Roundtable: Surveillance experts weigh in on standards

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

Galvin: The biggest problem is the lack of manufacturer interoperability between network cameras, NVRs and video management software. All network surveillance systems are currently proprietary because every network camera integration with an NVR or software product is unique. With interoperability, network video can achieve a level of “plug-and-play” that has been the norm in analog CCTV systems and similar to how we expect our printers, digital cameras, networking gear and other IT devices to work with our PC.

Honovich: I agree. The biggest problem is constraints on what cameras work with what video management systems. Compared to analog, where all fixed cameras essentially worked with all video management systems (NTSC/PAL are standards), IP video specification is significantly undermined by the lack of standards.

We have a number of groups trying to create some sort of standards for network surveillance device interoperability. Is that good or bad? Does the existence of competing groups help or hinder the standards-writing and adoption process?

Honovich: Competing groups hurts the process. On the other hand, the reality is that the standards creation process is a fight to shape the future of a multi-billion dollar industry, so such competition is to be expected.

Galvin: The fact that there are multiple groups trying to standardize reflects the strong recognition that standards are needed. It will likely accelerate the adoption of a standard.

Damjanovski: I personally don't think it is a good idea to have competing standards in preparation. Eventually, only one of the groups will prevail, and the time lost by the non-prevailing groups could be used more productively and more efficiently if everybody works together. This is the reason we (in Australia) openly invite all readers and industry experts to comment and contribute to AS4806.5. Although the AS refers to the Australian Standards, we think it is a very good starting point. In the AS4806.5 draft proposal, we have yet to define protocols and formats, but the more important thing for us at the moment is to make normal users aware of the already existing differences in products and formats and how to evaluate them. Once this passes the industry acceptance (with possible proposed modifications) we would propose (or use) some of the agreed data and image protocol(s), if they ever come out from the various groups you are referring to [such as PSIA and ONVIF].

Could more than one standard for network video be adopted? What could the impact of that be? Are two (or more) standards better than none?

Galvin: Many standards have already been widely adopted by network camera manufacturers. Many manufacturers have adopted standards for video transport (RTP) and streaming (RTSP) that have been defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Other international standards for video compression (MPEG-4, H.264), audio compression (G.711, AAC) and IT standards such Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) have been adopted. Both the PSIA and ONVIF are packaging a set of existing network and IT standards while defining a new application level standard to address video interoperability. The application level is where the biggest opportunity for interoperability exists. The application level defines interfaces for PTZ control, device configuration and event handling. This is currently where the PSIA and ONVIF can potentially compete or collaborate. I believe that a single standard will emerge at this level.

Damjanovski: There has been a long battle between PAL and NTSC, many products made in two different versions, a lot of un-necessary production costs. The High Definition TV puts an end to this, and today the HD is an international standard. It would be wise and desired for the small CCTV industry (compared to other bigger industries) to have one global standard. But, again, this is only possible if everybody works together. I hope this roundtable may help promote this idea.

Honovich: Adoption of two specifications should not cause significantly more problems than adopting one. Certain low-level protocols demands only one standard or systems' efficiency is severely undermined. For IP cameras, two specifications would be somewhat of a waste but would be workable.

Who would benefit the most (end-users, integrators, recorder/server manufacturers, camera manufacturers, video management software developers, chip developers, etc.) from generally accepted and adopted standards for network video?