Located at the cultural center of San Gabriel Valley, Pasadena City College (PCC) is a public community college that provides over 30,000 students with academic programs that include certificates, transfer programs, and degrees in over 90 areas of study. Recognized as one of the best community colleges in California, PCC was a finalist in the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence thanks to their dedicated faculty, students, and staff that go beyond what is expected of them.
For Matthew Camara, Assistant Director of Technical Services, his journey at PCC began 14 years ago when he was hired for audio-visual production. What began with recording, television, and radio expanded into the classrooms—then eventually security camera systems. When the opportunity came to improve the existing video surveillance technology, Camara stepped into the role of researching and fixing the legacy system.
The Challenge: Costly End-of-Life Hardware and No Remote Access
“About 20% of cameras were offline when I inherited them, and the majority of them were outdoors. I spent a lot of time initially going out into parking lots with a ladder, examining and diagnosing cameras to determine if we should replace or repair them.”
Across the main campus and four remote sites, Camara manages 300 cameras in an NVR-based system with on-premise storage. Many of its components had deteriorated over the years, including cameras and end-of-life servers that needed costly replacement parts. “Inside the 20 servers controlling the 300 cameras were old 5400 RPM spinning drives, all failing. According to the manufacturer, the servers are end-of-life. I was buying used drives off eBay to keep the system running.”
Camara was also in charge of training campus cadets—students learning to become law enforcement officers—how to use the camera system. Because of its complexity, Camara would regularly go onsite to campus police in order to train new cadets as they rotated through the program.
“The learning curve to use the NVR system is high. From playing back footage to exporting it onto a DVD, it’s not a simple solution to understand or teach.”
“We knew we wanted a cloud-based solution, and Verkada was easier to use and had more advanced analytics than any other offering. I demoed Verkada and another solution to our campus police, and they agreed the search capabilities for Verkada were much more powerful and intuitive—it was no contest.”
Camara chose a hybrid cloud solution for the ease of remote management so he no longer needs to be physically onsite to access cameras. Between cloud-based options, he chose Verkada after experiencing how intuitive the video management software is to navigate and how fast finding footage is with smart search capabilities.
“People and Vehicle analytics came with an automatic software update without us having to lift a finger or spend a penny. No other solution on the market makes improvements and upgrades this easy.”
Cybersecure Remote Access for Ease of User and Video Management
“We had a security analyst come through to evaluate our systems, he looked into Verkada and was very impressed—that was one of the factors that led us to use it as well.”
Secure by default with no configurations required from Camara, Verkada uses end-to-end encryption so video data, settings, and updates are transmitted safely between the devices and cloud. Archived videos, thumbnails, audit logs, and user data are then stored—encrypted at rest—in AWS cloud servers. His cloud software license includes unlimited user seats so he can securely provision new cadets and set custom permissions for them, making it easy to manage as they cycle through training.
“I can open a browser or app and secure everything from my phone—change users, edit site permissions, watch and share footage. With the previous system I had to be on campus to access anything.”
Intelligent & Intuitive Search Features for Faster People and Vehicle Identification
“Resolving incidents is much faster, I hit one button to filter out suspects that appeared in-frame during the time period I specify. I just click their thumbnail to see a compilation of every instance they were captured on camera.”
With the NVR system, Camara would watch through footage at 16x or 32x speed until he found what he needed, play it back, highlight, export, and burn it to a DVD. The whole process took about an hour, but since deploying Verkada footage retrieval now takes minutes.
Using People and Vehicle Analytics, he quickly pulls high-quality images of all individuals and vehicles identified in a scene. From there, he applies an advanced search filter based on attributes. For People Search, this includes gender traits, clothing color, backpacks, and even a person’s face. For Vehicle Search, he can specify vehicle make, model, and color.
“Being able to say ‘I’m looking for a Honda Accord’ and have the system identify it makes footage retrieval so easy. It took me 10 minutes to train campus police on how to use Verkada, and they were just floored by what it could do.”
Reduced Maintenance and Total Cost of Ownership with a 10-year Warranty
“Maintenance costs also used to be sporadic, but Verkada eliminates the hidden expenses in managing a security system like upgrading NVRs or replacing cameras. The Verkada cameras run on Power over Ethernet, so as far as infrastructure costs we save on the electric portion by just having one cable.”
After fixing close to 60 legacy cameras mostly on his own, Camara set a plan to upgrade NVRs and cameras across one parking lot every year. Each NVR cost $13,000 to replace the drives and controls within the servers, limiting him to two upgrades per year. Parking lot cameras were mostly point-tilt-zoom (PTZ), which made them prone to breaking and expensive to replace at $4,000-$5,000 apiece—a whole parking lot of 30 cameras would run him $75,000.
No NVRs are required for the Verkada system. If a camera breaks, he is secured with a 10-year warranty, and a replacement is shipped to him within 48 hours after his request is approved. Automatic software enhancements are also included in the license so he no longer needs to spend time or budget on manual updates. Since data and power are carried over a single Ethernet cable, Camara also eliminates the need for separate electrical wiring and power outlets. He not only reduces deployment costs per device, but energy cost and consumption as well.
Looking Ahead: A Strategic Shift to Hybrid Cloud
For Camara, deploying Verkada’s hybrid cloud solution has freed up significant resources that would’ve gone towards managing a security system. In turn, he has more to dedicate towards other campus technology that enhances efficiency, student experience, and performance.
“The analytics blow any other solution out of the water, the cost is better, and the ease of use is just insane. Far and away, Verkada is the way to go.”
Find out how Verkada’s hybrid cloud solution can reduce the cost of overhead and enhance safety at your organization, request a free trial camera today.