Recently, the US Department of Justice announced The School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP). The first of its kind, SVPP provides funding to states, local governments, and Indian Tribes to improve security on K-12 school campuses. There is up to $25M available through the SVPP that can be used for funding up to 75% of school safety projects. Eligible projects include school violence prevention training; deterrent measures such as metal detectors, locks, and security cameras; and technology to notify law enforcement during an emergency.
At Meraki, we are dedicated to helping schools create safer campus environments. Meraki MV security cameras greatly reduce the complexities that come with traditional security camera solutions, so you can focus on other school safety projects and trainings, not on managing complex systems. Plus, with better video quality and easier video search functionalities, schools can find incidents faster, see anomalies in video, and quickly share footage with law enforcement. Better yet, MV security cameras are eligible for purchase through the SVPP.
The deadline to apply for SVPP is July 30th (just two weeks away). If you already have a security project in motion, then act quickly and take advantage of this great program. If you have been thinking about evaluating security projects, but are not quite ready to apply, that’s OK! Funding has been set aside for similar programs in the future.
Here are two things you can start doing today to make sure you are prepared for the next SVPP funding round:
1. Align with your state and local governments: Under the SVPP, school districts cannot apply for the funding themselves; state or local governments must apply on their behalf. This is intentionally done to break down silos and encourage collaboration between school districts and their local governments and law enforcement. Start working with your government counterparts to devise a plan to create safer campus environments. Whether that means giving law enforcement access to live video feeds or having practice drills to rehearse an emergency plan, government agencies and school districts should work closely together to align on their school safety measures.
2. Start evaluating products now: Planning for a security incident is no easy task. It takes time to identify the right systems, coordinate their installation, and train staff on proper usage. If you’re evaluating a new security camera solution, identify the best locations to place cameras for optimal coverage, who in your staff needs access to the cameras, and how you want to share footage with local government agencies. Once you map out your security camera design, deploying the cameras can be very easy. With Meraki MV, you just plug them in and they are ready to go!
Even if it’s too late to apply for funding this year, it’s never too late to start planning for the next cycle! To get started, attend our live webinar this Thursday, Smarter Cameras for Safer Schools with Meraki MV. We will discuss how MV security cameras are helping schools keep students safer with better video quality, easier search functionality, and advanced analytics. Register here.
Imagine managing your school’s security cameras from an intuitive, web-based dashboard with no NVR, no software downloads, and secure remote access to video footage from anywhere. Sound too good to be true?
Cisco Meraki MV security cameras are changing the way schools think about video surveillance. With Meraki MV, schools can keep students safer by proactively helping with threat detection and security and IT teams can make informed decisions with integrated analytics, which require no servers. MV is easy to deploy and manage, and specifically built with lean IT teams in mind. Here are five reasons why you should consider Meraki MV security cameras for your school or campus’ next deployment:
Simple Deployment: Withzero-touch deployment, using just serial numbers an administrator can add devices to the Meraki dashboard and begin configuration before the hardware even arrives on campus. Ship cameras directly to each school site and have them up and running quickly.
No NVR: All of the video footage is locally stored and encrypted on the camera, removing the need for expensive and complicated NVRs or DVRs. This not only adds additional security, but allows for simple camera deployment and management. It also means districts can easily scale from one school deployment to 50, without breaking a sweat.
Web-Based Monitoring:Manage your security cameras from thesame intuitive, web-based dashboard where you manage the rest of your Meraki products. MV removes the need for a security monitoring room or complex VPN configuration; all you need is a web-browser to watch and monitor video footage. Easily make custom video walls and find important events with Motion Search all from the dashboard. Plus, the dashboard cuts down on training time for the administrators and staff interfacing with the system.
Granular Access Controls:It’s not just the security guard who needs access anymore. From the principal or president down to the teacher or custodian, give different people customizable levels of access to all of the school’s cameras, or select cameras by tag, in just a few clicks.
Built-in Analytics:MV goes beyond just security; it utilizes a powerful onboard processor to analyze video and provide valuable insights without the need to send those video files to the cloud or a local server. Easily see where students are congregating or walking with motion heat maps. Detect how many people are in a classroom or hallway with people detection.
Schools across the world are deploying Meraki MV to simplify security camera management and keep their students safer. At Reading School District, CR Hiestand and his team use the Motion Search tool to isolate incidents and find what they are looking for in under 20 minutes, rather than searching through hours of video footage. Plus, security guards, principals and school administrators can view footage from a tablet or PC, without having to go to the video monitoring room. At Sweet Briar College, Aaron Mahler has indoor and outdoor MV security cameras deployed across the campus to keep students safe, while providing network admins with an easy to manage solution through an intuitive web-based interface they can access from anywhere.
