funding provided by investors. It will be interesting to see if iControl can win this risky bet.

 

IVR Controls

IVR Controls is a US based provider of hosted and managed video surveillance. They offer significantly lower prices than competitors yet have drawbacks in configuration complexity.

IVR Controls has 2 main offerings:

  • Hosted Video: They support a number of Axis cameras as well as their own OEMed cameras/encoders. These devices stream off-site to IVR Controls' datacenter. For 7 days off-site recording, the MSRP is $12 USD per camera.
  • Managed Video: IVR Controls offers a series of NVRs that can be deployed locally. Their 4.5TB NVR unit that can support a few dozen cameras costs $1900 USD. The MSRP for managing the NVR is $15 per month for as many cameras as can be stored on the NVR.

IVR Controls reports that they sell only through dealers and currently have over 100 total dealers. IVR Controls customizes the customer facing web interfaces for their dealers.

IVR Controls requires on-site setup of devices - specifically setting up port forwarding and DDNS.

The most attractive element of the solution is the low pricing. The per camera pricing for hosted video is 50% less than other providers (such as Secure-i and ByRemote). The fee for managed NVRs is dramatically less because IVR charges a flat fee per box whereas Secure-i charge a fee per camera.

On the other hand, IVR is a small company and the configuration complexity could be costly and challenging for integrators/dealers without strong IT techs.

 

Lorex

Lorex offers managed video for both its DVRs and its IP cameras. Lorex uses a third party service called, Yoics which makes it easy to remotely access computers or devices like webcams or IP cameras.

For the IP cameras, only live video is accessible. For the DVRs, both live and recorded video is accessible.

The service is available at no charge bundled into the cost of the products.

Lorex sells these products directly over the Internet from its own site and via distribution.

 

Napco iSee Video

Napco Security is a publicly traded security manufacturer with annual revenue of approximately $65 Million USD and a current market capitalization of $40 Million USD. They specialize in access control and alarm monitoring (review their 2009 annual report). In the past 3 years, they have expanded to offer hosted video solutions.

Napco offers 3 main product options:

  • A kit of camera and gateway that uses powerline networking. Napco refers to this as the EOP or Ethernet over Powerline. A 1 camera kit costs $325 on-line (this price includes the gateway and the devices to send the camera feed across electrical lines). The price includes 1 year of subscription service to remotely access video.
  • A kit of analog cameras and 4 channel encoder, referred to by Napco as their Gateway. A kit with 4 analog bullet cameras, the 4 channel encoder and 1 year of subscription service costs $560.00 on-line.
  • A managed NVR that allows for local video storage for up to 6 of Napco's own IP cameras. On-line subscription allows remote access.

Napco offers a live demonstration of their user interface, which consists of a very basic live and recorded view (no search, simply visual scan of clips segmented by events.

 

NeoVSP

NeoVSP offers a hosted video surveillance solution targeted at telecommunication providers. For background, you may watch a demo of NeoVSP's offering. This update examines key elements of the NeoVSP solution.

NeoVSP supports 'plug n play' cameras from Axis AVHS offering as well as Vivotek cameras using specialized firmware. Additional cameras may be used with NeoVSP's system. However, they require on-site networking setup.

NeoVSP reports having a 'plug n play' NAS in development but it is not released. NeoVSP says they support on-board storage for a limited number of Vivotek cameras.

Targeting telecommunication providers, NeoVSP offers an ongoing monthly license fee or a one-time fee + annual support contract (similar to the model used for selling VMS software).

NeoVSP claims they will support 99.999% availability in an upcoming release. They also provide integration into 3rd party billing and management systems for telecommunication providers.

As for pricing, NeoVSP claims their partners can deliver end user pricing of $8 per month for 30 days of storage. However, NeoVSP has no partners offering this today.

Currently, they report 1000 direct customers in Israel, 2 business partners in Israel and 4 partners outside their home market.

 

OzVision

OzVision offers a hosted video service called the OzVision Secure Network (OSN) that aims to replace DVRs. This service incorporates both centralized video recording and remote video verification. To do so, OzVision offers 2 appliances - the IP and HVR Series (both of which automatically connect to OzVision's service without networking or firewall configuration changes). The HVR series, released in Q4 2009 supports H.264 encoding and on-site storage (through an SD card or external USB hard drive). Each appliance encodes up to a maximum of 4 analog cameras. Appliances can be stacked into a single account, provided sufficient bandwidth is available. In 2010, OzVision plans to add support for IP cameras as well as 8 and 16 channel analog encoder units.

