Physical Security Archives - Verkada

How to Write an RFP for a Video Security Installation

In some cases, a new video security installation will begin with a request for proposal (RFP). This is especially true in the public sector. For many enterprises, crafting the RFP will be the first time they lay out the entirety of a project in a single, overarching document.

This endeavor should be conducted as a joint effort between IT, security, facility managers and other key personnel as the organization advances its plan to purchase a video surveillance system.

While the process of drafting an RFP is routine for those with experience, others struggle when it comes to properly preparing the document. The details and formatting standards can be confusing, particularly when the project is highly technical and it is the organization’s first time soliciting bids for video security.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. While each proposal process is unique, adhering to the guidelines laid out below can help create an RFP that will be suited to any organization’s video security specifications.

Review Public Video Security RFPs

The best way to start out, especially for organizations crafting their first RFP, is by looking at some examples. Because public institutions (including many local governments and schools) are often required to create a formal proposal, there are many available to review.

The four listed below represent a few recent video security RFPs, which can be used as models:

As evidenced by these examples, a typical RFP is at least a dozen pages and larger projects can lead to significantly longer documents. But the objective is not to get the document to a certain length. Instead, aim for a complete breakdown of the project needs and expectations, formatted in clear manner.

This should be done by subdividing the document into separate categories. These sections won’t cover every single aspect of a surveillance installation, but each key section listed below should be incorporated into a final RFP.

Background

After creating a cover page with identifying information and a table of contents, the first main section of the document should describe the overall scope and vision of the project. This is necessary so that anyone responding to the RFP will have a full understanding of the current security environment.

Include details about all the different sites that will require video security and the nature of any pre-existing surveillance technology. Be specific, listing the make and model of cameras and other equipment that are already in operation. If there is no established pre-existing structure, note that as well.

For the locations themselves, be sure to also lay out everything, including the address of each property and any distinguishing features. Network capabilities at the sites and any technology-related issues that might be relevant to an installation should also be communicated.

Overall, this an opportunity to identify all of the places that will need to be covered by the plan. Some elements will likely be adjusted in consultation with the selected provider, but try to include as much information as possible about the what and the where.

Objectives

While the first section is about logistics, this category should highlight the goals that need to be accomplished. Don’t focus on technological details or a specific number of cameras. But at the same time, don’t be overly vague.

Simply stating an objective, like “increasing security,” is not enough. Yes, thinking about the larger purpose is essential. But drilling down into distinct needs, such as “complete coverage of all entrances” or “parking lot monitoring,” is equally important.

Ultimately, the specifics of the project will be based upon these high-level objectives. So work closely with all the stakeholders in operations, IT and each facility to pinpoint the most pressing security goals.

In its RFP for an IP security camera solution last year, Wyoming’s Fremont County School District #1 outlined its aims succinctly while acknowledging that it would need further consultation with experts to determine the end result.

“The Fremont #1 School District is seeking to replace a collection of old, standalone, disparate, proprietary security camera systems with a single, unified, modern system,” stated its RFP. “The total number of cameras needed is not set. The district is looking for a reasonable recommendation and discussion between a qualified vendor and the district.”

System Requirements

This section should provide the most detail. Primarily, it will stipulate what technology specifications are necessary.

As video surveillance technology has evolved in recent years, the cloud has become an increasingly important factor in selecting a security camera system. So along with other specs, indicate any preference the organization has for using a modern, cloud-based system or a traditional setup that requires a central network video recorder (NVR) or digital video recorder (DVR). Many vendors have already moved to the cloud and some organizations are highlighting their desire to go that way as well.

“Preference will be given to ‘cloud-based’ camera systems that do not require the presence or management of any onsite hardware (other than cameras), the installation and maintenance of onsite software and/or proprietary software to manage cameras, or the configurations of firewall exceptions to allow offsite access,” stated Fremont County School District #1 in its RFP.

After addressing the core makeup of the system, highlight the other necessary specs. Are capabilities like motion detection and night vision appropriate? What level of remote access is expected? Are there minimum retention times for footage? What resolution and frame-per-second rates are required? What security protocols must be imposed?

As these determinations are made, be sure to evaluate how the new system will align with pre-existing infrastructure. This was a crucial factor for the City of Cleveland Department of Public Safety in its 2016 plan to expand video surveillance. “All video surveillance extension equipment must be capable of being integrated into the existing video management system (NICEVision),” stated the document, crafted by the city’s department of public safety.

Scalability is another key consideration. Vendor experts can offer recommendations for how many cameras each location needs. But organizations should also include an estimate, and note any expansion plans that will require the installation of additional devices. Will that number increase over time as the organization expands? All of that is information that should be considered and detailed in this section.

Beyond the technology and size of the project, this part of the RFP is also an opportunity to address longer-term system administration, support, maintenance and any special circumstances that could pose challenges for the installation. A final aspect to include here is the level of cybersecurity that will be mandated across the network and how it will be managed.

Sample Questions

As explained above, the aim of an RFP is to provide a general overview of the project along with enough specifics for suppliers to understand what is needed.

In addition to the other aspects, consider asking the following technology-focused questions of potential vendors as part of the process:

  • Does the system allow cloud services be utilized for archiving purposes?
  • Does the system require the installation of a server, port forwarding or open firewall ports to enable remote access or storage?
  • Is footage downloadable in MP4 or other standard formats?
  • What bandwidth does the system utilize?
  • Does the system provide manageable user accounts?
  • Does the system provide analytics (including usage and up-time data)?
  • Is there an automatic footage upload if the camera is moved, hit with an object or the image is blurred?
  • Does the system provide additional tamper resistant protections?
  • Does the system automatically provide notifications if it goes offline?
  • Does the system possess a self-contained power supply backup?
  • Does the system require setting up a VPN connection?
  • Does the system utilize any unencrypted protocols (e.g., RTSP streams) or make any unencrypted connections?
  • Does the system support two-factor authentication (2FA)?