From May 9th until October 27th, 2018, Meraki is offering exclusive pricing for MV security cameras for education in the United States. Just contact your Meraki sales rep to get started!
IP cameras undoubtedly represent a huge leap over the analog security camera setups of yesteryear: newer cameras bring significant ongoing cost savings and simpler operation to the table. But one area where traditional IP cameras don’t improve on their analog predecessors is in the way they store camera footage.
Where analog cameras transfer footage to VCR-based solutions, traditional IP cameras usually store footage on NVRs (network video recorders). The need for an NVR in typical IP camera setups presents some critical downsides in terms of costs, reliability, and complexity.
Here are four reasons to say “no thanks” to your NVR and adopt a camera solution with a modern cloud-managed architecture:
1. High hardware costs
The more components in a system, the more expensive that system is to maintain and update over time. As organizations deploy additional cameras, more video footage is captured, necessitating greater amounts of space to store that footage. Though NVRs may not introduce too many costs for smaller deployments, the one-NVR-per-location model quickly breaks down when organizations have to deploy cameras across many different sites — a common scenario for customers in verticals like retail and hospitality. Storage requirements can also balloon with IP camera systems that don’t automatically delete footage that isn’t useful, like video in which there is no motion.
The need to augment cameras with NVRs doesn’t just add another line item to the BOM; it also makes it more difficult to scale because organizations need to determine in advance how much storage they’ll need per location. The result is often inadequate storage, a less cost-effective deployment, or both.
2. Restrictive remote access to video footage
Organizations with old-school CCTV setups typically don’t think twice about remotely viewing video footage; they’re all too used to the idea of someone having to be physically present in a control room on-site to watch video (after all, the first two letters in “CCTV” stand for “closed-circuit”). But one of the promises of Internet-connected cameras was that video footage would be easier to access from anywhere.
Alas, the requirement for video to be transmitted to and stored on an NVR in typical IP camera deployments limits the possibilities for remote viewing. That’s because accessing videos stored on an NVR from outside the network requires cumbersome and complex VPN configuration. Plus, all computers will need to download a separate, often unintuitive VMS (video management service) — yet another thing to install, configure, and learn how to use. It’s no wonder that most organizations using typical IP camera systems have adjusted their interaction style such that they are only using cameras locally. Unfortunately, this means there’s often a frustratingly long gap between when video is captured and when it’s been retrieved, converted, and ready to view — not an ideal scenario.
3. Potential data loss risks
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the same holds true for security camera deployments: if one piece of the system fails, the entire system is at risk. If for some reason camera footage can’t be sent to the NVR from the cameras (due to a network outage, for instance), footage is lost forever. Even worse, network administrators frequently don’t realize that part of the system has failed until they try to watch footage that was never properly transmitted to the NVR. The risk of losing critical footage due to a network issue is a basic failure of NVR-reliant camera systems.
4. Security vulnerabilities
Since NVRs are often nothing more than old computers running outdated software and collecting dust in the back of a closet, keeping them up-to-date with the latest security updates is a difficult and oft-forgotten task. This means NVRs can serve as an entry point for cyber threats looking to find their way into a network. Once they’ve infiltrated the network, cybercriminals can do anything from stealing corporate data and holding a business hostage to compromising sensitive financial information.
These aren’t just theoretical threats: in October 2016, thousands of cameras and video recorders were infected by malware and initiated a DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attack against services like Amazon, Spotify, and Reddit. Unfortunately, even a single weak point in the network could open a company up to significant security issues.
By removing the NVR from the equation, organizations stand to gain a more efficient, reliable, and secure camera system. That’s only possible with a ground-up reinvention of the traditional IP camera architecture.
Cisco Meraki MV eliminates the NVR by introducing a unique cloud management model. With MV, there’s no single point of failure; footage is stored and encrypted on the cameras themselves, creating a distributed system (and consequently distributing the risk). Video is streamed securely to the Meraki dashboard for monitoring, where the cameras can also be configured and managed. And all system components stay protected from security vulnerabilities, thanks to standard end-to-end encryption and regular, automatic firmware updates. The result: a streamlined, simplified security camera solution.
Since Meraki launched the MV family nearly a year and a half ago, the wishes coming in from the Make a Wish tool in the dashboard have not stopped flowing. One of the most consistently requested features? Motion alerts. Today, this handy tool is available across all MV hardware models.
