Verkada Cloud VMS/Cameras Tested

Author: Sean Patton, Published on Jan 28, 2019

Verkada is arguably the most ambitious video surveillance startup in many years. The company is developing their own cameras, their own VMS, their own cloud management software and their own video analytics, offering what they describe as the "Security Camera System Built for the Modern Enterprise".

We purchased 2 Verkada cameras and VMS licenses, and in this report, we examine Verkada's main strengths and primary weaknesses including:

  • Live and Playback Video Streaming Performance
  • Camera Configuration Capabilities
  • Enterprise VMS Feature Support
  • Secure Remote Connectivity Options
  • Alert/Alarm Notification Performance
  • Third-Party Integration Support
  • Software and Firmware Updates
  • Pricing

Executive Summary

Verkada is missing a number of commonly-used VMS features, has limited camera options, and suffers performance issues. They have received significant funding for a surveillance startup, and will need to address the limitations while adding new features to compete with other cloud-first manufacturers like Eagle Eye, OpenEye and Milestone-backed startup Arcules. Additionally, Verkada cameras are proprietary, locking end users to their platform and risking complete loss of functionality if they fail as a company.

For someone who wants basic remote access, cloud management and no on-premise server/gateway, Verkada is an option. However unlike Eagle Eye and Arcules, Verkada does not utilize the cloud for primary video storage, so if a camera is damaged or stolen, any recorded video on the camera is lost. Additionally, Arcules VMS has the advantage of utilizing of Milestone's code base.

Future Improvements

Verkada will certainly improve as they have only been in development for a few years, working on cameras and VMS simultaneously, while almost all of their competitors have had many more years and generally only working on half of what Verkada aims to do. Of course, we cannot tell how much better Verkada will come but, given the company's aggressive well-funded approach, we plan to re-test when there are sufficient new features added warranting updated testing.

VMS Strengths

The Verkada has several relative strengths coming from their use of camera-based video analytics, Internet connectivity and remote access as key functions of the platform:

  • Remote access
  • 2-Factor Authentication
  • People Detection
  • Cloud Recording Archive and Sharing
  • Time Lapse Video Review
  • Per Camera Motion/Throughput/Storage Statistics

VMS Weaknesses

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Verkada has several fundamental features that are missing or inferior compared to conventional VMSes:

  • Significant Compression Artifacts
  • Video Playback Buffering
  • Out of Sync Multi-camera Playback
  • Limited Camera Settings/Configuration
  • Out of Sync Camera Configuration Settings
  • No Proprietary Export Player
  • No PTZ support
  • Limited Fisheye Dewarping
  • No third-party access or other integrations
  • Delayed Camera Offline Alerts
  • No Access if Internet Is Out

Overview Video

The following 12-minute video overviews the Verkada Web Portal and Cameras, highlighting strengths and weaknesses:

Significant Compression Artifacts

Verkada cameras utilize H265 compression for streaming and recording video. However, the ghosting/doubling of moving objects in live and recorded video was mostly caused by Verkada's automatically configured WDR settings, and are not likely due to high compression in the camera.

The video artifacts are most noticeable when a person is moving across the field of view, and there is a ghost or double image of the person's face:

Verkada said this is most likely due to an automatically configured WDR setting in the camera. However, there is no option for the user to decrease the setting, Verkada support can adjust those settings remotely if the user contacts them.

Video Playback Buffering

Playback video is viewed from onboard camera storage unless viewing video that was previously Archived to cloud storage. Video would typically buffer for 3-5 seconds prior to starting playback, and when using 2x or 3x playback speeds, the video would stop to buffer every few seconds.

Verkada said that system Internet bandwidth is one of their primary concerns, and that support is able to remotely run outbound bandwidth testing from the camera to Verkada servers to determine where the bottleneck is. Again, there is no option for the user to run this test to troubleshoot the issue.

Out of Sync Video Playback

Verkada offers multi-camera playback, however, it is labeled as a "Beta" feature, and did not perform strongly. With only 2 playback streams, and clicking on the timeline to jump to a new time one camera would change to the new time while the second playback stream would be on the original time. There is not an option to synchronize the streams:

Verkada noted that they were aware of this bug and said that because this feature is still beta, they are continuing to optimize it for multiple browsers and Operating Systems, as well as address known bugs.

People Detection Performed Strongly

An additional "Beta" feature is filtering motion alerts based on People Detection. The alerts were effective, in a few hours testing it displayed no false positives. The email alerts send a link to view the video just before the detection playback time:

2-Factor Authentication (2FA) Support Solid

Verkada's 2FA was quick to setup and offers SMS and 3rd-party authenticator support. Verkada only offers per user profile configuration and requires manual configuration for every account. Though 2FA does not secure any VMS from all forms of remote exploit, it can prevent account misuse and prevent malicious users from attempting to access the system (IPVM 2-Factor Authentication Report).

Time Lapse Playback

Verkada offers a time-lapse playback option, which plays an entire day of video back in 30 seconds. It is not helpful for identifying when an individual person walked by the camera, but for identifying when stationary objects like vehicles, tools, or bags were in a location.

