Roundtable: Surveillance experts weigh in on standards

What standards can mean for end-users, integrators and product manufacturers

As the weather turns cold and we reach the fourth quarter of 2008, it's clear that one of the big themes in video surveillance for 2008 has been "standards". With adoption in IP video and a boom in the number of capture and recording device manufacturers and video management system vendors, the time was probably ripe for standards to start appearing.

And while we sometimes become very U.S.-centric, these standards weren’t just a push in North America. Sure, in the U.S., you saw the roll-out of the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) network video API. But in Germany this month, the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) kicked off at Essen, opening its membership to the entire industry. And there’s reportedly strong standards activity in Australia as well as the UK in relation to video surveillance.

To help us sort out what this interest in and work towards standards all means, we reached out to three video surveillance experts.

To do so, we got in touch with Tom Galvin, principal of the firm NetVideo Consulting Inc. Galvin is the former vice president of engineering at GE’s security division and the former vice president of product development for Verint-Loronix. He is also a regular contributor to Security Dealer & Integrator and Security Technology & Design magazines (sister publications of

Also on hand to give the low down on standards was John Honovich, founder of and author of the book, “Security Manager's Guide to Video Surveillance”. John is the former director of product management for 3VR Security and was general manager for Sensormatic Hawaii. He is also a regular contributor on topic of IP surveillance to and

Finally, to balance us out and give us the world perspective, we reached out to Vlado Damjanovski of CCTV Labs Inc. Vlado is an Australian-based trainer and lecturer on CCTV and author of the book CCTV (Elsevier Butterwoth-Heinemann publishing) which has often been called "The CCTV Bible".

The roundtable with these three CCTV thought leaders appears below:

Is the time now ripe for standards in network video, or should this push for network video standards have happened sooner?

Tom Galvin: The time is ripe for standards. I’m not sure it could have happened sooner. Network video had to reach to reach a level of maturity and a critical mass of user acceptance before manufacturers could be motivated to put effort into standards. Network video solutions are now widely deployed in many critical infrastructure projects. End-users are seeking interoperability from the broad number of choices of available products.

John Honovich: This is a good time as IP cameras are now moving from a niche into the mainstream. Standards will help ensure that costs are minimized so that IP cameras can successfully and quickly become mainstream.

Vlado Damjanovski: It is never too late for something that has never been done. In actual fact this is exactly what we are doing now in Australia, and as a current Standard Australia CCTV sub-committee chairman, I invite your readers to have a look at the EL51 forum site. Comments and contribution are welcomed.

What are some of the problems currently faced in network video adoption and implementation that could be solved by standards in this area?

Damjanovski: First, there are differences in various protocols, both PTZ controls, image formats and compression. But, there are also big differences in CCTV in the type of products offered, both in terms of pixel count, images per second and physical imaging chips sizes (from 1/4" up full 35mm size). It becomes more and more important to consider all components in the CCTV chain: lenses, chip sizes, pixel count, DSP, compression, latency, even display quality. Comparing live video streaming at standard definition to a 5 megapixel camera at 3 images per second (for example) is like comparing apples and oranges. This is exactly what we tried to address in Australian upcoming 4806.5 digital CCTV standards.

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