The IP Camera Lock-In Trend: Meraki and Verkada

By IPVM Team, Published Jan 18, 2019, 09:01am EST

Open systems and interoperability have become core features of video surveillance systems, as virtually all professional IP cameras integrate with various 3rd parties for recording, analysis, and management. In addition to IP camera manufacturers working hard to get 3rd parties to integrate, ONVIF has become the de facto standard with more than 11,000 devices now officially ONVIF conformant.

However, 2 Silicon Valley companies are countering that trend.

ip camera lock in 2

With Meraki and Verkada, you can use their IP cameras however you want and for as long as you want, as long as you keep paying them a monthly fee. Otherwise, the IP cameras that one has bought from them become bricks.

However, the companies argue to IPVM that there are compelling benefits from this model.

In this report, we examine the pros and cons of being locked into an IP camera/video surveillance service.

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Comments (82)

One other point both company's push hard is no single point of failure yet if the WAN connection goes down or your router dies your system will still record but have no access to the video.   Verkada says they are working on this but I think a lot of people overlook this issue major issue with cloud systems. 

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I agree with your point, Mike. However, on the other hand, they are marketing and focusing sales on enterprise environments like K-12 School Districts and corporate environments, where redundant routers and Internet connections are vital to daily operations and are relatively common. 

Ultimately, they need to address this limitation.

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Some schools have redundant routers and WAN connections.  The schools I have seen getting hard spec'd for Meraki I know for a fact they don't have either.  If there is no path to the internet the system is not fully functional 

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Interesting feedback Mike, do you know who is helping them hard spec a video system with that limitation? Is it an A&E firm, or just a local dealer that has a relationship? Because that is terrible planning for a school.

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I think it's the Cisco Meraki Reps and the IT departments are eating it up.  I have even heard there are major discounts on the cameras if they upgrade their switches to Meraki.  So they are using the cameras just to sell more switches and RMR 

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I get into competition with Meraki thru one of my national partners that is a Cisco powerhouse. The cameras are really just another tool to get an end-user to use Meraki switches, AP's, and the rest of the product suite.

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You would think by now that the IT folks, especially the IT business managers, would get sick of continually trying a Cisco "Security" solution. They are kind of like Pelco, maybe the 10th time will work.

I have heard of issues with the new Cisco switch cloud platform not talking well with security equipment.

 

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that being said, when you buy a Meraki switch you pay a monthly fee?   All these Meraki switch buying peoples should have no problem buying cloud cameras if they are into monthly fees?  Regardless of if it's Meraki or Verkada, or Johnnies cloud cameras, when you see a value you pay.  When Meraki switch goes offline, they cannot access that either too..Right? 

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All Meraki products require a subscription style license to operate. This is paid for upfront for a specific period of time. This can be 1, 3, 5, 7 or 10 years in duration.

This license covers the cloud component of the service along with 24/7 support and next business day hardware replacement. It also includes all future features developed for the product. 

When a Meraki device can't connect to the cloud it will continue to work, but it can't be managed during that time. In your example with the switch, it will continue to forward frames and provide network functions, but as an example you will not be able to change port configurations or VLANs.

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Nothing like purchasing out dated resolution cameras and getting locked into them for 10 years and only being able to access your system IF your WAN connection is working.  

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I'm receiving an obnoxious amount advertising on ALL of my social media profiles from Verkada, which seems an odd approach to direct marketing. LinkedIn makes sense but I see little value from marketing on Facebook and I cannot imagine a scenario in which someone would be motivated to buy a commercial security camera through Instagram. It would appear the silicon valley outsider misunderstands who and how buying decisions are influenced in this market.

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I'll take the opposite side on this. Social media marketing, even Facebook and Instragram, are super inexpensive, both on an impression basis and relative to the lifetime customer value of selling these systems. They also allow fine grain targeting, experimentation and rapid adjustment of spend, things that normal surveillance marketing (trade mags, trade shows, etc.) are poor at.

I think surveillance manufacturers significantly underinvest in those channels and it is an opportunity for Verkada. Thoughts?

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Same here. Their marketing strategy is to be overwhelmingly end-user visible with free yeti cup giveaways and taglines. I like having a prescence on multiple social media platforms but I would be curious to see their impressions/engagements from it.

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Even if they are not getting high impressions/engagement ratio (and I'm sure they are not) there is a lot to be said for throwing a little bit of money toward brand recognition/awareness. Which will help later in more direct marketing efforts where they are paying to get a conversion. 

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This is lock-in at a whole different level.  

Imagine buying a car that would stop running because the company that made it went bankrupt.

I don’t think they will have success in the bigger commercial market with this approach.

Instead, they should not sell cameras/hardware, but only lease them.

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Meraki's camera models are fairly limited and currently don't comply with local regulations in much of the Arab Gulf region. Many Meraki network customers may not necessarily want their cameras. 