This list is merely a small selection of some of the relevant factors to take into account. Additional questions and considerations can be found in Verkada’s Security Vendor Evaluation Checklist.

Budgeting and Pricing

Cost should never be the only determinant, but the final price tag will obviously be one of the biggest differentiators between the bids an organization receives. After laying out the entirety of the project—from background and objectives, to system requirements and detailed questions—providing potential video security vendors with some guidance on how to formulate their proposal can also be beneficial for both parties.

This likely won’t be the first time these vendors will be responding to an RFP. But it can help to request that all solicitations be broken down into categories such as hardware, software, installation, maintenance, training and other expected costs.

Be sure to also consider the timeline of the installation and any future services that will be delivered. This will ultimately depend upon how the project’s budget is structured. But ask for cost expectations in subsequent years if the vendor will provide ongoing operations, maintenance and training services, or if the installation will conducted in phases.

And because deadlines are important to the enterprise, make that clear to the vendor as well. Ask that all bids include projected dates by which each task will be completed (in terms of days, weeks or months) after the contract begins.

Selection Process

Most vendors that submit a proposal will understand that they are just one of several companies in the running. Nevertheless, the RFP should outline how the selection process will be conducted, including a forecasted timeline if one has been established.

This doesn’t need to be overly specific. But it should provide something in the way of expectations. If nothing else, this should be included for legal reasons.

In its 2016 surveillance system RFP, the Fountain Valley Police Department in California crafted a clear, concise statement that provided all the necessary information.

“The Fountain Valley Police Department Selection Committee will review all proposals received by the submittal deadline and will then narrow the number of acceptable vendors down to a short list of semi-finalists based upon the best overall fit and compliance to the RFP requirements,” stated the department. “Using subsequent interviews, demonstrations, reference checks and site visits, the city will select a vendor.”

Definition of Terms and Conditions

One final thing to consider is adding a section that defines the terminology used throughout the RFP. This provision is helpful to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Add a few sentences of context to what is meant by terms like “Consideration of Proposals,” “Contract Award Process” and “Supplemental Agreements.” This language should be crafted with the assistance of legal counsel, and other potential elements to include can be found in some of the example RFPs included above.

It may also be useful to explicitly list any “Mandatory Requirements,” for the bidders to meet. This should also be done alongside an attorney knowledgeable about state and local laws such as permitting, insurance and compliance.

In its proposal, Jefferson City Schools, for example, listed the the following requirements: the “contractor must be licensed to perform all elements of this contract in the state of Georgia,” and the “contractor must not currently be suspended or debarred from any governmental contract or have been so within the past five years.”

Crafting a Comprehensive Video Security RFP

In most cases, the more comprehensive the RFP, the better outcome in terms of final video security installation. There are many critical considerations any enterprise must make before selecting a vendor, and the best practice is to address as many of these upfront as possible.

Trying to include literally every component of a video security system in an RFP, however, is not only impossible, but counterproductive. The broad goal is to communicate both the big-picture needs and the absolute must-have details. As the right partnership moves forward, additional issues will come up and certain specifications will be altered during the consultation phase. In other cases, organizations will receive bids from vendors that can offer advanced and proprietary technology that they didn’t even know was available.

So the best bet is to be as thorough as possible, without spending an entire year putting together the proposal. After all, any reputable, modern vendor will come to the table with ideas of their own on exactly how an organization can be best served.

With an RFP that follows the basic outline described here, any project can get off to a great start—putting the organization on track to find a solution that serves it well, both now and long into the future.

To learn more about selecting the right vendor and solution, check out our latest eBook: How to Choose the Right Video Security System for Your Organization.

Introducing Heatmaps and Bounding Boxes: Cameras as a Sensor

We are excited to introduce Heatmaps and Bounding Boxes as part of the Command software platform. With these features, your Verkada security camera becomes a sensor that can plot the location and duration of people and vehicles in a frame. Both of these features are layered on top of our History Player, giving users the ability to summarize hours of data quickly and jump to a specific segment of interest.

When combined with People and Vehicle Detection, Heatmaps and Bounding Boxes provide a rapid way of identifying periods of interest from a camera’s stream. Heatmaps enable a high-level overview of when and where human activity was detected within the History Player’s timeline. Then, a user can quickly scrub through footage using Bounding Boxes and the Motion Bar to pinpoint the precise time of an event. Once identified, users can simply click to view or archive high-definition video of the event.

Heatmaps

With Heatmaps, users can create on-demand visualizations of how their space is being utilized. This feature can be implemented on any Verkada camera over a configurable time period—providing retailers, healthcare providers, school administrators, and hospitality companies (among many others) with insights into space planning, staffing levels, customer behavior or advertisement effectiveness.

Verkada’s heat-mapping solution is unique in that it only plots the movement of people and vehicles. By eliminating background motion from lighting or weather changes, Verkada’s Heatmaps feature filters out false positives.

This feature is particularly interesting for users who need to assess staffing levels or consider the layout of their physical space. Examples of how organizations take advantage of it include:

  • Retailers employing Heatmaps to understand shoppers’ behavior and identify the highest-traffic locations in their stores. With that data, they can appropriately place products, create signage and optimize their store layout. Some are modifying cashier or even cleaning schedules based on Heatmaps data.
  • Users in the restaurant and hospitality industries applying Heatmaps to evaluate staffing levels across different periods of service and to design their reception and bar areas for optimal customer flow.

Bounding Boxes

Last year, Verkada released Vehicle and People Detection. We received so much positive feedback on the feature that we decided to expose how our computer vision algorithm is processing video streams to detect people, vehicles and other objects. In the Command platform, Bounding Boxes show by default. People and vehicles are outlined, making it easy to understand how the vehicle and people counts are generated.

How Do These Features Work?

