Verkada Salesman: IPVM "Stuck In A The Stone Age"

By: John Honovich, Published on Apr 25, 2019

Verkada is 'tackling dinosaurs' and battling those, like IPVM, who are 'stuck in a the stone age'.

Verkada's recent sales recruiting promotion centered around the dinosaurs of the security industry:

Screen Shot 2019-03-29 at 7 47 43 PM

And when IPVM dared to buy a Verkada system and spent a week plus testing it, we too were tagged.

An IPVM member was solicited by one of Verkada's massively growing sales team to which the integrator cited our Verkada test report:

While that is not the best way to respond to a sales objection, I laughed. For years, IPVM's critics have been incumbents in the industry unhappy with our critiques of their offerings. Now, evidently, we are the ones stopping Silicon Valley 'innovation'.

Verkada's management responded saying:

This comment certainly does not align with how we view IPVM. We have enjoyed all of our discussions with the IPVM team to date and look forward to working with you in the future.

Problem - Clear - Totally Closed System

The problem is simple and serious. Verkada is a closed system:

  • Unless you continue paying them money every year, the cameras you bought from them turn into paperweights.
  • The cameras Verkada sells are completely closed - no RTSP, no ONVIF, no video API, nothing. It only works when you pay them their subscription.
  • Verkada's cloud system only works with their own cameras - no 3rd party camera support whatsoever (no Axis, no Hikvision, no anything else).

While our test found a variety of other technical problems that are unsurprising for such an early stage product, being locked into a completely closed system is very risky and completely atypical.

Come Get Locked In

In true Verkada fashion, the company brags about that as well:

Maybe we are in the stone ages. Maybe open systems are dead and the future is being locked into Silicon Valley startups. Probably not but...

Comments (80)

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Would definitely prefer to hear technical rebuttals or responses to the shortcomings listed. That IPVM Verkada review seemed very thorough and specific to me.

Sal, we emailed them last Thursday to ask for such a rebuttal. None has yet to be given but we will update if they do.

When I search for IPVM in Google, and ad for Verkada pops up before IPVM.com natural page. I dont think this is a coincidence?

Not interested in squabbles between IPVM and manufactures. This article bring nothing to the table. Next please.

Hi, Ryan! ;-)

The goal is to expose Verkada's culture. The entertainment value that many people will find in it helps to do that.

Single guy in the company is no more than anecdotal evidence about company culture. I would prefer IPVM team not to judge based on it.

That single guy is the Director of Sales.

It clearly says Regional Sales Manager. The Director of Sales made the dinosaur quote which is not directed at IPVM but at the competition.

Their director of sales is openly mocking the industry. Where do you think the RSM gets it?

Still doesn't make him 'that guy'. Is is where the RSM got it? Maybe, maybe not. You simply don't know. But saying the RSM is the Director of Sales of factually wrong.

You are correct the RSM said the stone age quote but you are also missing a lot of back story and posts from the dinosaur slayer himself Ryan. There is no way an RSM is talking like this without the leadership involvement. I recommend you jump on a webex with them so you can hear it all for yourself.

Jonathan,

Verkada's Director of Sales repeatedly has declared that Chinese cameras are dangerous and nasty:

What does that make you?

How about: not someone Verkada is talking about? It's aggresive talk don't get me wrong but in no way do I feel talked about by Verkada, so there is no need to make it look like that.

Verkada, imho, is taking a crack at a market that is open to it. Many installers and intergrators are working in a way that was ok 15 years ago but not anymore.
Not saying I agree with the closed model, but I am not surprised people are trying to take market in a very conservative old fashioned market.

How about: not someone Verkada is talking about?

Really? When did you stop selling 'nasty and dangerous' (according to Verkada) Hikvision cameras and recorders?

Just last month you literally starred in an ad for Hikvision:

I have two things to say to this John

1. I never asked for you to personally drag me into this discussion as subject matter and I don't appreciate it. It comes of very aggresive. Not as aggressive as emailing me I now have been warned etc, but still aggressive.

2. In the quotes you showed Verkada talked about Chinese brands,which could be any Chinese brand and does not aim at me, someone working at a distrbutor in Europe.

Please leave me out of this discussion, I have no intention of being a part of it.

In the quotes you showed Verkada talked about Chinese brands,which could be any Chinese brand

Come on Jonathan, he's talking about Hikvision, here's more:

I literally said:

Please leave me out of this discussion, I have no intention of being a part of it.