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The report has been updated with Meraki's response explaining the benefits and reasoning for their closed design:

The Cisco Meraki MV cameras been developed to work with the Meraki cloud to provide a surveillance solution that is very easy to install, configure, and manage. This is possible with no software, servers, or hardware beyond the camera itself due to the end-to-end integration of the MV camera with the Meraki cloud. This means we do not support 3rd party VMSes through standards such as ONVIF, or through external video streams such as RTSP. However we do provide a wide ranging set of standards based APIs (using REST and MQTT) for customers to integrate their MV camera systems with other business systems, for example access control, EPOS, 3rd party analytics, and physical sensors. Some example documentation can be found here: https://create.meraki.io/build/mv-sense-documentation/

Customers have told us that although 3rd party VMS support through standards such as ONVIF appears desirable, the resulting deployment is often less reliable, more difficult to support, and lacking the novel features available from a single vendor system. Customers have indicated that the importance of 3rd party system support is with non-camera systems e.g. access control & EPOS. They are willing to accept cameras that only work with the Meraki infrastructure IF we provide APIs and integration with these systems. Based on this feedback, this is where we have focused our development resources.

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Currently testing their D50 model and its slick technology with easy setup and convenient access. It will be hard for them to break into organizations with out having 3rd party support. No company will be removing their extensive camera network to install a new trend. 

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I've been told from integrators that Miraki will give away cameras (not just a few demos, but outfit entire schools) to school districts if they buy all their switches/servers/services, etc.

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I have heard of the exact same thing.  I've also heard of the prices of their monthly fees being drastically reduced (about 80%) I understand that to get a business jump started sometimes you need to offer some initial discounts, but I believe these discounts are way too steep for them to sustain.  I think it will be even harder for Verkada - they don't have the luxury of selling switches and servers. (or all of the Cisco backing)

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Both of these companies are having large success in the Education space. I have seen both of them at Education related shows and they are just slaying it. I see they have an easy and understandable story to digest for school IT. The broader market is highly questionable what long term impact they will have. I completely agree that there has to be a path to integration with 3rd party systems at some point....maybe even developing a line that caters to 3rd party integrations and one line that is closed ecosystem.

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I wonder how much success Meraki would have IF they didn't have to give away the cameras to get the network hardware. I mean up in till recently they had one outdoor camera which was limited to 720P and was $1499 + fees required to use the camera.  I haven't installed a 720P camera outdoors in 5+ years.  The new outdoor cameras max out at 1080P @ $1699.

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You can buy these cameras all day but they still “own” them...

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For Meraki cameras are only an accessory to their systems. Their business model is strongly aimed to retail or multisite and based mainly on network switch, access point and firewall managed by their platform. Of course a camera can be an easy upselling for retail, using an already present (and well performing) cloud management platform.

But, being an accessory, can be removed from lineup easily. I would not build my surveillance system (that usually has a lifespan of many years) on a network vendor that sells cameras...

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Meraki has been very successful with this model in IT, enough to be bought by Cisco and are now the primary driver of Cisco’s earnings growth (per the new CEO in an interview last week).  It’s just so darn easy to set up and admin, and it works very well.

We’re used to having recurring licenses in our industry (Genetec, etc) and this is similar.  I don’t like it but if it makes sense for the purchasing organization they will buy it, as they do now with the IT gear.

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Some background before I get to the Meraki cameras: I'm an IT person biased toward open-source solutions, working professionally with open-source going back to the 1990s. My degree is in Physics and I have a photography hobby. I spend a lot of money and time on photography, so my expectations for what the IP cameras should do is very high, no doubt beyond what many IPVM customers or integrators need or think about. 

I came to IPVM because of IPVM's transition to Ethernet cameras. I was introduced to Panasonic network cameras that a nearby church wanted to make work ~10 years ago. We eventually installed several of those Panasonic cameras and they worked well for many years. 

I'm going to explain why we now use Meraki network infrastructure to give context at the end to how I view the Meraki cameras. BTW, we fully embrace PoE Ethernet switches and Axis cameras. 

About 5 years ago, a professional associate introduced me to Meraki Security Appliances (routers) when they first came out and our company gradually started using them. Now, we're pretty much all-in with Meraki Security Appliances, because they work well and they incorporate Cisco's most advanced IT security research (Cisco Talos) in the Meraki "Advanced Security" license for their routers. Yes, it's an annual license with high RMR to Cisco, but the tradeoff is fair, in our opinion, because of how much work you're able to leverage on the security research and implementation side by Cisco.

Network security and integrity is only as good as its Security Appliance and the people who manage the Security Appliance. If you have the world's greatest IPVM installation on a LAN that doesn't have an enterprise grade Security Appliance with up-to-date threat intelligence, analytics, and hands-free remediation capabilities, you're leaving an attack surface that may not properly notify you of an intrusion into the network or data exfiltration. Witness the OPM Data Breach, where my own OPM records along with 21.5 million other American's records were stolen. At this point there have been so many significant data breaches that everyone should be concerned about the entry/exit points to the LANs where we do our work. Meraki is top-notch here, and if setup properly, Meraki Security Appliances could have prevented or informed about several of the largest data breaches. Security rules get updated daily, and firmware usually gets updated twice a year. So two thumbs up on all the Meraki Security Appliances. The Meraki Security Appliances beyond the least expensive models are manufactured in Taiwan. 

