House by Urban Splash is an award-winning UK-based company that regenerates buildings into high-quality modular homes. For the past 25 years, House has created more than 5000 new homes and 1.5 million square feet of workspace in over 60 development projects. A large factor in their success is their focus on innovation; the organisation is always looking for ways to streamline operations with leading-edge technology.
Hannah Whitmore is responsible for strategizing environmentally sound operations and ensuring safety across the House factory and warehouse locations where modular homes are built. When she joined the company, Whitmore inherited a legacy CCTV system that had a number of issues that badly affected its usefulness.
The Challenges: Poor Ease of Use, Coverage, and Image Quality
Cameras on the legacy system were inflexible and deployed in substandard locations, resulting in gaps in coverage across their factory. Additionally, they were unreliable and would often drop offline with no warning. Image quality was distorted due to the presence of nearby power cables, which rendered video footage unusable. “I suspect that the system had been limping through its warranty lifetime for some time."
The cameras were connected to an on-premise network and digital video recorder (NVR and DVR) where footage was backed onto a hard-drive. Whitmore is required to review footage on a regular basis, and she struggled to gain secure remote access with the legacy system. “It’s really important for me to access footage easily. I use the security details around situations.”
When incidents occurred, Whitmore had to physically visit the onsite server room and check each camera feed to determine which camera offered the best incident footage. The video management software (VMS) interface was unintuitive and difficult to navigate; Whitmore had to sit and watch through hours of video to find moments of interest. Even more frustratingly, after her efforts she would find that footage was poor quality and unusable for the investigation. On the rare occasion that she was able to gather usable video evidence, she had to export it onto a memory stick in a specific format for it to be readable. “I thought to myself that anything had to be better than the system we had.”
To streamline operations and time management, Whitmore and her facilities team began researching solutions in the surveillance market, but soon realised that traditional options being offered weren’t future-proofed and adequate for a long-term solution.
“The other security solutions were just a newer version of the archaic system we already had in place. We knew in a few years’ time they were going to be causing problems for us.”
Whitmore worked with their Information Technology (IT) team and existing suppliers to identify the best security solution to best fit the organisation’s needs. Her key criteria included:
After speaking with Verkada sales representatives at an event, Whitmore was impressed with Verkada’s solution and took advantage of the free 30-day camera trial. During the trial, the organisation tested the security infrastructure, its ease of deployment, remote accessibility, and video quality.
Secure remote monitoring is a key feature that Whitmore and her team required. Verkada’s hybrid cloud approach marries on-camera encrypted solid-state drive (SSD) storage with a cloud-based software platform accessible from anywhere on any device, whilst cutting out the expenses, maintenance, and vulnerabilities associated with NVRs.
What this means for the organisation is that Whitmore and her team can be working from home and still proactively engage and have oversight of the site. Additionally, she can easily create access accounts for other users, providing granular levels of access to just the footage that is relevant to that person’s role.
“Previously, only people on-site with a physical key to the server room could access camera feeds. Now I can set up granular individual permissions for my team. Depending on their job role, I limit their access to certain cameras or grant them access for a fixed period of time. With Audit Logs, I can also keep track of who is accessing particular cameras, and for what reason.”
When remote monitoring via Command, Verkada’s cloud-based software platform, data transport security is provided by TLS 1.2. Cameras have outbound-only connections, drastically reducing the possibility of any unauthorised users accessing the network, providing significant advantages over NVRs.
Image quality goes up to 4K, and coupled with Verkada’s hybrid cloud approach, each camera operates on average at only 20 kbps. This is achieved because—unlike pure cloud-based solutions—Verkada’s cameras store 30-365 days of continuous video on built-in SSDs, only streaming when an authorised user requests live or recorded video. While operating in steady state, Verkada cameras send a constant metadata stream (including encrypted thumbnail images and analytics data) to the cloud once every 20 seconds using a bandwidth uplink of no more than 20 kbps per camera.
House’s internal technical committee is well aware that the NVR is the one of the most common access points to a company’s network by malicious actors. In contrast, they were highly impressed with the security infrastructure of Verkada’s solution.