Verkada’s computer vision models analyze the thumbnail images sent to the cloud to identify people or vehicles. When a person or a vehicle is recognized, that location is outlined in the frame with a Bounding Box. Selecting Bounding Boxes from the display shades people in green and vehicles in yellow for easy identification.

Heatmaps are generated from the same source data. Bounding Boxes are summarized and projected onto the ground. When a user selects Heatmaps, the Command software aggregates each person or vehicle detected to calculate the intensity of color displayed on the thumbnail preview. The colors range from red (where the human activity is most intense), to yellow (medium intensity), to green (least intense). Colors are normalized to allow for comparison across time periods. Heatmaps are generated for a configurable time window—from 20 seconds to 4 hours.

Enabling Heatmaps and Bounding Boxes

If you are a current Verkada customer, you can try out Heatmaps on the History Player page. Select the time period you would like to use and click on Heatmaps. There is no need to enable Bounding Boxes, they are viewable by default in History Player. Step-by-step instructions can also be found in our Knowledge Base.

We’re excited to launch the Heatmaps and Bounding Box features for our customers as a way to make it easy to summarize and display the complex visual data that our cameras process. We’re eager to hear how you use them to make your locations even more safe, efficient and productive.

Want to learn more? Get a 20-Minute Demo and see how Verkada can help your organization modernize its approach to physical security.

New Jersey Will Soon Award $500 Million in School Safety and Improvement Grants

Over the past year, many state and local governments have passed funding initiatives to improve school safety. Verkada has been paying close attention to these developments. This is the first in a series of blog posts, designed to provide information about how schools in different states will be upgrading physical security using this influx of public money.

New Jersey is one of many states that has committed major resources to school safety. Last November, voters in the Garden State approved a $500 million bond initiative. The Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act (NJ S2293) that will help fund education, including $350 million specifically earmarked for school security projects and county vocational schools.

The large public expenditure only accelerates a nationwide trend playing out across large states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan and Florida—the site of a massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, which motivated many legislatures to act.

“These funds would allow New Jersey’s public schools to get cameras, stronger doors that can be used for fortification and better ways to keep our students safe,” State Senator Steve Oroho told the New Jersey Herald before the vote.

While half a billion dollars is a major financial outlay, the total came up short of what many Congress members wanted to allocate. Lawmakers originally passed a $1 billion bill, but Democratic Governor Phil Murphy, arguing that borrowing costs would exacerbate an already-high debt burden, used a conditional veto to cut the amount in half before it went to the ballot.

Nevertheless, the governor stressed the need for increased security at schools when advocating for the measure. “School safety and the world we live in, we can’t ignore that,” said Murphy.

The final initiative passed by a small, but clear, majority, with 53% of voters (representing 1.13 million people) approving the bond. In addition to school safety, it will provide $100 million to improve water infrastructure at various institutions and another $50 million for community colleges.

Additional School Security Funding

In addition to the Securing Our Children’s Future Act, Governor Murphy recently signed another piece of legislation to double school security funding at private schools in New Jersey. Known as Assembly Bill No. 4597, the law appropriated $11.3 million from the Department of Education’s general fund that will raise security aid from $75 to $150 per student, according to NJ Insider.

“A primary and essential function of government is providing security for our residents,” said State Senator Joseph Lagana, a sponsor of the bill. “Nothing could be more important than protecting our children and ensuring parents have peace of mind and full confidence that their schools are equipped to keep students safe.”

Voters have moved to support other initiatives at the local level as well. The Maple Shade School District, for example, passed its own school improvement initiative late last year. The bulk of the newly allocated $49.7 million will go toward building classrooms at Maude Wilkins Elementary School and a gym at Maple Shade High School, among other renovations. But the plan will also fund new security vestibules and interior doors at district schools.

Making Video Surveillance a Priority

Lawmakers in New Jersey have highlighted many different ways for schools to improve safety through the Securing Our Children’s Future Act. Along with stronger doors, access control systems, alarms, screening methodology (like x-ray scanners), increased personnel, and other technological innovations, Congress members have also cited surveillance cameras and monitoring solutions as critical elements to increasing security.

Vigilance is vital in an active-shooter situation. Preventing access to school buildings, through better locks and entry procedures, is always a priority. This is one of the first ways that many schools in the state are expected to implement the funding. But video security systems also greatly help officials monitor the facility’s surroundings for suspicious activity. And if those external lines of defense are ever breached, having a real-time view throughout the premises is invaluable for law enforcement and others working to end the crisis.

Verkada Solutions Help Improve School Safety

Verkada’s cloud-based surveillance cameras have become the leading choice of many enterprises. These modern, full-featured devices are praised by end users for their simplicity, quick installation and ability to retain up to 120 days of footage.

Such features are especially beneficial in the world of education. While most corporations employ large, sophisticated IT departments, public schools rarely have that luxury. So in this environment, using a solution with a simple setup, user-friendly software and minimal maintenance can be a literal lifesaver.

There is also another key benefit to consider: Verkada offers specialized pricing for individual schools and school districts.

Looking (and Planning) Ahead

When it comes to keeping kids safe, New Jersey has spoken. The world has grown increasingly perilous for students of all ages. And with hundreds of millions of dollars now in play, schools across the Garden State would be wise to begin formalizing their proposals now.

This means prioritizing the top ways to upgrade security—through adding video surveillance, implementing access controls, increasing personnel or by other means. Those planning to apply for funding should start researching the appropriate vendors, formulating cost estimates and determining how long any potential projects might take to complete.

Full details of the Securing Our Children’s Future Act grant application process have not yet been announced. But they are sure to emerge soon, and Verkada will be closely following any developments. So please check back often for all the latest about the school safety improvements to come in New Jersey and other states across the nation.

To see how Verkada’s specialized pricing can help your school or district protect students with advanced video security, request a custom quote.