The next Meraki item that works really well are their Wireless Access Points (WAPs). Competitors have lower cost products, but those lower costs products are mostly manufactured in China. The Meraki WAPs cost a lot up front but regular firmware updates keep them up-to-date, and the recurring monthly fee for the WAPs is much lower than with the RMR for the Security Appliances. The Meraki Wireless Access Points are manufactured in Taiwan. 

The Meraki switches are where you must make a decision to really embrace the Cisco Meraki philosophy, because Ethernet switches that cost 1/5 what the Cisco Meraki Switches cost generally work OK, although there are no analytics on low end switches, and if a low-end switch or one of its devices fails, you can spend hours trying to figure out what's wrong. For Meraki switches, you'll likely be notified by email in real time when something goes wrong and the analytics direct you to the exact problem and the location of the problem. There's no way to deliver this level of functionality and not have RMR, and we've used a lot of open-source software for a long time. As with the WAPs, the recurring monthly for Meraki switches is much lower than with the Security Appliances. The Meraki Wireless Access Points are manufactured in Taiwan. 

That brings us to Meraki cameras and Meraki's now discontinued VoIP phones. Cisco is a company that has grown through many acquisitions by moving fast wherever it sees an opportunity. Sometimes they hit a home run on a new acquisition, and sometimes they decide after 10 years to let an acquisition go - Linksys. During Cisco's evolution, the payment models for customers has shifted from:

Pay a lot up-front, with the vendor even making money on financing the purchase cost

Pay less up-front, but pay an annual license fee to the vendor

Pay much less up-front, but pay a recurring perpetual license fee to the vendor

We've seen Microsoft embrace this payment model too, and Wall Street's opinion is that in a tech environment that's highly deflationary, the third option is the best way to try to maintain high public market value. Office 365 is a good example where there is more value delivered via the third option, so the transition has been successful. WeWork is an extreme example of the third option. 

When I realized that the Panasonic IP cameras weren't going to take me where I wanted, I asked an ISC East vendor which camera line could I embrace and not have to change from a few years down the road. After asking me a few questions, he told me Axis, and I've stuck with Axis, and am pleased that they were acquired by Canon due to my photography side. Since an Axis camera is basically an open-source server, I am able to email camera images in near real time, and to archive Axis camera images regularly using all our open-source infrastructure. We haven't yet had a need to use commercial image logging and cataloging software, but if we get to that point, I'd still try to incorporate as much open-source technology into that project as possible (FreeNAS for network storage). The last Axis outdoor camera that I bought, an AXIS P3364-L outdoor dome, cost $855 in Nov, 2016. It's PoE powered by a switch that's 100 feet away, it works great, and there is no recurring fee. The camera was made in Poland.

If we wanted to setup an AXIS camera with SSL encryption to the offsite storage, we could do that for a new installation with a bit of work. But if you have a lightweight Meraki Security Appliance like the Z1 at the remote site with the AXIS cameras, and a separate Meraki Security Appliance where you're trying to view the camera from, there is de facto end-to-end encryption over a VPN tunnel, without having to do much in the way of configuration or setup. That's a huge win for ongoing maintenance and remote troubleshooting. So don't write out Meraki Security Appliances just because you don't like the RMR model for their network cameras. 

In terms of addressable markets, I've noticed that Meraki often mentions the Educational and Retail markets, neither of which I'm engaged in. Educational IT seems to be a bit of an island, different than corporate IT, until you get to larger colleges, where they have full-time staff that negates the need for a consultant. Smaller educational institutions probably welcome the empowerment that the Meraki infrastructure gives their staff, who are less technical than IPVM readers.

Someone mentioned the need for a persistent WAN connection. Anyone in the USA with a business or school that does not have a persistent WAN is at a huge disadvantage. To the extent that schools still exist without persistent broadband WAN connections, I suggest people push those schools to correct this deficiency. Any modern school library must have Internet access, and non-VoIP phone systems are disappearing, and within a few years there will be zero support for non-VoIP phone systems

On the other hand, we do business with a large publicly traded multinational enterprise ISP, Cogent Communications, and they're almost 100% Cisco enterprise network infrastructure (different from Meraki) and 100% fiber optic connectivity. This is the future - cheap, persistent, robust bandwidth delivered over fiber optic cable. I suggest people migrate toward this mindset of cheap, persistent, robust bandwidth and build your business on that premise. 

Sorry for the length of this post, hopefully there's some useful info here for at least some of you. 

--

J Robert Burgoyne in NYC

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"For Meraki switches, you'll likely be notified by email in real time when something goes wrong and the analytics direct you to the exact problem and the location of the problem. There's no way to deliver this level of functionality and not have RMR, and we've used a lot of open-source software for a long time."

 

You can with UNIFi switches from UBNT without any reoccurring cost.

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I’m a huge fan of Unifi and have many projects out there that run on it.  The big drawback is that there is no managed security gateway under the unifi umbrella, which is something you will have to pay a subscription fee to get updates for.

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They have a 3 router/gateways for UNIFI though they are missing UTM.  

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Yeah, the UTM is desperately needed in the product line.