Whether for keeping tabs on valuable merchandise in a retail store, increasing the efficiency of a shipping and receiving dock, or keeping school grounds clear of trespassers, motion alerts have enormous business potential across all verticals. The engineering team behind MV has created an exceptionally straightforward way to implement alerts and we can’t wait to see how our customers use them.
Once a camera’s alerting schedule, minimum event trigger length, and alerting region have been selected, alert behavior can be configured on the Alerts page (alongside offline device alerting). The default alerting email(s) can be used, or add a motion-alert-specific email address for more granularity.
Each alert generated by the dashboard will link directly to the relevant video clip, no manual video scrubbing needed. Take a peek below.
Pro-tip: most major mobile carriers allow you to send emails to an SMS phone number (see the list of phone number “conversions” by carrier below). Take advantage of this “hack” in the dashboard to get motion alerts sent directly to a mobile device as a text.
For many retailers, providing free guest Wi-Fi is no longer a perk; it’s a basic cost of doing business. Customers expect to be able to log on to free in-store Wi-Fi to surf on their smartphones and make video calls to their friends while they’re shopping. By now, most retailers have acquiesced to customer demand and installed high-speed wireless networks in their stores.
Although most retailers provide free Wi-Fi to their guests, many stores may not be leveraging this infrastructure to its fullest potential. Retailers should be taking advantage of the wireless infrastructure they’ve already invested in to learn more about their customers, modernize their stores, and provide first-class customer experiences.
1. Learn more about customers through location analytics
Today, nearly all shoppers are carrying smartphones while they roam around stores. In fact, a 2017 Deliotte report noted that 93% of U.S. smartphone owners use their phone while out shopping. This technology gives customers an unprecedented ability to look up anything and communicate with anyone. It can also help retailers with advanced wireless setups track how customers navigate within a store, and use this knowledge to merchandise as needed.
When a phone’s Wi-Fi radio is turned on, it sends out probes to wireless access points. This occurs whether the phone is actually connected to a Wi-Fi network or not, since smartphones are constantly hunting for new Wi-Fi networks to populate the list of available networks nearby. Using these probes as data points, wireless systems can triangulate shoppers’ locations within a few meters. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons — popularized as iBeacons by Apple — can take this even further and track shoppers to within inches of their locations. For instance, a home improvement retailer could know whether a customer is looking at sinks or at toilets based on their location.
Advanced systems, like Cisco Meraki Location Analytics, can present this precise location data in a number of ways benefitting retailers. For example, retailers can use location heat maps to see where their customers are walking within the store and appropriately arrange displays or staff certain areas based on actual customer engagement. Learn more about the possibilities of Location Analytics by reading this blog post.
2. Support more modern infrastructure
An upgraded wireless experience can serve as the catalyst for greater infrastructure updates that reduce cost and improve the customer experience. Two areas of technology that have seen rapid evolution in the last decade, and that matter a great deal in the retail space, are security cameras and mPOS (mobile point-of-sale). Incidentally, both IP cameras and mPOS rely on robust wireless deployments in the store.
Security cameras have gone from recording limited, grainy footage onto analog video management systems to recording high-definition video that can be streamed online from anywhere. As a result of these rapid technological advancements, retailers are increasingly adopting the newest camera models, which come fully equipped with wireless connectivity, to monitor in-store activity. These cameras, often deployed in places where Ethernet cords can’t easily reach, require a wireless network connection to send captured video to the server.
Similarly, most mPOS devices today don’t use Ethernet for connectivity, necessitating the use of a fast wireless network to process and complete transactions quickly. mPOS has burgeoned recently in large part thanks to the explosion of smartphones: companies like Square have modernized — and for some retailers, eradicated the need for — traditional cash registers.
Retailers with up-to-date, fully secure wireless networks are ready to support these technologies to the fullest extent.
3. Enable exceptional omnichannel experiences
As Amazon has shaken up the retail world over the last decade, omnichannel shopping experiences — experiences that are consistent whether a shopper is buying in-store or online — have become part of the retail zeitgeist. Delivering a comprehensive omnichannel experience requires retailers to collect and combine information about customers’ in-store and online shopping habits.
Retailers with robust wireless deployments are in a prime position to build a sophisticated system that helps them learn more about their customers’ shopping activities. Once a shopper logs on to a store’s Wi-Fi network, a whole host of possibilities opens up, especially if they’re already known (a repeat visitor) or their identity becomes known thanks to a splash page integration, like Facebook Login. From that point onward, customer activities that integrate with the network can be tracked and their experiences personalized.