5 Video Camera Market Predictions for 2019

As we move through the beginning of another year, it is also great time to look forward at what’s to come in the wider industry landscape. To break down the biggest trends looming over the horizon, the following represent five video camera market predictions for the year ahead.

1. Cloud Migration

As with many technologies, video cameras have been moving to the cloud. However, the uptake has lagged the capability in some respects over the past few years—often due to largely unfounded fears about cyber security.

This anxiety is starting to dissipate. End users are realizing that the benefits are too great to postpone, and IT departments are increasingly looking toward cloud-based and hybrid cloud systems.

Outside of the enterprise space, more consumers are installing cloud-enabled video cameras in their homes. Many leading manufacturers are embracing cloud-first operations, a development that will only create more expectations for this method of storage and connectivity.

BIS Research predicts that the global video surveillance market will expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.14% through 2023 and sees economic factors continuing to push the industry toward cloud-based systems. “The reduction in the cost of cloud storage solution has surfaced as a key opportunity for service players in the video surveillance market,” stated the research firm in its December Global Video Surveillance Market report.

Technological innovations are also driving migration. Two of the major drawbacks of cloud security cameras include bandwidth limitations and internet disruptions. Verkada’s cameras, however, record footage directly onto their solid state storage and then send metadata to the cloud in a way that can help optimize and lower the bandwidth footprint of each camera to as low as 5kbp/s in their steady state. This enables Verkada systems to function well, even in areas where limited internet connectivity prevents IP cameras from other manufacturers from operating. On-camera storage also means that Verkada cameras continue to record in the event of a network outage—providing cloud camera benefits without the typical drawbacks.

Other manufacturers have been moving to newer codecs to save on bandwidth needs. “Known as High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), H.265 can encode video files twice as efficiently, at a lower bitrate, than its predecessor,” states IFSEC Global in its Video Surveillance Report 2018. “Slashing bandwidth and storage consumption by about 50%, it’s a vital step forward given growing storage demands.”

2. Simplified Video Security Infrastructure

IT teams are being asked to manage more Internet of Things (IoT) devices and machine-to-machine (M2M) connections. According to Cisco, this trend is merely beginning. It projects that M2M connections will grow by 19.6% per year through 2022.

“A growing number of M2M applications, such as smart meters, video surveillance, healthcare monitoring, transportation, and package or asset tracking, are contributing in a major way to the growth of devices and connections,” states Cisco’s latest Visual Networking Index. “By 2022, M2M connections will be 51% of the total devices and connections.”

To stay on top of the growing workload, infrastructure simplification is critical. For similar reasons, companies no longer want to devote significant time and resources to running a massive video surveillance installation. Plug-and-play solutions have become the new mantra. Simply put, this is now what clients expect from providers.

This wasn’t always possible. In the past, complex setups once relied on a network video recorder (NVR) or digital video recorder (DVR) that served as a central hub that connected an array of cameras to on-site monitors and the wider network. Such systems were inherently complicated with many moving parts.

But hybrid cloud solutions, as well as other quick-to-implement and easy-to-operate options, have changed the marketplace for the better. It means users have more alternatives and legacy manufacturers are being forced to evolve. They recognize that they must deploy more-user-friendly operations or watch their clients sign a contract with someone who can.

These same market forces are also pushing companies to roll out better UI platforms. As we have seen with software-as-a-service (SaaS) models, simplification is also the goal here. In 2019 and beyond, expect camera software to start becoming more intuitive.

Not only will this make system operation more manageable, but it will also cut down on training costs and cause less disruption due to IT department employee turnover.

3. More Intelligent Cameras

The coming year will witness the introduction of smarter camera applications. It has been several years since motion detection became widespread, and we will see a similar expansion of intelligent capabilities in 2019.

This has already been occurring in the mass consumer markets. In an ongoing battle to outperform each other, mobile phone manufacturers have been unveiling advances in terms of facial recognition, augmented reality and other cognitive technologies. New consumer drones have also introduced sophisticated tracking capabilities. As we are seeing in other areas, features like these, potentially including weapon detection and sensors that can detect depth in three dimensions, will start to become more visible in the enterprise security space as well.

Such innovations mean that those in the security space will be demanding more—and soon. Increasingly, end users will insist that their eyes in the sky have the intelligence to match. The more that cameras can analyze the footage they record, the less oversight will be needed to monitor for common events.

This will further extend to more robust artificial intelligence and analytics capabilities as well, according to Scott Schafer, Chairman of the Security Industry Association (SIA).

“Today, modern physical security solutions are comprised of IoT devices and sensors that generate high volumes of security data,” said Schafer in a recent SIA report. “Applying analytics and artificial intelligence systems makes this data more actionable and increases responsiveness for security systems users.”

4. Cybersecurity Risks Continue to Mount

Cybersecurity remains a constant threat, and the financial impact only continues to grow. The Ponemon Institute 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study found that the average cost of a data breach across the world last year was a staggering $3.86 million, representing a 6.4% jump from firm’s findings in 2017.

The video security industry is not immune. Like many other firms, companies in the sector face daunting challenges to safeguard networks and devices from attacks.

But the stakes are likely to get even higher in 2019. In addition to malicious actors seeking illicit financial gains, state-sponsored exploits are becoming ever more common. The Chinese government, for example, was reportedly the mastermind behind the data breach that exposed the personal information of some 500 million clients of hotel giant Marriott, according to the New York Times.

Just Security, the digital publication of the Reiss Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law, has highlighted the severity of this incident. “The 2018 Marriott hack should be a wake-up call for Western countries, corporations, and citizens that soft cyber targets face a new threat from powerful cyber actors, with stakes which may be bigger than we or even those launching these attacks are yet able to realize,” wrote expert contributors Joshua Geltzer and Bryan Jones. “The result of such threats is that the private sector is now on the front lines of national security interests, with data vulnerabilities exposing risks beyond simple identity theft.”