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We've been adding IDS, DPI, and additional security features to the USG (UniFi Security Gateway) product line. What specific UTM features are you looking for?

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Didn’t know these features were available - they were not last time I checked into it.  How about antivirus, traffic analytics (assuming this comes with the DPI and IPS), and granular logging?  Where does the virus definition set come from and is there a subscription fee for updates?   Thanks for the note, guess I’ll plug my USG back in and update it.

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Antivirus at the gateway level hasn't been a major focus for us in the past. Antivirus at the gateway level can protect against certain attack vectors, but it's not as useful in the current era of encryption everywhere. There's no replacement for antivirus at the workstation level, of course.

What competitive gateway products do you prefer for your applications? I'll pass the info along to our USG team.

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Yeah, the UTM is desperately needed in the product line.

deja. vu.

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Yep but seems they got the message.

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Since an Axis camera is basically an open-source server...

Disagree.  It has an extensive public API (VAPIX) but is hardly open source.

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Robert, thanks for your detailed and informative response!

Question: How do you normally / typically deploy networking equipment and video surveillance? If I understand correctly you frequently use Meraki but also frequently use non-Meraki for video? Or I do misunderstand? Thanks.

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Hi John, your website and articles are great. IP cameras are a potential existential risk endpoint device for vendors and their customers circa 2019. Any vendor involved with installing devices on a corporate LAN or having continuous remote access to that LAN needs to take this responsibility seriously. For us, that means we are pretty much settled on Meraki for network Security Appliances (routers).

To configure and properly monitor a router, the knowledge required is so vast that it's not really possible to be an expert on more than one manufacturer's network security products. Our contacts at the enterprise fiber optic ISP have said that they are basically all Cisco for this reason too. Cisco has written a lot about why you want to have a uniform network fabric as your footprint expands geographically and scales in endpoint device count, and from my perspective that's a valid thesis. Remote Access to all the various locations will work in the same way, with the same authentication, and once you establish secure Remote Access, you can securely bring up a remote camera, etc. 

Other network security vendors can only primarily compete on cost. There's also the country of origin issue for network devices. If you do work in the USA, you should be paying close attention to the country of origin for any network device or software. 

The Meraki cameras are unproven as far as I'm concerned and don't address actual customer demand. From my perspective, Meraki cameras represent an attempt to leverage the Meraki architecture and Cisco name for additional sales opportunities. Part of the Meraki RMR is to provide a long warranty, solid tech support, and fast replacement. That + RMR may work well in certain markets. 

But for any vendor that creates new products that stray from their core competency, it makes sense for consultants to be hesitant to embrace those tangential products.

Video surveillance is auxiliary to what we do, so I only want to use the best network cameras, which someone told me is Axis, and my results with Axis cameras are great.

We could quibble about the definitions of open-source, but to me the fact that Axis cameras embrace JPG, SFTP, SMTP, and HTTPS is good enough for us. If you can get the output of a network camera onto a Linux file system via SFTP or SMTP, you can then do pretty much anything you want on the Linux side, including emailing images on a scheduled basis and making the images available to commercial image analysis software via a network share.

Now that Axis is owned by Canon, you can guess from Canon's home country how they feel about network security vis a vis lower cost competitors in the network camera market. That makes me feel even better about Axis. 

I'll mention one other real-world example. Some clients are regularly audited or scrutinized by third parties. You never know who exactly will review the work you do in the field and when in the future that review will happen. It's better to justify something more expensive with broad respect in the early stages than to have to defend why you chose something cheaper as part of an unanticipated future review.

If the future scrutiny is due to a network breach, and you installed cheap [X] on the client's network, good luck defending that decision. Our Cyber E&O Insurance vendor even has a standard waiver form you should get clients to sign if they refuse to follow your Cybersecurity recommendations. Such a waiver might save you a lot. 

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Is Alarm.com video offering the same 'locked in' model?  What happens to cameras and stored video for any of these services, if you decide you want to switch to different platform or way of managing cameras? Can the cameras be re-used? Not very clear 

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Essentially, yes. Their cameras have "Alarm.com" baked in- no Alarm.com service, no video. Many customers have no idea why they want a camera or cameras- keeping up with the Jones' is a common driver I suspect. A camera is not a security system. A camera can be part of a security solution, but a camera in of itself is not a security system. Most customers do not understand this basic fact and ignore its ramifications completely. What are you going to do with the video? How are you going to access it? On what device? Using what method? How will you know when there is actionable video? Will the notification be timely or too late? 

Alarm.com offers a solution that integrates with other security sensors which results in a solution that can offer real world solutions to customer problems they are trying to solve. There is no port forwarding. The customer is in charge of setting up notifications and video rules using an easy to use app. The customer interface is designed to be easy to use on the device most everyone wants it to be present on- their mobile internet connected device. This is the model that large parts of the industry is turning towards because it solves customer problems at a reasonable cost while also providing a point of contact for customers that are not and don't want to be IT professionals. 