OzVision leverages its roots in remote video verification. OzVision cites support for 19 different central monitoring software packages including Bold, MAS, SIMS, MicroKey, etc. This allows central stations to seamlessly receive event-generated video from sites using OzVision within the central station's main monitoring interface.

OzVision's pricing is aggressive to compete against DVRs. While it does not set end user pricing (this is up to OzVision's partners), end user pricing for the service with 1 month of storage is about $8 - $10 per camera. Longer term storage tends to be only modestly higher. End user pricing that includes 6 months of storage can be less than $20 per camera per month. As for storage quality levels, the average bit-rate per camera tends to be 30-60Kb/s using H.264 compression. The OzVision 4 channel HVR is sold for approximately $500 and is separate from the monthly service.

OzVision sells through channel partners and does not sell direct to end users.

OzVision is also offering its military, government and large proprietary commercial customers complete Self-Hosting server packages that enables privately operated systems.  

 

Secure-i

Secure-i offers 6 basic service packages, ranging from live viewing only (no recording) to up to 30 days of centrally stored video. Per camera, per month, the MSRP of these packages range from $15 USD (for live viewing only) to $40 USD. Service fee for running a local on-site NAS device is $5 per month (requires at least $20 USD per camera package).

Secure-i sells only through partners (such as security dealers, integrators, service providers, etc.). Secure-i has two tiers of partners. Partners in Tier 1 market the solution with the Secure-i brand and Secure-i bills the end user directly for the service payment each month. Tier 1 partners profit from the sale of hardware and from an ongoing commission from the service revenue. By contrast, Tier 2 partners market the service under their own brand ("white labeled") and bill the customer directly each month for service.

Tier 1 partners have a minimum contract term of 1 year. Tier2 partners have no minimum contract term and can set their own terms. A 1 month demo is provided for customers to connect to Secure-i's demo server.

The service only supports Axis cameras. Currently, these Axis cameras use specialized firmware that is not available on generally distributed Axis cameras. However, in the next few months, all Axis cameras will have the AVHS firmware pre-loaded, enabling any Axis camera to be used within Secure-i or other AVHS solution.

For megapixel cameras, the service currently supports the 207mw and the 209MFD-R, By Q4 2009, they plan to support the 216mfd-v, 211M, 223M, and Q1755. Given the bandwidth loads of 720/1080 megapixel cameras (generally at least 1 Mb/s and often as high as 7 Mb/s), megapixel should certainly use an on-site NAS device.

In addition to cameras, the service supports NAS devices. These NAS devices come pre-loaded with AVHS firmware. Currently, Secure-i offers a 500 GB NAS device that MSRPs for $360 USD. Secure-i reports that approximately 35-40% of customers use the local NAS device. They also report that the maximum size of the NAS device offered will increase in the next few months to 1TB.

 

Starvedia

Starvedia manufacturers IP cameras with built-in managed service available at no additional cost. Starvedia offers multiple form factors including cube, bullet, PTZ and encoders. These devices are primarily OEMed to 3rd party manufacturers.

Only live video is accessible via the managed service. The cameras connect 'plug n play' with no networking configuration required.

For background information on Starvedia, see our Starvedia test results and the overview video below.

 

Viass

VIASS is a new entrant in the IP video surveillance market, providing a hosted video solution including their own smart IP camera with built-in storage targeted at the consumer/SMB market. The product was launched at Demofall09, one of Silicon Valley's leading startup conference.

While there are many hosted video offerings, 3 elements of VIASS solution stand out:

  • VIASS has developed their own H.264/SD/IP camera. By contrast, most hosted offerings use 3rd party cameras (with the obvious and significant exception of Axis AVHS). Developing their own cameras, VIASS can simply setup and deployment (eliminating DDNS and port forwarding configuration, etc.)
  • VIASS has built-in video analytics and on-board storage (using a mini-SD card). They record based on motion/object detection and can temporarily store video locally and transfer it over time (which they refer to as bandwidth shaping). This reduces bandwidth issues and need for remote storage.
  • VIASS is developing a tightly integrated solution - hosting the service as well as developing the camera and VMS. This is the opposite of the Axis approach which is to partner with dozens of third party service providers (though similar to Envysion). An integrated solution can increase quality and reduce costs.

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