Such developments will continue to be of concern to organizations, which have seen surveillance-specific exploits hit camera manufacturers including Hikvision and other Chinese brands. The last thing any company wants is to become known for having sensitive footage leaked to the public.

Given the danger that is now coming from all sides, expect both industry providers and clients to put an increasing focus on cybersecurity over the next 12 months.

5. Continued Market Disruption

The marketplace for video cameras and related surveillance solutions is fragmented. Consolidation means that some of the bigger industry players now control a larger percentage of the industry than they previously did. But many startups have also entered—and disrupted—the space.

The big three providers do now account for 40% of the market, according to IHS Markit, but two of those were not even among the top 10 as recently as 2005. Moreover, “there are still hundreds of relatively small video surveillance equipment vendors, many of them with a market share much lower than 1%.”

Given these dynamics, some consolidation is to be expected in 2019. But the research firm stated in its annual trend report that it does not foresee “a spree of large-scale mergers and acquisitions” to come any time soon.

Instead, IHS Markit predicts that “there will be more new entrants in 2019” and that “perhaps some of them will be among the market leaders of the future.”

Trends to Watch

Despite all the innovations so far, the cloud and smart technologies are only just now really upending the industry. This and increasingly sophisticated devices mean that it is easier than ever to implement simplified systems as well. And as cybersecurity challenges and startup mojo continue to alter end-user expectations, the entire landscape may start to look very different by the time 2020 rolls around.

For a deeper look at this topic, check out one of Verkada’s latest video security eBooks: The Future of Enterprise Surveillance.

Introducing Motion Notifications: Video Security Got More Actionable

Building on the success of our recent People and Vehicle Detection launch, Verkada is happy to introduce Motion Notifications with smart filters.

Our latest feature proactively notifies Verkada customers when motion is detected within a defined area of the frame. The motion search interface in Verkada’s Command allows users to mark the area of interest for each camera. Then, they can add filters to trigger an alert only when people are in the scene or within a certain time window. This added intelligence ensures that users are only notified on actionable events—filtering out weather-related movement, lighting changes and other potential background motion.

Understanding how this feature works can help you set up more effective notifications.

How Does It Work?

Using onboard analytics, Verkada cameras with Motion Notifications enabled will constantly monitor the selected activity zones. When motion is detected, they will record high resolution video and send an image to the cloud for analysis. If the people filter is on, Verkada’s computer vision models analyze the image and will only trigger a notification if a human is detected in the frame. Finally, the system will filter out alerts that don’t occur during the specified time window.

Alerts are sent to all Verkada users with access to the camera who have turned on notifications in their settings. Notifications will be sent by SMS or email, depending on the user preference. Email notifications include a snapshot of the motion so that recipients can easily see a preview of what happened. Users can then click through to Command to view a 20-second clip of the motion event. Within Command, users can take snapshots, zoom, or archive the clip within their account.

Motion Notifications in Action

Motion notifications are already providing actionable information to Verkada customers across many industries without requiring active monitoring.

  • School safety leaders have implemented Motion Notifications to help ensure after-hours security inside and outside their facilities. They can enable notifications for cameras that monitor specific doors and set time-of-day alerts and people filters to watch for potential vandalism.
  • Customers in the manufacturing industry are utilizing the feature to assess inventory levels. Users are notified when stock drops below predefined thresholds and helps them proactively replenish or confirm that they have an adequate supply on hand.
  • Logistics companies use the notifications to inform yard staff about deliveries and keep track of warehouses and facilities during off hours. Others use the feature to notify security personnel to perform additional screening before allowing a vehicle to enter a facility.
  • Retailers and hospitality providers are employing Motion Notifications to observe cash registers and safes after hours. In addition, many have set up notifications with time-of-day filters to watch for unauthorized access to stock rooms and other areas with valuable inventory.

If you are a current Verkada customer, you can set up Motion Notifications in the Additional Settings of your camera page in Command. Click to enable notifications and add the appropriate people and time-of-day filters. Step-by-step instructions can be found in our Knowledge Base.

We’re excited to roll out the Motion Notifications feature to our customers and believe it is a powerful tool to proactively monitor your locations. By only notifying users of relevant and actionable events, Motion Notifications save time and increase the productivity of security and facilities personnel.

Want to learn more? Get a 20-Minute Demo and see how Verkada can help your organization modernize its approach to physical security.

Digital Transformation in the Security & Surveillance Market

In recent years, “digital transformation” has become a buzzword that remains top of mind for many technology leaders.

At its best, digital transformation integrates modern technology into different areas of a business to reduce operational inefficiencies. This also enables teams to deliver value to customers at an increasingly rapid pace, allowing businesses to stay at the forefront of innovation. At its worst, digital transformation results in wasted spend time on technological overhauls that disrupt daily operations and fall short of critical objectives.

Whether it’s a mismatch between a software solution and the problem it’s intended to solve, poor implementation of a new tool, or oversight of high-level business goals, digital transformation can offset agility and move companies into stagnation.

However, the reality of the matter is that digital transformation is ongoing and inevitable. And the success of such initiatives is far more attainable than it might initially seem.

Digital Transformation in the Security Market

There is no perfect way to undergo a digital transformation. If it was easy, every company would be thriving by incorporating new innovations. Still, more and more companies are finding success by embracing ways they can make quick and tangible progress.

We are seeing this reality play itself out in the video camera security market. Large corporations may have thousands—even tens of thousands—of cameras. Replacing every single one, across different states and jurisdictions, is overwhelming. IT executives know their old system is outdated, full of inefficiencies and flat out not getting the job done anymore. But who has the time or resources to tear everything down and set up something new?

Successfully Upgrading Your Security Solution

While digital transformation may look different for every organization, here are a few tips that technology leaders should consider as they build out the framework for a new security solution.

