Ubiquiti UniFi Pro Video Surveillance

By Ethan Ace, Published May 13, 2014, 12:00am EDT

In 2011, Ubiquit got the attention of the video surveillance industry with their launch of sub $100 HD IP cameras, a breakthrough level at the time.

In the interim, Ubiquiti was distracted by a counterfeiting crisis. Now beyond that, they have returned with a new generation of IP cameras, called UniFi video.

This note examines the positioning, pricing and whether Ubiquiti can challenge the Chinese manufacturers for low cost IP video offerings.

UniFi Video Overview

Previously called AirVision, Ubiquiti has renamed their video line UniFi Video and released a new generation of cameras. The line includes three cameras and an NVR:

 

  • UniFi Video Camera [link no longer available]: Compact indoor/outdoor bullet, fixed 3.6mm lens, integrated IR, $139 USD
  • UniFi Dome [link no longer available]: Recess mount indoor minidome, fixed 1.96mm lens, integrated IR, $139 USD
  • UniFi Video Camera Pro [link no longer available]: Full size bullet, 3-9mm motorized zoom lens, integrated IR, $469 USD
  • UniFi NVR [link no longer available]: Preloaded compact mini PC, specified to handle up to 50 cameras and ~320 Mb/s throughput, $329 (see our original analysis of this NVR and AirVision 2.0)

These cameras, like previous models, are officially compatible only with their own NVR and software. ONVIF is not supported (by either their cameras or NVR). RTSP integration of cameras to third party VMSes may work but is not officially supported by Ubiquiti.

All models are currently shipping to Ubiquiti's distributors. Pre-orders are available now.

Key Strengths

These are the key strengths of the Ubiquiti UniFi Video line:

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  • Free software: Though the UniFi NVR may be purchased pre-installed, their software may also be installed on COTS PCs at no cost. There are no limitations in number of sites or channel counts when run on third-party hardware. Servers are limited only by how much throughput they can handle.
  • Cross-platform client: The UniFi Video client software is web-based and designed to run on any OS. 
  • Low cost: Pricing of the UniFi Video line is attractive, approximately similar to low cost manufacturers such as Dahua and Hikvision, and much lower than the bulk of the industry.

In our discussions with Ubiquiti, they emphasized NVR efficiency and user interface improvements as key strengths in UniFi Video. However, these are obviously of interest to those using Ubiquiti's recording software or NVR in an end-to-end solution. We have not tested the current version of their software so cannot comment on either of these aspects.

Key Weaknesses

There are several key limitations to the UniFi Video line as well:

  • Limited camera lineup: While the addition of integrated IR and a motorized zoom model addresses some weaknesses found in the original AirCam line, with only three models the UniFi Video line is still limited by most manufacturer standards. No options are given for multiple resolutions in each form factor, no outdoor domes are offered (which many end users may prefer), and there are no vandal resistant options available, all limiting factors in many installs.
  • Not meant for third party/open systems: Without ONVIF support, Ubiquiti's camera line is most likely to be installed only by current Ubiquiti resellers who prefer to stick with their product line. Integrators selling other recording platforms likely will not find enough benefit to the UniFi Video platform to switch from their current preferences. RTSP streaming is a step, as it was not available in their original AirCam line, but this is not preferred in production deployments.
  • Low cost competition: While UniFi Video's pricing is low compared to many camera manufacturers, manufacturers such as Dahua and Hikvision offer options at similar, if not lower, prices. These manufacturers are also supported by third parties (either directly or via ONVIF) and offer a broader line without the limitations listed above.

Potential Impact

With limitations on third-party VMSes and similar pricing from large incumbents, we expect this release to have modest impact industry wide. For Ubiquiti's base of resellers, which is sizable and notably loyal, improvements such as integrated IR and a motorized zoom option are attractive upgrades.

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