Alarm.com and others like them are selling solutions to problems much more than they are selling hardware. Customers have been conditioned to pay subscriptions to solve everyday problems- cell phone, cable, streaming video, car lease, apartment rental, cloud software, etc. We all have too much to think about on an everyday basis. A subscription approach can lower the cost of hardware upfront while also delivering the most recent technology to customers without them needing to perform constant upgrades etc. Technology is moving too quickly for the purchase hardware and roll your own software support model to make sense for the majority any longer.

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I strongly resist ANY product that stops working due to mandatory monthly or yearly fees. Also, I'm not a fan of running many high megapixel cameras over the internet. Too much reliance on the 'pipe' and it's throughput. When it comes to video surveillance, I'll stick with a rock-solid LAN installation any day. If my client's internet goes down for several hours and they can't view their cameras with their mobile phone... no big deal. Their system keeps humming along and no important/critical INCIDENT is missed.

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I agree with David that convenience and simplification generally win in the marketplace. We can lament that this is happening or accept it, try to leverage the principle, and move on. 

Michael, circa 2019, unless a facility is critical infrastructure such as a power plant or national defense facility, the facility is not likely to a) be manned 24x7 with someone who watches the LAN, and b) not have a robust WAN connection to the Internet.

Without a robust WAN connection to the Internet, there's no offsite visibility into the analytics of the LAN. I can't see significant clients planning for a future without a persistent WAN connection or being OK with a lack of LAN analytics. Newer Security Appliances (routers) come with LTE failover to insure persistent WAN connectivity for locations where the primary wired ISP is not robust. 

Another function that requires persistent WAN connectivity is enterprise Single Sign On authentication - SSO. Gone are the days when onsite authentication without cloud based backup or primary authentication was adequate. This is something I ignored for years, but many enterprise applications now insist on a cloud based SSO such as Microsoft Azure Active Directory (AAD) or similar offerings from Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google.

Cloud based secure authentication isn't free if you want analytics and the ability to reject login attempts from unknown locations, lockout repeated login failures, etc. But you the administrator also gain the real-time ability to grant or revoke access to all SSO enabled systems and applications - for example to revoke system access, including keycard access to a facility, for a disgruntled employee. I can think of many use cases for security where a persistent WAN connection is needed and desirable.

As for bandwidth, I have 100Mbps FiOS in my apartment (~$100 monthly) and our key locations have 1Gbps Cogent Fiber Internet connections (~$1,000 monthly). Under such circumstances, you're better off using the bandwidth as an available resource to create redundancy and disaster recovery capabilities instead of being concerned about saturating the pipe. If you've never done a daily 500GB offsite backup it seems intimidating - but it's not a big deal anymore.

Most regulated businesses now have statutory obligations for offsite backup and archiving of data and improved Cybersecurity policies per the NIST Cybersecurity Framework's guidelines. A recent Cyber E&O Insurance application I looked at asked a lot of questions about offsite backup and internal system access controls. 

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We can lament that this is happening or accept it...

what happened to “fight it”?

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I enjoy a fight sometimes but I prefer to put food on the table and leverage all of my professional knowledge on behalf of the client.

The leading IT vendors have repeatedly run over all of us and our best plans during my career. The #1 software monopoly company was and remains my nemesis to this date. They've been joined by a book vendor that's now the largest cloud services company, and a search engine company that makes money selling our most personal data. As a small entity you can not effectively battle these companies. Governments worldwide aren't even up to the challenge.

You don't have to embrace these giants, and you should reject their "spy on you" hardware. But you have to know when their product or service offerings might help your clients and be prepared to use them when appropriate. 

Open-source offers some relief but not much income. 

Leading corporate IT products lead to corporate levels of income. 

Low cost commercial alternatives to industry leading IT products are not an appropriate technical or business solution in most cases. Country of origin is also an extremely important issue with any network hardware.

If there is no budget at all, you can try your hand at open-source solutions on older, re-purposed computers and claim a tax deduction for "Charitably donated services and materials."

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In between 'accepting' and 'fighting' is voting with your wallet. Simply tell such companies that not having 3rd party support is a disqualifier. If they get that enough, they will most likely add in such support.

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Hi

 

I haven't read all the replies and posts on this interesting and long thread.

I am somewhat skeptical when it comes to "Cloud" and physical security. Relying on the Internet for everything is not very wise IMHO. I am at ease with backing up my security videos on the Cloud but to make it the main and only conduit/container to my evidences leaves me unsettled.

Now we get to the point where a company owns my security camera? 

 Certain things can be rented. Some must be outright owned ... 

 

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You can certainly own local storage and cameras and pay zero RMR for that equipment. I'm with you on that. 

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Disclosure - I work for Cisco Meraki.

I would like to clarify that by default all Cisco Meraki MV camera's storage is in camera through integrated solid state storage of up to 256GB, not an optional SD card. This prevents excessive bandwidth consumption and keeps data on site. This also allows the system to scale without NVR channel limits.

The cloud is for the management, not the primary storage of data. Should a customer wish, they can choose to replicate some or all of their cameras recordings to the cloud, but this is not mandatory.

A comparable analogy to the recurring fees for these cameras is buying a cable modem. Although it can be bought upfront and outright, without the recurring cable provider service fee, it won't provide any functionality. It is a combined product and service that is required to provide capability. 

