What ONVIF and PSIA standards mean for VMS companies

If there was any doubt as to how quickly new IP video standards from the PSIA and ONVIF groups would be adopted, those doubts have been laid to rest. Earlier this month both Milestone Systems and OnSSI released updates for their video management systems (VMS) to support early standards from ONVIF and PSIA.

Both companies update their software packages with camera driver packs on a regular basis, and it is the new driver packs from each firm that add support for the PSIA and ONVIF standards. On Jan. 4, 2010, Milestone announced the release of Device Pack v4.6 to support the standards and provide newly added camera drivers. Four days later, OnSSI also announced the issuance of its own Camera Pack v4.6, which likewise adds the IP video standards and support for additional cameras.

The move to IP video standards has the potential to allow VMS companies like Milestone and OnSSI support even more cameras. Both companies typically write their own drivers to provide support for new models coming out from some of the world's top IP camera and video encoder manufacturers, but the advent of standards may affect the need to write specific drivers in the future, and some suspect it may lead to the introduction of even more IP cameras at lower prices, which could speed up transition to IP video.

"Standards like ONVIF and PSIA will mainly cover basic functionality for IP cameras early on," explained Milestone's Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Eric Fullerton. "This means that it will be easier to bring an IP camera with basic functionality to market for camera manufacturers. We expect to see a high number of camera manufacturers that previously have not manufactured IP cameras to enter this space based on ONVIF/PSIA standards and that the effect of these entrants will be that the low end of IP cameras will be commoditized and thus improving the ROI for IP deployments. The effect of this may very well be that the conversion from analog to IP will speed up again already in 2010."

OnSSI President Gadi Piran said that the adoption of IP video standards may also allow VMS developers to focus more resources on developing added VMS functionality rather than needing to focus programming time on camera drivers.

"As more and manufacturers subscribe to these industry standards the value that we collectively deliver to the end-user community will continue to grow," said Piran. "We and other manufacturers can focus our resources on adding additional functionality to the solutions that we respectively deliver. This applies specifically to the camera manufacturers as well. As more manufacturers comply with these standards, there should be less need for individual camera packs with new drivers for new camera models."

But even with standards, Milestone's Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Eric Fullerton said that the job of developing drivers for individual cameras is far from over for VMS companies.

"Standards cannot preempt innovation. As the speed of innovation for IP cameras is relatively fast and there is an ever increasing need for new features in IP cameras, we will see the development of standards lag the need in the market resulting in more advanced features being demanded that are not covered by any standard for the foreseeable future. This means that video management vendors like Milestone will continue to need to spend a relatively large amount of resources developing camera drivers and making sure the quality meets the expectation of end users to secure a competitive position in the market place for a foreseeable future."

Industry analyst and author/blogger of IPVideoMarket.info John Honovich said that Milestone and OnSSI's adoption of the PSIA and ONVIF standards could be a watershed event for IP video. "I think it will motivate other manufacturers to adopt these specifications because of the attraction to gain support from these suppliers," said Honovich, who was quick to point out that these are still early adoptions of the standards.

"We are currently testing this implementation and while our test so far shows that it fundamentally works, we are seeing some issues in interoperability," added Honovich. "We would advise caution in verifying full compliance as simply releasing support for these specifications does not guarantee full interoperability, especially because vendors are generally self-certifying their compliance."

Other VMS companies have indicated that they plan to support emerging IP video standards. DVTel's Kim Robbins, marketing communications manager, said that DVTel, which is a member of ONVIF, plans to add support for ONVIF standards in 2010.