“From a technical perspective, I had no issues getting Verkada approved for deployment at House by Urban Splash. On the business side, the free trial was invaluable and a real win-win. Having real-world data to go with the featureset documentation, meant that when I went to the Managing Director, Finance, and Human Resources (HR) the demo camera did the selling for me”
Transforming the Work Processes
“Verkada’s powerful features have transformed the way I work. Best of all, Command is web-based so I can easily share information and have it available at my fingertips. With unlimited archiving, storing footage for an extended period of time is no longer a cost or problem I have to worry about.”
With high-quality video and People Analytics, Whitmore can confidently respond to incidents as they arise. Movement notifications provide her with potential unauthorised access to areas of the factory that contain sensitive prototypes.
Rolling out Verkada is painless, Whitmore didn’t need to hire IT assistance or external CCTV installers to get started. The cameras require only a Power over Ethernet (PoE) cable to get up-and-running, Being plug-and-play, the cameras are easily moveable if site usage changes in the future.
“Ultimately when I evaluated Verkada, I was won over by the ease of installation, usability, future-proofing, and the fact that I get a 10-year warranty on all the cameras regardless of the licensing time. I now have a proactive solution that's very intuitive, I don’t have to look at a camera to know if it’s obstructed—I'll receive a notification. As far as investment is concerned, features like Heatmaps, Crowd Notifications, People Search far surpassed traditional CCTV functionality. Our facilities manager showed other bidders Verkada's demo, and their response was, 'We can’t compete with that.’”
Whitmore has financial peace of mind with Verkada’s 10-year warranty and no additional hardware like NVRs and servers to maintain. She no longer needs to worry about unplanned costs as the equipment ages. Automatic updates, which are released regularly and pushed directly to cameras, mean Whitmore’s investment remains cutting-edge for its entire lifespan. More than that, the system has enabled her to streamline efficiency from a user experience standpoint.
“The tangible investment that we’re making is, for me, no longer needing to be sitting down for hours, squinting at a system, coaxing the information out that I need. Verkada is so intuitive, the time it saves me from doing that, alone, is worth it."
A Video Solution for Tomorrow
Installing Verkada has enabled House to move from reactive security response, to proactive building management. Verkada cameras are a key part of the company’s operations, which include reviewing warehouse stock levels as well as utilising Motion Plotting, Heatmaps, and Crowd Notifications as part of COVID-19 prevention processes.
Faster incident response is also a key benefit. In one incident captured on the initial Verkada demo camera, Whitmore was able to obtain irrefutable evidence of a failure by one employee to comply with Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER).
“We had a serious incident occur, and with Verkada captured it clearly from 40 metres away. It was essential for us to able to easily isolate and share footage with HR and the production manager, something not possible under the legacy NVR system.”
Whitmore though is clear, that the company’s video security is in place to make it a safer, better workplace:
“We don’t want to be that Big Brother company, what we do want to do is use it as a learning tool to say, ‘These are where our concerns are, how do we train them out? Do we need to speak to the individuals? Do you need to speak to your teams?’ The empirical data we can pull from Command is so insightful. Really we are using it as a tool to become better.”
Looking Ahead: Integrated Sensors and Greater Visibility
Whitmore is rolling out more cameras to cover further areas of the estate. She is also examining the use case for Verkada’s new SV11 Environmental Sensor:
“As a manufacturing site, we have yearly noise and air quality monitoring tests. The environmental sensor would be tremendously beneficial to instantly detect meaningful changes across the organisation. Alongside the cameras, we could investigate events with associated video evidence and set alert thresholds to receive proactive notifications. Cameras and sensors together are a really powerful compliance tool, absolutely.”
She also sees greater benefits to draw from the existing camera, such as granting temporary access to customers watching their products being made or to investors wanting to learn more about House by Urban Splash’s operations.
“I am really impressed, and I cannot wait to expand with the system. It is going to be invaluable.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Verkada, join one of our Introduction to Hybrid Cloud Security webinars and see it for yourself!