Put Strategy Before Technology

Before jumping into infrastructure upgrades or modifications, it’s prudent to evaluate the current pain points and bottlenecks within your organization. Identify what gaps exist in your current setup, and how updating your system might impact processes and procedures.

By thoughtfully crafting a set of priorities that the framework should accomplish, the team can evaluate (at the end of the upgrade) whether or not it was a successful attempt at digital transformation.

Manifest Changes Through Smaller-Scale Deployments

When it comes to deployments of newer technology, making minor updates and upgrades can validate whether or not a solution is right for a teams’ specific use case. Implementation in this instance is less disruptive; resources aren’t completely removed from business-critical operations and the risk of potential downsides is less daunting.

When evaluating security cameras, many IT professionals deploy Verkada’s software-based security camera system in one or two locations before completely replacing existing CCTV systems. This gives system administrators the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the solution before fully deploying across multiple locations. Once they’re confident that security needs can be met, they begin rollout in a series of stages, making deployment manageable.

Get Early Input From Your Team

The success of any tool or solution is dependent on three factors:

  1. Does it solve a problem, or streamline inefficiencies, for your team?
  2. Does your team know how to use it?
  3. Is it easily accessible when your team needs it?

After all, a tool is just a tool until it’s adopted and utilized. By giving a team the opportunity to evaluate a tool that may become a part of their daily stack, they can determine whether or not that technology effectively fits into existing workflows.

During the vendor evaluation period, many security professionals considering Verkada’s solution onboard colleagues that may use the platform down the line (e.g., school administrators, mayors and facility managers). By involving the team early on and gathering feedback before full implementation, security administrators can gauge if, and how, the tool would eliminate inefficiencies, reduce spend or build structure around haphazard processes.

The Reality of Digital Transformation

Digital transformation, regardless of the pace at which it occurs, results in significant long-term upside. So instead of waiting until the time is perfect, embrace what might be a multiple-solution technology trend and start making strategic steps forward.

Ready to start transforming your organization? Get a 20-minute demo and see how Verkada can help your organization modernize its approach to video security.

The Era of Convergence: Why IT Wants to Standardize Video Security

IT departments are stretched to the limit. According to Forrester Research, this unfortunate reality is among the reasons that half of all digital transformation efforts stalled in 2018. To confront the challenge, enterprises are responding by getting real about IT infrastructure—including their video security solutions.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research firm has predicted that 2019 will be the year when “transformation goes pragmatic.” As more and more customer experience overhauls, data revolutions and other high-minded digital initiatives run into headwinds, IT departments will begin to increasingly look for quick wins and easy-to-implement efficiency improvements.

In short, 2019 will be a year when high-ranking IT executives prioritize a “sense of realism, practical steps, a desire for tangible outcomes,” writes Carrie Johnson, chief research officer at Forrester Research.

Convergence and Video Security

It is no surprise that this trend neatly overlaps with the convergence movement. Across the board, IT is looking to consolidate disparate processes and operations. And video security is one critical area where the benefits of standardization are gaining momentum.

Josh Woodhouse, senior analyst of video security at IHS Markit, broke down the trend recently in an analysis that centers on the push to align information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and video security.

“Cloud architectures are being adopted to enable data to be shared more easily and across much larger, more complex networks,” states Woodhouse. “All these new transformational technologies are changing not only the video security portfolios, but also the rules of the game.”

This move toward convergence is bringing change to traditional video security business models. They are now being influenced by wider ICT industry trends, says Woodhouse, as analytics and “as-a-service” concepts take on a larger role in the ecosystem. Such opportunities have enticed more players into the market. This gives end users more choice than ever as they look for a solution to meet their needs.

“The video security market is becoming increasingly intertwined with other industries,” writes Woodhouse. “Where there were once dedicated security distributors and integrators, now there are ICT and telecoms suppliers competing for business.”

Fearing Vulnerabilities

At the same time, cybersecurity is becoming a bigger risk. Data breaches continue to be expensive and reputation-damaging propositions. And avoiding infiltration by malicious actors is a daily function of  IT departments.

In some cases, enterprises can leave themselves more vulnerable when employees across different departments enable new cloud-enabled solutions, without IT approval. While there have been fantastic reports—like the connected fish tank that helped hack a casino—many are much more run of the mill, and these breaches are likely to proliferate as IT resources continue to be stretched thinner across multiple departments.

This is yet another reason that industry leaders are seeking standardize and simplify every technology that they can. This includes video security, an area that can become full of security holes when outdated, traditional systems are used.

Getting Results by Getting Practical

The takeaway for all enterprises that use video cameras is clear. More than anything in 2019 and beyond, as tangible results move to the forefront, IT departments need to make sure that their surveillance solution can work seamlessly in conjunction with the rest of their systems.

Standardization and simplification are now the name of the game. And above all, with more demands and fewer resources available, technology professionals must ensure that their video security is easy to implement, easy to use, easy to maintain, and easy to scale.

For more information about advanced video security, built for the future of IT, request a demo of Verkada’s simple, scalable and secure solutions.

Why Your NVR Is Probably Less Secure than a Hybrid Cloud Video Surveillance Solution

Video security systems have traditionally relied on a network video recorder (NVR) to capture footage. These devices, which serve as a central hub connecting an array of cameras, have long been billed as a highly secure system.

Although this reputation persists, it is largely unearned. NVRs, as well as digital video recorders (DVRs), are now routinely attacked and fail to provide anything close to the level of protection most IT professionals expect.

The “secure NVR” myth comes from the fact that an actual, air-gapped NVR is indeed incredibly secure. But this is less a function of specific equipment capabilities and more due to the fact that almost any device that is cut off from the wider network will be challenging for hackers to exploit.

NVRs: Only Secure in Theory

Unfortunately, few enterprises use NVRs in this manner. Most modern companies will want to have remote access to their footage. Whether for monitoring in real time at a central location or simply transferring archives of individual incidents, this is usually a must-have feature.

