Verkada Cloud VMS/Cameras Tested

By: Sean Patton, Published on May 02, 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".

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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
  • Country of Origin
  • Pricing

UPDATE: This test was first released on January 28, 2019 but was substantially updated on May 2, 2019.

Executive Summary

Verkada is easy to setup and easy to share video, as they market. However it is missing a number of fundamental VMS features, has limited camera options, and suffers performance issues.

They have received significant funding for a surveillance startup (most recently $40 million), 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.

Most notably, unlike all competitors except for Meraki, Verkada cameras are closed, locking end users to their platform and risking complete loss of functionality if users do not continue to pay the annual fee ($199 MSRP per camera).

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 will re-test periodically.

VMS Strengths

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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
  • Cloud Backup of Video
  • 2-Factor Authentication
  • Instant Video Sharing
  • Low Latency Streaming Options
  • Time Lapse Video Review
  • Per Camera Motion/Throughput/Storage Statistics

VMS Weaknesses

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

  • Significant Compression Artifacts
  • Video Playback Buffering (From camera and Cloud backup)
  • Out of Sync Multi-camera Playback
  • Limited Camera Settings/Configuration
  • Out of Sync Camera Configuration Settings
  • No Standalone Export Player
  • No PTZ support
  • Limited Fisheye Dewarping
  • No third-party access or other integrations
  • Delayed Camera Offline Alerts

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.

Offline/Local Camera Streaming Problems

While Verkada claimed that viewing video direct from cameras without an Internet connection is now supported and "easy to set up", it has not been in our testing.

Enabling Offline Mode required contacting Verkada support (calling or through online chat) and requesting that offline mode was enabled on our cameras. Verkada said that users will be able to enable this feature themselves "in the coming weeks as we take Local Streaming out of Beta".

The bigger challenge is that certificates need to be installed in every machine and every browser that intends to view the cameras locally offline.

Per Verkada install requirements, SSL Certificates were manually installed on Windows and MacOS test machines running Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Firefox worked properly after an update from Verkada, but while using Chrome and Safari browsers the "Local" stream option is availabe in the camera view, however when checking for "Online Connectivity Status" the system returned "Certificate not installed."

We contacted support and they noted known issues with Windows PCs, and noted:

We asked Verkada if they would consider insecure local streaming that would not cause the complication and issues we noted:

We believe our customers require a high level of security and do not plan to support an insecure option.

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.

Cloud Video Backup - High Bandwidth Consumption, No Confirmation

Cloud video backup worked, however, bandwidth consumption was very high (at 5-9Mbps) and they provide no log nor confirmation that video is being backed.

Verkada includes 30-day cloud storage with each camera subscription, however, by default it is disabled. We enabled this on a D40 5MP minidome, backing up video over a week.

Output increased to 5Mbps-9Mbps, from ~100kbps-300kbps before Video Backup was enabled. The interface displays a warning when enabling Cloud Backup, "Enabling cloud backup will consume a significant amount of bandwidth".

There is no log or confirmation that video is backed up, and Verkada Support said there are only 2 ways to check:

  1. Look at "Traffic Out" under Stats and see that the upload is occurring
  2. Disconnect the camera and then play any footage that was uploaded before the camera was disconnected, whihc would indicate the footage has been backed up.

The camera was disconnected, and playback video from Cloud Backup could be reviewed, however, the video backup was 8-9 hours behind the current time. Also, as noted earlier in the test when reviewing video recorded on the camera, cloud backup video stops to buffer every few seconds when using 3x playback speeds (as seen by the spinning play/pause control in the lower lefthand corner):

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.

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).

Instant Video Sharing

A differentiating feature is Verkada's instant video sharing, which performed well in testing, but has some limitations. The feature allows a Site Admin to share a SMS, URL or video embed from a single Verkada camera to any web browser.

The following 2 minute video demonstrates the feature:

The SMS and URL links can be set to expire, and the Video Embed link can be limited to a single web domain (e.g. "*.ipvm.com"). The links can be "revoked" or disabled at any time prior to the programmed expiration.

There is a counter for how many times the link has been viewed, however there is no audit log of who has accessed the video, taken snapshots, or what video they have reviewed because the links are not login secured.

Mapping, multi camera viewing and camera configuration are not supported through the video share link, however people and vehicle search is supported.

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 closed 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.

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):

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:

Camera Setting Synchronization Issues Continue

There is still a significant delay of settings in the camera versus what the interface is displaying, resulting in incorrect configuration options (the live stream is right side up, the Orientation view is upside down, both say "Normal"):

No Standalone Export Player

Verkada offers a single format, MP4 for exporting video. This video format was easy to playback on various devices, however, they provided 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, which facilitate synchronized playback of multiple videos, typically offer digital zoom and snapshots, in addition to playback controls for frame-by-frame review or fast/slow motion playback. Standalone players also include a software video decoder, which means video can be played back on any PC without having to manually install a secondary media player, most commonly VLC. Digital watermarking and password protected encryption are typically 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.

Camera Country of Origin / Huawei HiSilicon Used

The cameras we purchased were manufactured In Taiwan:

We opened a D40 model, and confirmed that it utilizes a Huawei HiSilicon HI3516 SoC:

When asked about concerns of using hardware that is banned for use by the US Government (and Vermont):

Yes - we, like many others in the enterprise security camera market, use HiSilicon chips. However, unlike some OEMs, Verkada's engineering team in the United States owns and develops the full software stack for our cameras all the way down to the code used to boot the device. In addition, none of our cameras are made in China. We have implemented an end to end security architecture into our platform, which ensures all video is encrypted and secure on the device, in transit, and in the cloud. We have also engaged several third party firms to run exhaustive security evaluations of both our hardware and software. These external tests combined with our own internal testing give us the confidence to stand behind the security of our products. As IPVM’s testing showed, our cameras do not accept any inbound network connections and have no open inbound network ports and communicate outbound only to Verkada's Command Platform and NTP time servers.

We are closely watching how the NDAA will be implemented and intend to always comply with all applicable laws.

Note: Most 'enterprise security cameras' from competitors like Avigilon, Axis, Hanwha, etc. do not use Huawei Hisilicon with e.g., Avigilon using no Huawei and the other two manufacturers in their budget offerings.

Vivotek Supplier for Verkada

Shipping records indicate Vivotek is the supplier for Verkada, as the excerpt below shows:

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. In our testing, we have seen these automatic updates work.

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 $1,599 for a 10-year license. Note: On May 1, Verkada increased their prices significantly, in particular, the 'Command' subscription multi-year licenses (e.g., 5-year jumped from $599 to $799 and 10-year jumped from $1,199 to $1,599).

In Depth Camera Test

Comprehensive IPVM Verkada camera testing revealed numerous video quality problems not found in commercial IP cameras. Also we compared Verkada to Axis and Hikvision, and shared Verkada's feedback to our test results.

Problems included:

  • Heavy nighttime detail loss compared to competitors in low light
  • Significant detail loss in daytime scenes compared to competitors
  • Reduced detail in WDR scenes due to artifacts on moving objects
  • Higher bandwidth consumption than competitive cameras

A sample Image from the full test report:

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