For example, when a shopper who buys a pair of heels on a retailer’s website then wanders into that store’s dress aisle, she can be presented with an ad on her smartphone for a dress that matches the shoes. Additionally, based on the network bandwidth consumed by different mPOS terminals, stores can determine which checkout counters are the least or most popular and make staffing adjustments accordingly. Solutions that bring APIs into the mix can take this one step further by integrating activity on the network with retail loyalty programs or CRM systems. The possibilities are endless for IT administrators looking to build custom solutions that help retailers ensure consistent shopping experiences across channels.
To learn more about why Meraki is a great fit for retail, check out our retail webpage, read a customer case study, or sign up for our upcoming Meraki for Retail webinar on January 24, 2018 at 11 AM PT.
With the launch of MV, Meraki has been hitting the road to showcase the security cameras at a new crop of trade shows, including both ISC East and West. Next week, the tour continues to the United Kingdom and Europe at IFSEC, hosted at ExCeL London 20-22 June. MV’s Product Manager George is packed up and ready to go along with our booth:
Come visit booth #F900 to say hi and learn more about our cloud-managed security cameras. We’ll be giving demos on how to use MV and highlighting all the newest features like optimized retention tools and more. Meraki experts will be at the show all three days to answer your questions not just about MV, but our other products as well (wireless, switching, network security, communications, and EMM, oh my!). As usual, we’ll have some Meraki goodies on-hand too. Can’t wait to see you there!
Nestled in the gently rolling hills of rural Virginia, Sweet Briar College is a women’s liberal arts college spanning over 3,200 acres. The campus includes a distant equestrian riding site and other remote facilities connected in some places by winding dirt roads. With such a large campus, keeping an eye on everything becomes as challenging as it does critical.
Over the years, Sweet Briar’s small IT team, led by Chief Technology Officer Aaron Mahler, has been tasked with adding more and more elements to their network, including security cameras. Their ten-year-old legacy system was cumbersome and created extra work for Mahler’s staff. As long-time Meraki customers, the team already understood the value in a cloud-managed system, so they were eager to implement the new cameras.
A large campus with several remote facilities made monitoring during off-hours challenging.
Staff from various parts of the school, including the library and bookstore, were unable to easily and autonomously view video footage in their areas due to the complexity of the video management software.
The historic nature of the campus and its architecture provides extra limitations on networking infrastructure and makes it difficult to house extra hardware without disrupting the beauty of the site.
While the school enjoys great network connectivity, the IT team wanted to ensure that bandwidth was used for mission-critical IT and educational tasks, not just security camera footage.
Sweet Briar’s previous camera system was generally challenging to manage, with a complicated and cumbersome interface.
The team had no way of knowing when cameras went offline or stopped recording, which caused major issues when it came time to recall footage after critical events.
In reference to their old camera system:
“We wish we didn’t have any cameras. They are so unreliable that when someone comes to us for footage and we don’t have it because the camera was offline we get blamed.”
The team installed almost 70 MV cameras across the campus.
MVs in remote parts of the campus are connected via wireless mesh with Meraki APs.
A mix of MV21 and MV71 cameras allows for full coverage both indoors and out.
Mahler’s team assigned granular access controls to staff from various teams, allowing them to monitor only their pertinent areas.
With Meraki MV:
“The ease of use is tremendous. The amount of time savings for your staff, the installation and managing the cameras, and the ease of use for your campus police or security office…are all tremendous selling points for us.”
A relatively small team of campus safety officers can provide a safer environment for students and faculty without having to be everywhere at once. The simple web-based interface and mobile app allow them to easily stay keyed- in to remote areas.
Centralized management and the ability to configure and view video through the Meraki dashboard have saved the Sweet Briar staff—from the IT team to the librarians—a considerable amount of time and effort versus their old system.
With user-based permissions, campus staff in charge of specific facilities can better manage their areas since they no longer require a set of eyes onsite at all times.
Installation posed no major technical or aesthetic issues, even in buildings over 100 years old.
The Motion Search tool allows for staff to quickly identify specific events on campus without manually sifting through hours or days of footage.
The team receives alerts when cameras go offline, allowing them to proactively address the issue before they miss a critical event.
During the months prior to launching Meraki MV, our extensive user experience testing for the new product spanned everything from the layout on the dashboard to physical installation of the security cameras. In doing so, we realized just how difficult it is to stand at the top of a tall ladder while holding a laptop (often the unfortunate reality of IP camera setup). That’s why we’re excited to announce that the Meraki mobile app for iOS and Android now supports MV security cameras.