Some very small organizations may just want a single screen, or cluster of screens, for on-site viewing. But, by and large, even most small businesses—and especially larger corporations with multiple locations—will want a way to access what is being captured off site.

As soon as an NVR is connected to a network, vulnerabilities are introduced. Doing so requires opening or forwarding ports not to mention establishing a VPN, which are exploited by hackers all the time.

Attacks Are Common

In recent years, we have seen a trend of hackers targeting video cameras and NVRs. A NUUO brand NVR was targeted by the Reaper IoT Botnet in 2017, for example, and the exploit reportedly opened up the system’s cameras to similar botnet attacks.

This year, security research firm Tenable also found an exploit called Peekaboo that could affect the company’s NVRMini2 model. “Once exploited, Peekaboo would give cybercriminals access to the control management system, exposing the credentials for all connected video surveillance cameras,” wrote Tenable. “Using root access on the NVRMini2 device, cybercriminals could disconnect the live feeds and tamper with security footage.”

Disconcertingly, it isn’t just NVRs. Video cameras from certain manufacturers have proven unreliable as well. The U.S. Senate deemed the risk significant enough that it barred the federal government from using cameras from manufacturers Hikvision, Dahua and Hytera Technologies.

As codified in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, agencies are now prohibited from buying any surveillance equipment from these brands for the sake of “public safety, security of government facilities, physical security surveillance of critical infrastructure and other national security purposes.”

Poor Vigilance, Slow Updates

The confusion between reputation and reality is another key reason that NVRs can actually be less secure than other options. Many veteran IT workers who may have started working with video surveillance decades ago have fallen for the this security fallacy. Consequently, they don’t practice the same level of vigilance that they would when working with a modern, cloud-based surveillance solution.

Less vigilance leads to slower reaction times. Blinded by this false sense of security, operators tend to be lax about detecting vulnerabilities and installing critical firmware updates.

In practice, this typically makes the alternative much more secure. Most IT departments have moved on from the notion that anything connected to the internet will ever be 100% secure. Instead, they recognize that some level of risk will always exist, prioritize quick reaction times to mitigate known exposures and continually look for new vulnerabilities.

Hybrid Cloud Advantages

While the traditional NVR option is falling out of favor among today’s security pros, for more than just security reasons, there are other options. Cloud-based alternatives, while once held back by security fears, are now being seen as having several differentiating advantages.

Learn more about hybrid cloud video surveillance in our next webinar

In the case of Verkada, for example, the company provides ongoing support for clients with its team of security experts and constant penetration testing. Given everything the company has at stake, it is much more likely to stay on top of vulnerabilities than any single organization’s IT team.

Moreover, Verkada’s cloud-based cameras use advanced, end-to-end encryption—at rest and in transit. Transport security is provided by TLS 1.2. As for stored video, each camera is associated with a unique RSA keypair. The cameras are issued a public key, which they use to encrypt video and the private key is encrypted with AWS KMS before being stored.

These cameras and have outbound-only connections, drastically reducing the possibility of any unauthorized users accessing the network. Video security solutions that are built with security in mind from the ground up, have significant advantages over NVRs.

When you put it all together, the rationale for using hybrid cloud systems becomes clear. While the public relations for NVRs can talk a good game, they ultimately cannot live up to their reputation.

For additional information about this topic, check out our latest eBook, How to Choose the Right Video Security System for your Organization.

Simplify School Security: An IT Director Shares 3 Tips

Modern video camera security systems make installation easy. With cloud connectivity to store footage and minimal maintenance needs, the requirements to set up and operate a highly-sophisticated surveillance solution pale in comparison to the onerous, complicated options available even a decade ago.

That said, there are still certain best practices and protocols to follow if you want to optimize your camera system and simplify school security.

Jim Carrillo, Director of Technology at Morgan Hill Unified School District, has gone through the process himself when outfitting a local high school. Given the district’s location—just south of Silicon Valley, the epicenter of digital innovation—he is quite familiar with modern devices, platforms and software solutions. But he has actually found that the trickiest aspects don’t center on tech.

“The three tips that I’d like to share are absolutely not from the perspective of technology,” said Jim. “That’s what I learned.”

The following three recommendations come from Jim’s first-hand knowledge, which he shared with Verkada recently during an exclusive webinar.

 

Always Have a Purpose

At one of the Morgan Hill high schools, cameras were initially set up all around the school to cover the vast majority of the campus. But because they were not located strategically, with enough planning and consultation from officials at the school, they left significant gaps in surveillance.

The initial objective was to simply cover as much area as the budget allowed, rather than understanding where the hot spots were located. “We covered about 80% of the high school,” Jim recalled. “Guess where most of the complaints I get from the principal are? The 20% that we didn’t cover. And that’s because we didn’t have a purpose. We said, ‘We’re just going to try to cover everything.’”

Jim’s takeaway? “When you’re deploying security cameras, start with a purpose.”

In the case of the school, this required re-evalutating the security objectives and led to prioritizing the places where people come and go. After those areas were covered, they realized they could supplement coverage in any areas that became a problem down the line.

“We would like to capture every entrance point so we can validate the people that are coming onto our campus,” he explained. “We’re not trying to cover everything, just the entrance points. The second purpose that we’re going for is to have the ability to put an ad hoc camera to address vandalism and security issues. That’s much more doable.”

 

Manage Expectations

In a world where everyone has watched CSI and NCIS, people expect a lot. From the very beginning, they presume they will be rolling out a level of video surveillance that really only exists in the realm of a fictional agency. They think they’ll be able to take the footage from any video camera security system and magically say “ENHANCE!” to zoom in with 4K resolution on even the tiniest details in the frame.

“Every single person in your district probably watched the Bourne Ultimatum and they’re expecting your security cameras to be able to support that level of investigation,” said Jim. “What’s the license plate of that person that drove by? Or can I get the fingerprint off the camera?”

