Expert Interview Series: Brendan Harrison of Camcloud on Cloud Video Surveillance

by Michael Fiorenza on November 28, 2016

Brendan Harrison is the CEO and Co-founder of Camcloud, a leader in cloud video surveillance for small businesses and home owners.

We recently talked to Brendan about the advantages of cloud storage for video surveillance as well his predictions for the future of how cloud-based storage is used in his industry. Here's what he had to say:

Can you tell us about the mission and inspiration behind Camcloud?

The inspiration behind the company is a funny story. I was at our family cottage in a rural area and received a call in the middle of the night from our home alarm service. The dispatcher informed me that their system detected motion in our home. Of course they couldn't actually do anything useful about it and were calling to ask if I wanted them to send the police. What choice did I have? Anyway, turns out there was no problem, but I received a $150 charge from the police who were dispatched to our home.

That's when in hit me, I thought: "Why do I need you? Why can't I just look inside my house on my own??" So I got together with the other two co-founders, Dan Burkett and Alen Zukich and decided to build a solution. Nobody else was doing it at the time, all the services were insanely expensive and complicated. We figured the convergence of lower cost bandwidth and cheap cloud storage were going to disrupt the traditional video surveillance industry. We were right, and now everyone is migrating their surveillance to the cloud.

Our mission today is to provide an easy, cost-effective solution that appeals to people who aren't security professionals. There are plenty of systems out there that are expensive and very complicated - we keep it simple.

What are the major pain points you're trying to fix with Camcloud?

As mentioned already, traditional video surveillance storage systems are very complicated and it's an industry that doesn't move very quickly. Many businesses are stuck with an expensive network-attached storage system with a user interface that looks like it could navigate the space shuttle. We are simplifying the whole experience for customers and partners, everything from cloud-enabling a wide variety of different cameras, right through to beautiful, modern mobile and web apps that can be used by anybody. It's solving a problem in an industry that's ripe for disruption.

What makes cloud storage a good option for video surveillance systems? What are the benefits?

Outside of the of all the obvious reasons people use cloud storage - cost, convenience, accessibility from anywhere, etc. - the big one is security. Sounds counter intuitive since everyone is always concerned about cloud security, but in a surveillance context, customers don't want their data to remain on-site. If your video surveillance system is recording a burglary for example, the last thing you want is the evidence to physically remain on-site with the burglar.

What are the outdated or ineffective ways you observe businesses and homeowners doing surveillance today?

The big one is analog cameras. Yes, analog cameras are surprisingly ubiquitous still, and for good reason. They are low cost, reliable and can produce good video. The problem is they are obviously not compatible with internet-based technologies, for example when you then want to stream video over the internet to your phone. There's a huge upgrade wave going on in this industry where legacy analog cameras are being displaced with cost-effective IP cameras that are cloud-enabled. It opens up so many additional applications for a video surveillance system.

What are some of the risks to using cloud-based surveillance/monitoring of any kind?

People are always concerned about privacy. The moment you open up an IP camera to the internet, malicious activity now has a new attack vector. There are plenty of precautions you can take, but ultimately it's a new risk that doesn't really exist if you have a closed system. It's a trade-off of course, since as consumers we take a similar risk with any cloud application that's storing your data offsite. Customers just need to understand the tradeoffs and make sure they are comfortable with the capabilities of their cloud video surveillance provider.

How can users ensure the safety and security of their video in the cloud?

Use a reputable cloud provider would be the first place to start. Ask questions, make sure you understand where your data is stored and what kind of precautions are being taken. You also need to use a high-quality IP camera. If you use a cheap knockoff camera, there's more risk that their firmware would contain some vulnerabilities that could put you at risk. And finally, customers need to compare the security of their cloud storage provider to the alternative. How secure is your network-attached storage device? What kind of data durability and privacy does it offer compared to an Amazon S3 private bucket with "11 nines" reliability?

What cloud-based innovations or trends are you most interested in right now? Why?

Video analytics is a big one. It still remains to be seen how this will play out, but it's clear that as the cost continues to come down for this type of capability, you're going to see myriad different applications used by smaller companies. Right now these solutions tend to be cost-prohibitive for small businesses and the applications aren't very targeted at the needs of your average retail shop owner.

What do you think is the future for how the Cloud is used in your industry?

There's a clear trend to continue integrating different security devices into a single cloud platform or framework. Right now, everyone tends to build their own cloud that's specific for their piece of hardware, but ultimately you'll see the cloud services get abstracted somewhat from the particular device and move towards a "platform-as-a-service" that works with physical security devices, access control systems and, of course, video surveillance cameras. There's a long road ahead of us as the video surveillance and broader physical security markets move to the cloud. Exciting times.

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