The Meraki app makes it easier and quicker than ever to set up your cameras. View live video feeds and adjust focus, zoom, and aperture, all from a smartphone. Simply download the Meraki dashboard app on your phone, login with your standard dashboard credentials, and then navigate to your cameras in the left-hand navigation menu. Click on the camera you want to view, and then click “Live” in the lower right hand corner. The live video feed will automatically start to stream, and, if needed, you can make any necessary camera adjustments. For video walls and enhanced video monitoring functionality, MV also works with mobile browsers in Android.
Kiss the days of climbing onto a ladder with a laptop goodbye, and say hello to security camera configuration and management from your phone! Whether onsite or halfway around the world, the mobile app will help to keep tabs on what’s important to you and your organization.
As always, our engineers are keeping their ears open for requests through our Make a Wish tool. It’s hard to believe MV just launched a couple of months ago, and MV engineers have already added full disk encryption and support for the mobile app since then. Just imagine what could be coming next!
In the enterprise technology industry it is often common practice for important customers, partners, and industry analysts to be presented a roadmap. This long established tradition communicates the vendor’s goals and aspirations for their product, while setting the expectations for the recipient.
In a rapidly changing world this traditional approach can hamper the productivity of small, highly agile teams like those at Meraki. It can artificially force a focus on feature delivery, not on solving customer problems. To ensure the MV team can respond quickly to market changes and customer needs, the team follows a set of goals that help communicate the intent and vision for the future of the product.
The goals underpinning the development plans are split into three areas. These drive our internal discussions and allow parties external to the organisation to determine our priorities, taking the place of a feature by feature roadmap.
Cost reduction through architectural simplification
Firstly we must deliver immediate value. This must be simple to understand and easy to achieve. In the context of MV this is our architecture: centralized cloud control with video stored at the edge. Eliminating the Network Video Recorder (NVR) and Video Management Server (VMS) has immediate up front savings and continued operational savings.
Operational simplification through automation
Next we must ensure that customers benefit during day-to-day operations. An example of this goal is Motion Search’s elimination of the dull and highly time consuming process of reviewing video. MV processes all video on the camera and lets users quickly find the footage of interest.
Business value through intelligence
Finally, we look at how security cameras can offer value beyond their primary purpose. 90+% of recorded video is never viewed, but what if the camera can analyze what it sees without human intervention? Can a camera be seen as a sensor in the context of marketing or occupational safety? MV has not yet delivered in this area, but it is an area of intense interest that will shape the future capability of the product.
The recent launch of Meraki MV security cameras is just the first step on the road. As has been the case with the development of other Meraki products, early adopters of cloud managed technology continue to benefit from ongoing feature development. As Meraki continues to deliver solutions to challenging problems, so existing customers investment in Meraki continues to improve.
Meraki MV security cameras have been on the market for just a couple of weeks now, but their revolutionary new architecture hasn’t gone unnoticed. Breaking boundaries and creating new technologies is nothing new for Meraki. We did it first with wireless when we removed WLAN controllers and servers before moving on to other parts of IT. Because of this, we’re not strangers to the multitude of questions and concerns that can arise from our customers when they first encounter these new and very different architectures.
The release of MV security cameras has been no different. We understand just how important security is to our customers and know that it’s our job to ensure those using MV cameras can rest at ease knowing their offices, schools, and other facilities are well taken care of. This is why our engineering team made it a top priority to implement full, at-rest disk encryption (using AES-256, for those nerdier types), which is now standard for all MV cameras—right alongside native management and transport encryption of video.
Those who have encrypted a personal computer before know that it can take hours to secure all that data, so those plugging in MV cameras for the first time may encounter up to a 20 minute encryption process. Encrypting a computer can also be a huge hassle, but we’ve made sure that our encryption process requires no configuration on the user’s end, in true Meraki fashion. The only thing required is a little bit of patience (we know it will be hard!), as refraining from unplugging the camera during initial boot up will ensure everything goes smoothly. The good news is that cameras only need undergo this encryption process once, so after the initial start up, cameras can be unplugged and restarted with much shorter boot times.
MV, like all of the other Meraki product lines, are cloud-managed, meaning the newest and best features will always be pushed to Meraki devices without any additional cost to our customers. Our engineers carefully process every piece of feedback that comes through our make-a-wish tool located at the bottom of each and every dashboard page, and use these comments to inform what features they work on next.
Full disk encryption was released just a week after MV became available—just imagine what else our engineers have up their sleeves! Meraki’s commitment to data security is just as serious as our commitment to making easy-to-use, yet feature rich products. Don’t miss your chance to participate in the product development process by making a wish.