I never asked for you to personally drag me into this discussion as subject matter and I don't appreciate it.

I am sure you read it, i would appreciate it if you respect your paying costumers enough to listen now and then.

And you literally said "In the quotes you showed Verkada talked about Chinese brands,which could be any Chinese brand" so I was giving you more quotes to make it absolutely clear he is talking about Hikvision. Thanks for your feedback!

I am amazed John. This is my third (!!) time asking you directly to not further involve me in this discussion and you got from the first two very direct requests is that I would like to told again why you feel I am an idiot and should be angry at Verkada?

Amazing

In case the other request were not clear: please stop trying to involve me in this discussion. Period.

Here's a suggestion for any debate: When you take a position, make sure you can back up that position. In most cases the best plan is to be right when there is a simple fact involved. When it turns out that you are actually wrong, and someone else has pointed that out, and fully backed up their opposing position, the best course of action is to admit that you are wrong.

In this case, you freely entered the discussion and took a position, that position was shown to be incorrect, and now you want to take your marbles and go home. This just makes you look worse. Then a repeated insistence that there is no further mention of the thing you're wrong about makes you look even worse still.

I learned this in my first year of Philosophy and Ethics. If you cannot dispute or refute your opposition's argument you must adopt their position until proven otherwise.

I wish politicians adhered to that rule lol..

Thanks for the feedback Chris. I replied to the RSM not being the same as the director of sales. One could have influenced the other but the quote was not factually correct imo, it was quoted from the RSM directly.

However, at no point did I ask John a question or did I respond to him to trigger a question. He started coming at me which I do not appreciate.

Really? Are you asking to be left alone in a blog that you keep replying to, GET THE GOAT DUDE!

We have been interacting with Verkada for over a year. These three comments from two different employees represent their culture. For example, when we first spoke to their executives, they trashed their competitors, calling them “Windows 95”.

Our experience was similar. Very aggressive sales team.

We had a similar interaction with another one of their sales team. Once he realized they weren't going to get the business the friendly relationship soured pretty quick. We were of the same opinion that the closed system and lack of cameras were a real problem.

When you have no soul and all you are trying to do is sell, sell, sell then you don't care if you lock an organization into a product.

Truth be told this sounds a lot like the dealer programs of the late 90's early 2000's. A dishonest dealer would give away the system to a customer then to come back 3 years later after the contract expired and sell them a new 3 year monitoring contract with different dealer program. I knew many companies that had this practice.

There are tradeoffs to a closed system, but I don't think it's quite extreme as they have no soul.

: )

How did we get to the point where a company records video within the privacy of our property then sells it back to us?

Silicon Valley Innovation. Facebook, Uber, Verkada...

I'm sure someone at Verkada is ringing some kind of bell when you're putting them in that group.

Ryan Young and Austin Trimble (from Eagle Eye) really need to get together. The result would be some truly epic social media posts and boasts.

Clever marketing by Verkada to stay relevant.

Negative press is still good marketing orr so they say.......

IPVM: (Listing of every shortcoming Verkada has)

Verkada response: Oh yeah? Well our marketing director's dad can beat up your Sales VP's Mom.

Doc Holliday - very cosmopolitan

'stuck in a the stone age'

Little Lord Marketing Boy needs to get back to English class.

I prefer to read this and believe that he's italian.

I enjoy the inside look at Verkada culture. If you guy's didn't put out a lot of content, I could understand where some other commenters are coming from.

But since ya'll put out so much good content, I can appreciate fun pieces like this to keep it entertaining. Keep it up!

This post along with the previous post start to paint a pretty clear picture on Verkada. The mismatched responses between the director of sales and other Verkada staff shows there is a completely uncoordinated group behind the scenes. The fake it until you make it sales strategy that is prevalent in Silicon Valley is really out of control.

Silicon Valley Vaporware

Well, in this case it is not vaporware. It's a mediocre product with some novel ideas attached to some horrible vendor lock in. In a couple years the cameras may improve but the lock in will persist. If, for any reason, Verkada shuts down a lot of schools will have very impressive bricks on their ceiling.

To me it like vaporware as it’s just not commercially viable for customer. Typical Silicon Valley hire a bunch of hungry young sales guys to sell your snake oil products and when they run out of inexperienced suckers it will go under and in the meantime the bosses have overpaid themselves and drained all the capital and the shareholders take it in the shorts. Welcome to Silicon Gultch!