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A comparable analogy to the recurring fees for these cameras is buying a cable modem. Although it can be bought upfront and outright, without the recurring cable provider service fee, it won't provide any functionality.

That is kind of a bad analogy. Internet service is, by nature, dependent on some kind of external service provider. In order to connect, you need some kind of essentially proprietary device, like a cable modem. You can't build your own private internet.

Surveillance systems can be readily built as private systems, there is no inherent dependence on an external entity or service to build a surveillance system at almost any scale. You do of course need internet connectivity (or similar) for remote viewing, but most people already have internet connectivity and your remote surveillance viewing can generally ride on top of that if properly architected.

People rarely like subscriptions and recurring bills, but accept it when it provides something they could not build on their own (drinking water supply, electricity, communications, etc.).

 

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George, what happens to the recorded video on the cameras if they fail?  What I am asking is say a Meraki camera fails and the camera is RMA'd.  The replacement camera arrives and gets installed.  Then someone asks for a recorded video from 2 weeks before the camera failed.  Can the customer get the video back from the RMA'd a camera or is it lost?    I ask because this is a non-issue for NVR/DVR based systems and this is something we have had to deal with.   

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If a camera needs to be RMA'd the customer should export the video they wish to keep before getting the camera swapped. If the camera is completely dead or they don't yet know what footage they may want then this is not going to be an option. If they want complete confidence of retaining video no matter what happens, then they can choose to add a cloud archive alongside the on camera recording.

No system is infallible, but with de-centralized storage you will rarely be looking at a catastrophic loss of data. Some customers choosing Meraki cameras for the integrated solid state storage have done so due to their experience of NVR HDD death or VMS RAID array failure leading to loss of all video data. This concern around catastrophic data loss also extends to a customer who had their NVR stolen in a break in at one location.

 

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What is the extra cost to continuously record to the cloud? Assuming the zero bandwidth pitch goes away when you do this as all the cameras will be streaming across the network to the WAN and the customer has to have a WAN connection that can support this. 

There is still a single point of failure with Meraki as in the WAN connection or router.  You MUST have a path to the internet for Meraki to be fully functional right? 

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This IPVM article details the costs associated with the cloud recording:

Cisco Meraki New Cameras and AI Analytics

Although all Meraki devices require a path to the Internet, if this becomes unavailable for some reason, the devices continue to work until connectivity is restored. However they are not designed to be deployed completely disconnected.

 

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The downside to this method is you are placing the primary, possibly the only, storage inside of the device most likely to fail. I've dealt with a smiliar method for years but it was thankfully on removable storage and not built in.

 

I would think there would be a way to swap the SSD from a failed device to a replacement, or at least a SSD connector to bypass the camera body to extract video.

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Due to the encryption keys being unique per camera, even if you were able to physically remove the storage it would not be recoverable in another camera. Making it possible to replace or manipulate the storage decreases the hardware platforms robustness to sophisticated attacks. At all times we are trying to prevent extraction of data from the camera unless it is via authenticated and encrypted connections to the camera.

Cisco takes platform security seriously and the second generation Meraki cameras (MV12/MV22/MV72) make use of a hardware trust anchor to enable secure manufacturing, secure boot, and code attestation.  

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Due to the encryption keys being unique per camera...

Where is the key stored?

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The camera and the cloud have a copy of the key. The camera has a local copy of the key to protect against a situation where connectivity of the cloud is unavailable when the camera boots. This allows the camera to start recording as soon as it boots, it can synchronize with the cloud once connectivity is available. 

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Poll results from 200+ votes, members strongly against such IP cameras:

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Open systems and interoperability have become core features of video surveillance systems, as virtually all professional IP cameras integrate with various 3rd parties for recording, analysis, and management.

In addition to IP camera manufacturers working hard to get 3rd parties to integrate, ONVIF 

 

The above statements are true.Sadly my experience with new prospects /  new customers or existing customers is that if they are not using the system, because it is unusable, whats the difference.

Unusable?  unusable, to me means the typical layman that works as a go between his main position at  "Said Company" and security camera man / clip puller is frustrated with the user interface.   

I have such easy sales between "joe asian" and "joe north American" developed software.  because it is easy to use and intuitive.  Not alot of meaningless tiny buttons.

Verkada to me is an simple to use and easy to distribute UI. Even the busy manager very un-technical can use it with no training.  This makes all the difference cause in 6 months when I stop back I hear they use it all the time.   Unlike a Hik dvr which I always hear they are very frustrated with.  

The camera sales model,tech aspect , is important to me, but more important is if they use the system on a daily basis with ease.

Verkada is a new company, new concept (mostly). They are very silicone valley attitude, and sale type.  Tech support is not super knowledgeable or friendly.

They announced analytics like people and vehicle detection?  what is that?  amazon kinesis / agentvi.. hows that work.  you sell analytics, it better work.  who knows???

Monthly fees for a camera system and access to it?  whats the difference if you use it all the time and like it?  sounds ok to me, but when it stops being worthy then we got a problem.

