The First Windows Based IP Camera - Genius or Crazy?

By: IPVM Team, Published on Mar 28, 2013

Essentially all IP cameras are Linux/Unix based. Plus, momentum continues to shift to non Windows platforms, like Android. Despite this, one surveillance startup, ISD, is taking a contrarian approach - releasing a new line of IP cameras that run instead on Windows. Indeed, they won the ISC West 'Best in Show' award for 2013. In this note, we examine what they are doing it, why they believe it will work and what pros and cons exist.

Update: Judges Explain 'Best in Show' Award

"Affordability and innovation” were what what put ISD’s camera on top, said the judges at an ISC West forum explaining their pick. High price “limits where [a product] can be deployed ... as prices come down, it can widen the application of that product,” they said.  

Here’s what some of the judges at the forum had to say on innovation:

  • Deborah O’Mara [link no longer available], Security Dealer & Integrator Magazine Editor-in-Chief: “The fact that it could run Windows is innovative and a sign of what is to come in the industry.”
  • Mark Peterson [link no longer available], Principal, MC Peterson & Associates LLC: “As more devices are deployed across a network, security vendors and users depend on IT more and more. The ease of IT to work on devices on the network is important. Now the camera is like one of the other devices on their network and having Windows allows communication between those devices. We felt like that was the best product because it’s a game-changer in how cameras are deployed on the network.”
  • Said another judge: “It may not be as great as others but for the price paid for it, it’s a great image and that's innovative.”

ISD says the idea for the camera came from the desire to help IT and security departments work together. The company hopes it can help increase collaboration between both. 

There were 86 entries from 66 companies in the New Product Showcase. In categories with no winners, no one entered 

Background

Innovative Security Design (ISD) was founded in 2012 by the former CTO of IQinVision. Their first camera line, Jaguar, offered fairly traditional feature sets of high end megapixel cameras, with the most notable differentiator being their integration of 2 micoSDXC card slots, supporting up to 512 GB on board storage.

The new line, supporting Windows, is named the NetSeries. The first product to be released in this series is the MiniBall NDV-AF-1080P [link no longer available]. While it has an integrated zoom lens and is true day/night, the 2 most distinguishing features of the NetSeries is the use of Windows Embedded Compact 7 [link no longer available] (formerly called CE) and a "Dedicated Dual Core Cortex A9 processor with 1GB of RAM for Analytics processing." In the future, ISD will expand the series to other form factors.

Pricing: While pricing is not finalized, it is expected to be premium price, at or perhaps above Axis P series domes.

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[UPDATE: Genetec's LPR system / camera also runs Windows.]

Why?

ISD claims 3 main benefits of using Windows:

  • Enables deeper, easier integration with Microsoft security and administrative services (e.g., ActiveDirectory, patch management, etc.).
  • Allows Windows VMS applications (dominant approach in surveillance) to run inside / 'on board' ISD's cameras to enhance edge storage / recording.
  • Simplifies running video analytics that are optimized / built for use on Windows.

While Linux clearly has a better reputation for IT security, ISD notes 3 potential issues with this:

  • IP cameras are not usually hardened for security flaws. 
  • Holes are found and patched all the time, yet Linux distributions used in IP cameras rarely get patched. 
  • Many cameras are based on reference code by a few chip manufactures, so if you find a flaw in one camera, you likely have access to everyone using that same chip.

Pros and Cons

The biggest pro is clearly addressing the underserved Microsoft ecosystem. While Microsoft continues to lose its luster overall, the company is still huge and counts many mega corporations as strong, if not loyal, customers. For a startup, this will certainly help to make ISD's name known and open doors into very large opportunities. Equally important, this is not a feature that incumbents can or would easily match, given their existing product offerings and questions over how big this market might be.

The information security benefits are more challenging to accept. On the one hand, for organizations that standardize on Windows management infrastructure and want all devices on the network to use that, this camera has a unique selling proposition. This is roughly equivalent to the concerns / issues that drove many to move to Windows based VMS software rather than black box DVR appliances. One common problem this could help eliminate is the tendency for many to leave default passwords on IP cameras, as integration into Active Directory would solve that. On the other hand, actual exploits of professional IP cameras are not common. While there may be theoretical issues to exploit, we do not see a track record of real cases that would drive adoption.

Running Windows based VMS and analytics inside has potential though the market is certainly shifting to support non Windows platforms. For instance, Milestone just announced a new non Windows platform, Exacq has always been able to do so, and Genetec has integrated edge storage with a number of Linux based IP cameras. Plus, we expect more competitors to do the same. On the other hand, still most are Windows only, giving ISD a technical advantage of adding support for a variety of options.

Overall, we think this is a smart bet for a startup. While it is unlikely to be a mass market offering, it could be very appealing to a select group of very large end users.

2015 Update - No Progress

ISD was acquired by Digital Watchdog. Since then, no progress has been made on its release / distribution.

2 reports cite this report:

'Best In Show' Fails on Apr 19, 2018
ISC West's "Best In Show" has failed. For more than a decade, it has become increasingly irrelevant as the selections exhibit a cartoon level...
FLIR Buys Camera Manufacturer ISD from DW on Jun 07, 2016
FLIR has made yet another acquisition, following up on last year's DVTel deal, FLIR has acquired ISD from Digital Watchdog. In this report, based...
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