Why will they be very impressive bricks? Am I missing something? Are they not just basic crappy cameras?

The only way to view live or recorded video from the camera is through the proprietary Verkada Cloud with an active subscription.

No subscription = no video = brick (or expensive dummy camera)

They cameras are proprietary and can't be used with any other system. If you change your mind or they go under they are junk. The main reason why we didn't go with them.

...but let's take one of their cameras like the indoor dome. They sell it for $700 and it includes 30 days of storage.

Without spending any effort looking into the specs, my guess is that it would be comparable to some $70 camera that HIK sells.

So that's nearly a gross profit on an order of magnitude greater (minus storage costs).

So what's their schtick? Are they just selling on the market ignorance of cloud storage and a VSAAS model or are they delivering something that truly has value?

It's more than a $70 Hik camera in that the Verkada camera is varifocal, has remote zoom and on-board storage included. Also, $700 is the MSRP, not the typical street price.

For sure, Verkada 'equivalent function' pricing is more than Hikvision but the delta is much smaller than the $70 / $700 you indicate.

So maybe a $140 camera (not meant to sound sarcastic either)?

...and Axis would be more like a $400 camera.

...but aside from that I still would like some help to understand their success (other than sales strategy). Why are customers buying? Is it pay over time so no huge upfront cost? Is it cloud storage that has their interest? What is it?

I think a lot of their success comes down to ease of install. They are almost plug and play. Connect the camera to the internet and browse to their interface and take ownership of the camera. They also don't use traditional PC based software, it's all web based and their is no NVR to speak of. They probably make sense for small retail organizations that don't have much of an IT department and are happy with a low monthly fee. If you can find someone to mount it and plug it in you are pretty much ready to go.

Our needs are mostly exterior, large parking lots, sidewalks, storefronts, etc. and we are doing large installations. Verkada's camera offerings were extremely limited, and their proprietary nature was a major problem for us. Honestly, I can't understand why any national organization would consider them other than due to their ease of installation.

I think they have a place in the market but only with small retail outlets, restaurants, etc. Now if they allowed for third party cameras that would change my opinion of them fairly quickly.

from the only stuff I've read here on IPVM I was under the impression their biggest market was large campuses?

I think they have some done some deals with school boards in the US.

We piloted their solution for almost a year and I liked the interface quite a bit to be honest but it had its limitations. Verkada is eerily similar to Meraki's solution. Their interfaces are almost identical. I still don't quite understand how Verkada is able to essentially have the same product as Meraki and Meraki hasn't taken legal action. From what I recall the Verkada sales guy claimed the founders of Verkada were the original founders of Meraki. That might make sense as the camera offerings and interface are almost identical.

For us it came down to lack of camera options and the fact that Verkada was proprietary. If they go tits up or we want to go another direction then we end up with a bunch of cameras we can't use. We went with Eagle Eye and are happy with them so far.

Verkada does have a unique and fast growing camera protocol that is so secure that it is even able to secure the future jobs of their young workforce. The protocol I found is called OTP and I tried hacking my demo camera all day and nothing. Its some really elite super secure crypto-lock fuzzy algorithm stuff that's for sure.

You can read more about the OTP protocol for yourself on wikipedia or just google for One Trick Pony(OTP).

Psst....HIKvision, I know you are here. Why don't you re-roll your camera line with the same concept at half the price? You already have all those LTS stores losing money! Just make a one time license for life subscription as long as you replace the camera every 3 years. HiiiiiYahhh! Weeeyahhh!!! oooooooo!

Just what the industry needs another closed security system with proprietary hardware and software forcing customers into a solution that if they are not satisfied with, then they are out of luck & stuck with. Locking unwilling customers into inferior equipment and software that they have to pay on-going fees is unethical. No good Integrator or Salesperson who looking out for the end user/customers best interest should recommend a completely closed & proprietary system. Lastly, all serious Security Consultants should not recommend a system that is completely proprietary and doesn't comply with any Industry Standards.

Perhaps Cisco can buy them for VSOM fail version 9.0?

Getting Americans to pay monthly for a product is what makes billionaires nowadays. They're trying to be the commercial version of Ring or Nest.

Funny...we got a cold-call from this company, well actually a colleague elsewhere in our company gave them my contact info (j@ck@ss!).