I am really try to concentrate on 5G making the industry think different including myself about what is possible, and cloud cameras and services are hopefully part of the future.

It is nice to see innovation from both parties Meraki / Verkada and money getting pumped into it either way. 

This concept of cameras and service is not for every customer, but I see it good for the less camera count, multi locations for sure.

 

 

 

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I include Vicon’s Valerus in that easy to use category, surprisingly given the company’s dinosaur status.  And the NVR is onsite without recurring fees.

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With regards to Mike and George's discussion mentioning 10 year warranty, I have a question.

What is the value of a 10-year warranty for any video surveillance product? I don't think anyone reasonably believes that a 2019 camera is going to be anywhere near usable / competitive / sensible in 2029? As such, why would that even be valuable? Will they give you a free new (state of the art then) camera 8 years from now or?

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If it’s still functioning and satisfying the usage intent, why wouldn’t it have value to the customer at the 10-year mark?  But the Meraki camera will stop working when the license expires.

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Because 'usage intent' changes with what technology can do. A state of the art IP camera of 2009 is junk by today's standards and would be viewed as not fitting most 'usage intent' of today's users (poor low light, poor WDR, low resolution, storage waste, etc.).

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In our judgement perhaps, but if it’s satisfying the customer’s needs then who cares.  It shouldn’t stop working just because the manufacturer flipped the off switch when the license ran out.

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Just to clarify, the hardware warranty on Cisco Meraki MV cameras is 3 years.

Customer's receive support as long as they have a license for their device. For example a customer can call up with an issue within the first three years and we will fix any software issues remotely, or replace the hardware if it is a hardware issue. If the camera is End of Sale (EoS) then the customer will get the closest equivalent new model. This could potentially offer a huge generational performance improvement in core camera capabilities and features such as ML CV based analytics.

If a customer calls up five years after purchase, but within the license period of the device (say 7 years) they will get support and we will fix any software issues remotely, but if it is diagnosed as a hardware issue they will need to purchase a new device.

Licenses are fully transferable between devices and can be used on any model of camera, including on cameras released after the original purchase. 

One significant benefit of the continued subscription is the improvement of the products existing capability and addition of new features. As an example, customers received "Sensor Crop" as a new feature for cameras they had already deployed.

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As an example, customers received "Sensor Crop" as a new feature for cameras they had already deployed.

in your link, the way Sensor Crop is described is:

Enabling sensor crop allows you to isolate any region from the 4MP sensor and have the camera only record that selection, rather than downsample the raw footage. So, if you select a 1080p-sized frame for your crop, your camera will now only record and stream from that region, but it will do so in full 1080p. This cropping is what results in the zoom.  

Although I can see some possible benefit to live viewing a ROI (ala DropCam’s magic wand), I am at a loss as to what the advantage is of recording a 2MP crop of a 4MP sensor.

Couldn’t a native 2MP sensor deliver the same details on its own?  Sure, you would have to physically move the camera when if you wanted a different FOV, but is that really the only benefit to recording a cropped sensor?

IMHO, it would be better to have a 1080p native sensor because of it’s typically better low light performance than pixel-averaged binning of a 4MP one.

 

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Today, the Cisco Meraki MV cameras don't offer recording at the native resolution of the sensor, the maximum resolution that can be configured is 1080p (1920x1080). Although this restriction may change in the future as we offer more codec options, today this limit is in place to ensure customers can achieve their retention targets.

Sensor Crop allows customers to adjust the FoV on our fixed focal length mini domes, or add additional reach on the varifocal full size domes. It also allows the image to be cropped from any part of the sensor, allowing an image to be reframed without moving the camera lens.

Resolution can give you an indicator of a sensors potential capabilities, but it is not a sure fire way of understanding what it can and can't do. Sensor manufacturers such as Omnivision and Sony don't typically put the newer more sophisticated technology straight into the low end sensors.

In this case, the Meraki MV12/MV22/MV72 4MP sensor has second generation back side illumination (BSI) for improved low light performance. This allows for lower noise at high sensor gain.

As an example, Omnivision announced a 2MP sensor with BSI in October of 2018. As the Meraki Cameras launched in February and November of 2018, it would not have been possible to choose such a sensor. 

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Hi John,

What is the life expectancy of an IP camera?

My belief it is 10-15 years.  I know with analog cameras we were experiencing up to twenty and I might have a couple customers with a few cams from the early 90s still working.

For IP cameras I have a few installations of 100+ cams that I installed circa 2007, most are still running.

Granted technology changes, and on the really older cams the images are poor, but a circa 2015 1080P camera (where 1080P, advanced optics, and H.264) can provide sufficient image quality to endure the test of time for most applications.

When I sell a customer an Axis or Panasonic camera I tell them 10-15 years and feel confident doing so based on my personal experience of working in the industry for over 20 years, but I haven't actually hit the 15 year mark with any IP cameras I installed.

 

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Hi All,

Appreciate the insight this thread provides. I work for Verkada on the sales side and have learned a great deal about the needs of security integrators and IT/Security professionals through these threads. 