While many can just laugh off such absurdity, the inability to play FBI crime scene investigator can be a genuine letdown for some end users.

They may also expect to have someone constantly monitoring footage to catch any inappropriate behavior in real time—so that the authorities can spring into action and take down the bad guy. While there are certainly some highly secure facilities that maintain this level of oversight, for most users, this is neither necessary nor a reasonable expense to take on.

Jim has learned to anticipate these type of questions and fully explain the capabilities and benefits of an enterprise-grade video camera security system. If you manage expectations from the outset, you can head off disappointment and ensure everyone is on the same page.

 

Don’t Rely on a Single Expert

One other major issue cropped up in the district during the installation. Jim shared that “When we first set up our security cameras, prior to doing any implementations with the Verkada system, we had a subject matter expert—a single person that knew everything about the camera systems.”

This seemed logical. If there was someone who knew the entirety of the setup and the purpose behind it, they would be the perfect person to continue overseeing operations.

But, in the real world, this can cause problems. “Boy, did that get us into trouble,” he conceded. “That person got another job, so then we had to retrain somebody. It put a big halt in the implementation.”

Fortunately, the system was simple and user-friendly enough that training other workers was not a massive undertaking. But this issue could have been sidestepped altogether had they taken an approach that leveraged one of Verkada’s best features: ease of use.

“All of the staff in the IT department and even non-IT-department personnel, like in facilities, can be trained how to use it,” he affirmed. “Disseminate that [training] so that you’re not dependent upon one person. Look for a system that allows you to do that.”

 

Starting Off on the Right Foot

There is no substitute for first-hand knowledge. While explanations and product overviews are helpful in the lead up to an installation, experienced professionals know that there will always be challenges to overcome.

But by learning as much as you can, and planning for the specific needs of your enterprise, these known pain points can be significantly reduced.

Every organization will experience much better results if they make sure to set out with a purpose, manage user expectations and empower multiple employees to become stakeholders in the overall strategy. When all of these factors are addressed, video camera security system implementation will run much more smoothly.

For additional information on this topic, download the on-demand recording of the discussion. Also check out the Building Effective Partnerships Between Security Experts and Security Vendors webinar for more insight on the state of the industry.

What Businesses Need to Consider When Buying a Security Camera System

Video surveillance was once the domain of just a few industries. But successful companies are increasingly recognizing that it makes sense to have a 360-degree view of their operations, 24 hours a day.

For most organizations, the benefits in terms of security, safety and risk management easily outweigh any minor downsides. So, for those planning to purchase a security camera system, the first question is: where do you start?

Assessing Your Setup

The best place to begin is by assessing your current setup. For startups or organizations without a pre-existing installation, this part is easy. But for the majority, this will mean understanding the drawbacks and pain points of the system that you are already using.

The most common issues often center around old, outdated technology reliant on software that feels decades old—and might actually be. Many systems also depend on ancient devices equipped with finicky cables and glitchy quirks that require unique, aggravating workarounds. Others may be utilizing something from this century, but still find that the solution fails to adequately meet their needs.

Video Security Goals

After assessing your current system, the next step is identifying your video security goals. These objectives can vary significantly from firm to firm and sector to sector.

For many, the main video security goal will be monitoring entry/exit points and detecting any suspicious activity. Others will be using cameras more for identification purposes. And some will be primarily concerned with observing customers and personnel, or merely maintaining archival footage—for compliance purposes or in case they ever need to defend against a lawsuit.

These objectives can help determine the needs of your installation, including where to place cameras, what type of on-site monitoring is required and who can remotely access real-time footage.

Operational and Technical Requirements

The next item to consider is the system’s operational requirements. Again, some of this will depend upon your goals, such as who has access to recordings and in what ways. But there are other factors to weigh as well. For example: how will the footage be stored and for how long? Depending upon the facility’s location and what industry you operate in, there may be federal, state, or local regulations that answer this question for you.

Technical questions should also be asked. What type of connectivity does the location have? Are the bandwidth and transfer speeds sufficient to move the amount of data associated with video recording? Should you use a cloud-connected system that doesn’t demand high-speed connections, can deal with outages and is able to function optimally on an unreliable network?

Available Resources

Once this is all understood, you need to look at your resources. For many enterprises, this will unfortunately be a determining factor. The scope and scale of a security camera system often depends upon the organization’s budget, available personnel to set up the system and time required to finalize the installation.

It is important to comprehend both the upfront and ongoing operational costs when setting a budget. A cheap initial setup can often prove more expensive (and infuriating) in the long run, due to the time and number of employees needed to maintain your system. So remember: The technology and primary installation themselves are only part of the total cost of ownership that you will pay over the full lifecycle of any security camera system.

Scalability and Long-Term Viability

Alongside these considerations are other underlying implications for the solution over time. First of all, how scalable is it? If you expand or add another location, how easy will it be to extend the current surveillance system and protocols? Growth is a primary goal of almost every enterprise, so you should be thinking about this from the outset.

Then there is the matter of training. How easy will it be to hand off the oversight of the system to a new CTO or bring new IT staffers up to speed about ongoing operational requirements? All too many companies have an old or overly-complicated structure that works fine now—until Steve The Tech Guy retires and there is nobody left in the organization who knows how it works.

Getting Your Best Security Camera System

Almost every business needs some level of video security. In many cases, that just means a few cameras, a central monitoring solution and storage capability. Others will need to establish a true enterprise-wide system across dozens—or hundreds—of locations.

No matter where on the security spectrum your organization is (or would like to be), you will benefit greatly from taking the planning stage seriously. Whether you’re upgrading an entire legacy system or plugging in a camera for the first time, pay close attention to all these factors. Doing so will save you both time and money, and ensure that the solution you select will be perfectly suited to the needs of your business.

Want more expert advice to help you find your ideal solution? Check out our latest eBook, How to Choose the Right Video Security System for your Organization.