When asked about ONVIF or 3rd party, they said they won’t for cyber security reasons...and referenced an IPVM article. So essentially they’re a Nest camera and trying to sell to enterprises...and lock us in. VERY risky, rather go VaaS with open hardware.

Asked who OEM’s their hardware, rep said they do (@John H - Can you confirm? Country of origin?).

When questioning their cloud service, say they have their own AWS instance but now I’d question Privacy, GDPR etc.

From our initial discussions with Verkada (Rare Video Surveillance Fundraising - Verkada $15 Million):

Verkada responded to questions regarding manufacturing of their cameras:

Verkada uses several trusted Joint Design Manufacturing (JDM) partners in Taiwan as a force multiplier for engineering, manufacturing, and global logistics support. We do not "OEM" off the shelf cameras, and we control the design and manufacturing of all of our products.

We can confirm that the cameras we purchased are labeled as Made In Taiwan:

So maybe Vivotek is making them?

Ok, so out of curiosity I Googled Verkada, first link was to Amazon. $2,000 for their D30 indoor 1080p camera with 120 days cloud storage, and a 1 year license. WTF? So after the first year, you pay another $2k? Wow, who's falling for this crap? Oh and you have to install it...

With Verkada is the license locked to the camera? What happens when the current cameras are obsolete in 5 years and you want higher resolution (that is if Verkada can keep of the with the dinosaurs higher resolution cameras). Do you have to buy a another licnese?

With Verkada is the license locked to the camera?

No. The terms of sale state:

Customer must purchase a License to the Software for at least the number of Hardware units it manages with the Software.

Interesting that they refer to their cameras as 'hardware units'. Those cameras have software on them but evidently purchasing the cameras alone gives no right / license to it. I emailed Verkada yesterday asking them for clarification on this point.

Crickets...

Verkada: Intro to Hybrid Cloud Video Security [webinar]

Greetings,

Interesting webinar. I think there were some broad assertions made that were highly inaccurate. I think you are targeting a specific market and I understand your approach but misrepresenting facts will only hurt your credibility particularly among the more educated prospective clients and partners.
<... reply>
HI Troy,
We appreciate your candor. Can you kindly elaborate on what inaccurate assertions were made? This will potentially help our approach, moving forward.
<... reply>

Gentlemen,

My two primary concerns pertain to the Gartner and Forrester references regarding the introduction of the highest risk devices (NVR / DVR, etc.) into a client's environment. The issues surround Dahua, for example, are well known and I couldn't agree more. That said, overgeneralizing knows issues of specific OEMs, vendors, and platforms and suggesting this is the case across all platforms is simply a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Likewise, I'm curious about the assertion that Axis and Avigilon delivery at a 10% success rate on their promises whereas Verkada makes conservative promises and over delivers. I'm not about to debate success and / or failure rates. Firstly, because the specific technology was not explicitly stated so I'm not even clear on the topic in that part of the discussion. If the comments were made regarding analytics (presumably that was the case?) I am well aware of our customer successes. Regardless, I am curious about what studies were referenced. Was this posted, for example by IPVM or respected security trade rags? I'd like to review the sources for my own edification.

Thank you for the initial reply. Much appreciated.

<... reply>

[Nothing. Zip. Nada. Crickets.]

Troy, to confirm, did Verkada really make this claim about Axis and Avigilon:

I'm curious about the assertion that Axis and Avigilon delivery at a 10% success rate on their promises whereas Verkada makes conservative promises and over delivers

What do you think they meant by this 10% 'success rate'?

John - Unequivocally, yes. Again, it was a very broad claim and as such I inquired about the specifics.

"I'm not about to debate success and / or failure rates. Firstly, because the specific technology was not explicitly stated* so I'm not even clear on the topic in that part of the discussion. If the comments were made regarding analytics (presumably that was the case?) I am well aware of our customer successes. Regardless, I am curious about what studies were referenced. Was this posted, for example by IPVM or respected security trade rags? I'd like to review the sources for my own edification."

I requested clarification and specifically asked if they were referring to analytics and received nothing. The emails were exchange 3/21 and pertaining to their webinar 3/20, 1 PM.

Regards.

A similar industry, the building automation industry suffered the same issues years ago. I am a controls engineer and dealt with this problem constantly. My clients would go against my advice and select proprietary solutions because they were the least expensive and on more than a few occasions, would come back to me later telling me their inexpensive BAS solution while having a low CAPEX ended up costing them a lot more due to the high OPEX.