Our simple thesis in being closed to integrations with other cameras/VMS is that our architecture allows us to ensure network security and a low bandwidth footprint for our enterprise deployments. We've (by we I mean people smarter than me of course) architected the service to leverage to communicate via open ports with our application. By design, Verkada knows to communicate with our application only. With that - we encrypt everything at rest & transit with the only way of decrypting footage being a unique key assigned at the application level. Further - our cameras only require 10-20KBPS per camera allowing our customers to leverage existing network infrastructure. 

Our system architecture also ensures our service is always up to date with the latest security patches and new features. 

I should also note, we're able to integrate with 3rd party systems that have integration capabilities such as a PoS, Access Control, Active Directory, IdPs, 2-FA, ect. While this is a blanket statement, we will scope integrations based on the API/SDKs a 3rd party vendor supports.

I'd noticed a mention about data storage and consequences of losing a camera to theft or simple failure. We have camera models that store 30, 60, 90, 120 days of 24x7 footage (24 FPS) at the device level with matching cloud backup per camera included. We typically advise that customers schedule backups overnight when the network impact would be minimal to daily business operation. Further - our cameras do detect when someone is attempting to remove a camera from the environment which triggers an auto back up of the event in real time and SMS/Email alerts to admins.

We have an unlimited archive which allows customers to archive footage of incidents indefinitely along with a number of features designed to make finding that potential footage simple.  

Last - our partners don't typically charge monthly. Our hardware is backed by a 10yr warranty and we offer licensing in 1, 3, 5, or 10 years upfront. I'd say the value of the warranty is that while customers may elect to purchase new cameras within 10 years, they're not obligated to do this due to failure. Many of customers find a peace of mind with this and appreciate that purchasing a new camera is a business decision and not a requirement. 

For anyone interested - I've linked live access to our outdoor fisheye camera so you can get a sense of image quality and some very basic functionality. Verkada Outdoor Fisheye

Hope this provides some clarity to interested readers. Appreciate the thoughtful discussion. 

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By design, Verkada knows to communicate with our application only. With that - we encrypt everything at rest & transit with the only way of decrypting footage being a unique key assigned at the application level...

Are you using a home-grown secure transport layer?

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We use 128-bit AES encryption + 2048-bit RSA encryption (two layer) + 256-bit SHA2 HMAC cryptographic integrity checking (to ensure that only authentic and authorized software is uploaded to the camera system)

In transit we leverage Full HTTPS/TSL 1.2 encryption in communication to our servers, though often communicated as SSL in shorthand. 

Step further, we can integrate the application to Active Directory for SSO and we're BETA testing life cycle management to auto provision users based on their AD group/role information as well as de-provision as soon as their access is revoked. Multi Factor Auth is also supported for enhanced access security. 

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Also in full disclosure - I worked for Okta for almost 6 years and I'm certainly biased, but they do provide an excellent service for automating SSO & AD integration (multi forest designs especially), applying 2FA to all cloud/network access points, and automating user life cycle management. 

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Brendan.  How do you get the full 12MP resolution out of your fisheye camera?  

 

Here is the traffic I see from our Verkada and Meraki cameras WITHOUT anyone accessing the camera all day.  

 

 

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"our cameras only require 10-20KBPS per camera allowing our customers to leverage existing network infrastructure."

What is bandwidth when cameras detect motion?

Thank you

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Hi Michael - It looks like a small spike on Verkada at some point in time which indicates someone viewing in SD or perhaps a scheduled backup / archive. I am not sure how to answer the 12MP question. That is a level of technical expertise that goes well beyond my understanding.

 

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No backups where done and no one viewed the camera.   200MB on Verkada vs 14MB on Meraki both without anyone accessing the camera. The question about getting the full 12MP resolution out of the camera is not that technical.  

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Are you seeing any 4684 x 1216, 2432 x 1216, 2432 x 2432 streams?

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Only 2000x1000 or 800x400

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That is so warped ;)

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Doing a bit of quick math - the 108MB upload over 24 hours is inline with our 10-20KBPS per camera. At first I thought the spike was someone on your side pulling footage but it is likely indicating a firmware upgrade. 

Meraki advertises 50KBPS per camera on their website though reverse math on the upload shows the camera was operating at under 1KBPS. 

I multiplied 20KBPS x 60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 and converted to MBPS and divided using the same logic with the Meraki upload. 

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The Meraki website states "Less than 50kbps of metadata streams to the cloud per camera when footage is not being viewed".

50kbps is the design maximum for potential data usage when a camera is in an idle state e.g. no one viewing video. Bandwidth usage depends on the amount of activity a camera sees that leads to generation of motion and ML CV analytics metadata. 

Typically camera's achieve <3kbps of WAN bandwidth usage in an average deployment. A camera seeing hundreds of people a minute will be more than this due to the increase in metadata. I have yet to come across a deployed camera which is close to consuming the design maximum of 50kbps.

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So speaking of all this, I stumbled across an ad somewhere last night. One of the big ISP's here in canada had an offering for "Smart Surveillance".

Kind of surprised me, as I had not been aware Shaw was now installing cameras. A quick look around the web and it seems like they are selling Meraki.

 

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