However, when previewing the Timelapse Search, Verkada returns some of the days as "unavailable". Once the day is selected the timelapse plays.

Per Camera Storage Statistics

Each camera has 4 Statistics that are viewed for user selectable time lengths (Motion, Online, Traffic Out, Traffic In). However, atypical for most VMSes there is not a summary report or chart for totals for all cameras:

Limited Camera Settings

Atypical for enterprise VMSes with proprietary cameras there are very few camera controls available. There are no options for resolution, frame rate, compression or imager controls (WDR, Brightness, Contrast). There are no options for static IP addresses, or copying setting configuration from one camera to another.

Verkada said they are purposely limiting the configuration options to the minimum levels. They said they will be increasing access to more of the configuration and features as the platform matures.

Out of Sync Configuration

Camera setting changes in the VMS are synchronized automatically with the camera but typically take 10-15 seconds to apply in the camera. It was noted in testing that changing settings during that 10-15 second time frame could result in the camera settings being out of sync with the VMS settings. There is no option for forcing synchronization other than rebooting the camera.

In this example, the VMS reports the image orientation as Normal, while the camera stream is rotated 90 degrees clockwise:

No Proprietary Export Player

Verkada offers a single format, MP4 for exporting video. This video format is easy to playback on various devices, however, they provide no security, watermarking, or tracking of the video once it is exported. Additionally, because Verkada does not have a video file player, there is no multi-camera playback once the video is exported.

Most enterprise VMS platforms provide a video download format with a standalone player. Digital watermarking is typically also an option when using a proprietary video format.

No PTZ / Video Encoder support

There are no controls for PTZ cameras in the web or mobile clients. Verkada does not offer a PTZ or video encoders and said it is not on their roadmap due to low demand from customers.

Limited Fisheye Dewarping

Verkada offers a 12MP fisheye camera (model: D80) that supports camera based dewarping, however, it only offers 180 degree panoramic and 4-Way Split. No unwarped 360-degree fisheye or 360-degree Panoramic dewarp is supported. Also, the 4 views in the 4-Way Split mode cannot be moved or customized:

Verkada said the fisheye is a focus of development updates, and that the views in the 4-way Split are adjustable by Verkada support, but confirmed those controls are hidden in the web UI.

No Third-Party Access Control or Other Integrations

Unlike most enterprise VMSes, Verkada does not support any 3rd party access control or other integrations.

Verkada said they are open to 3rd-party integrations and noted they are in development for video event integration with a few partners.

Delayed Camera Offline Alerts

Verkada supports sending email and SMS alerts when a camera is offline, motion is detected, or camera tampering is triggered. However, the camera offline email alert consistently was received ~20 minutes after the camera went offline:

Motion detection and camera tampering alerts were received within 1 minute of the incidents.

No ONVIF / 3rd Party Camera Support

Verkada does not support ONVIF or direct driver support for any 3rd-party cameras.

DHCP Support Only

Verkada cameras do not support static IP addresses. Verkada recommended using DHCP with MAC reservations if more control over IP address is required.

The cameras also do not currently support IPv6, however, Verkada said that could be enabled through a firmware update and has not been requested by any customers.

Software Updates

Verkada said they automatically update the VMS software, adding features approximately once per month and releasing minor updates and bug fixes weekly. Cameras firmware updates also follow that schedule.

No Access if Internet Is Out

Verkada does not offer local network viewing of live or recorded video. If the installed location loses Internet connectivity:

  • Video will record locally on each camera (following configured schedules)
  • Live and Recorded viewing is unavailable
  • Archived Video loaded in Verkada Cloud Storage is available where Internet is available

Pricing

Verkada sells 4 camera models with variable onboard storage retention amounts (30-days to 120-days):

  • D30: 3MP Indoor Dome with IR, $699 - $1,699
  • D40: 5MP Indoor Minidome with IR, $799 - $1,899
  • D50: 3MP Outdoor Dome with IR, $899 - $1,999
  • D80: 12MP Indoor/Outdoor Fisheye with IR, $1,799 - $2,499 (30 and 60-day option only)

Camera licenses are sold in 1 or multi-year lengths and cost between $199 up to $1,199 for a 10-year license.

Video Latency Variable per Stream Mode

Streaming video in "SD - 300Kbps" mode resulted in a long latency of 6-8 seconds. Switching to "Live Low-Latency" mode, which is labeled as a "Beta" feature, decreased the delay to 2-3 seconds. This lower latency mode is similar to cloud-VMS performance in other IPVM tests (Arcules: 2-3 seconds, Eagle Eye: 2-4 seconds). "HD - 1Mbps" streaming results in a latency between 10-20 seconds.

The resolution for Live and SD streaming modes is 800x600, and 3MP - 5MP in HD mode (depending on the camera model). Verkada said Live mode has a shorter buffer, which can result in more streaming errors with limited bandwidth Internet connections. The Live video stream was measured at ~100kbps, compared to 200-300kbps for SD mode. Verkada said that in addition to the shorter buffer, the Live mode video has a higher compression setting.

Live Low-Latency Streaming (2-3 seconds):

SD - 300Kbps Streaming (6-8 seconds):

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