In those days ('80's, '90's and early 2000's) it was a fairly common marketing practice to see manufacturers with deep pockets drop the margins to very low levels (in some cases I think they dropped to below cost) and make up the difference on service contracts for their proprietary products. ASHRAE addressed this issue through the development of the BACnet standard (the BAS equivalent to ONVIF) and consulting engineers begin to enforce BACnet compatibility through their specifications. In the intervening years, I think the commercial controls industry has become more competitive and innovative as a result. I definitely recommend against other consulting engineer and integrators providing proprietary products because ultimately end users and clients will pay more.

Good luck!

This whole company seems like Silicon Valley Start-Up Incubator Accelerator Buzzword Hype HashTag Bro Formulaic S-Corp Feedback Loop and it rubs me the wrong way.

How do they source the actual product? The actual stuff that matters? Is this another "Millions on Marketing and $Tens on product from Shenzhen" ?

I wonder if anyone from Verkada has been to their product's factory? How are the makers being paid and in what condition is their work environment? Has the company ever mentioned these things?

All in all, whether we want to admit it or not, the edge recording angle and "NO DVR/NVR" is turning heads and getting some business.

If I were a prospective buyer, I'd be much more concerned about this Silicon Valley startup being around to honor the 10 Year Warranty on my proprietary cameras! If they even last half that long!

Ask yourself: "What piece of storage technology do I own & use regularly that is 10, 7 or even 5 years old?" Your PC? Your tablet? Your USB HDD? Flash drive? Your home cable/SAT DVR? Definitely not your phone.....

Pretty sure there was a meeting in a conference room at Verkada prior to funding:

Product manager: "there's no way those HDD's in the camera will last 10 years!"

VP: "who cares, we won't be around to deal with it......worry about the valuation!"

They are SSD drives but the 10-year warranty is a bit of brilliance. The cameras don't work unless you continue to pay them so if in year 7 they fail, either 2 outcomes: (1) They don't use them anymore so they won't need to be replaced / repaired or (2) They do use them and the customer will still need to spend $199 or whatever they charge per year for subscription in 2026. Win/win for Verkada.

they are running aggressive sales strategy. I believe that like many startups in silicon valley, their goal is to get as many subscribers as possible to "make an exit" selling the company or IPO.

Product quality and long term relationships are not important for them.

hiring sales people not from the industry shows how they think..... sell, sell, sell, today. no one cares for tomorrow.

they are trying also to jump on the RMR wagon with installers, I am not sure if they will not go directly to the installer's customer, with such hard sale strategy.

reminds me "Chinese marketing tactics"

Their marketing at local trade shows is pretty aggressive too.

#4, you're killing me! And I can't believe I have to say this, but that image is a parody, it is not an actual Verkada ad.

This is, I believe, a YouTube series, e.g., below Change My Mind "There are Only 2 Genders"

Edit: Also, there is 'change my mind meme' generator online for those aspiring comedians....

I laughed out loud when I saw this picture.

I see the closed model as a horrible idea. I won't even buy a doorbell camera that won't let me have full access to the video. Even if I was doing installs, I wouldn't use systems that limit customers ability to freely use the video of their premises without an ongoing fee. The possible reality of funding cutbacks on the customer side, or the failure of Verkada as a company, resulting in a bunch of useless bricks hanging around should mean that this closed model is appealing to pretty much no one.

Given that most of the well established players offer open standards and open access, it appears that Verkada's customers must be the ones stuck in the Stone Age.

I completely agree. Sadly though consumer spending seems to go the way of least resistance...and yes business is a little different because they take more into consideration but when it boils down to it they are consumers making the decisions.

So as a service provider we have figure out where we draw a line in the sand at the intersection of what's best for our customers our business profitability.

I recently read the quip: where there is confusion there is profit. I don't remember where...could have been on here in that great article I recently read.

I think of that quote when thinking of Verkada's rise.

that was one hell of a fight between these two !! LOL Jonathan and John !!!! ::))

This industry is clearly still in its infancy stages 10 years from now like 2030 everything will be much standardized and compartmentalized, the thing is, as everything in life our final resolve or goal is making that profit, That cheddar, That nugget, That blink blink .. No Matter what !!

Maybe we are in the stone ages.

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