Two Standards are better than Hundreds

Innovation in the security market begins with IP, but problems with interoperability hamper widespread adoption of networked-based technologies. The most prevalent issue is common communication and streaming protocols. Today, an integrator can easily hook up an analog camera and view video, but if they hook up an IP camera, there is a high potential for no video. The industry needs to fix this problem, and standards are the answer.

Over the past few years, the movement to develop IP standards has gained a significant traction. Two organizations lead the charge, the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance and the Open Video Network Interface Forum. The organizations' goals are the same: to promote interoperability of networked-based, physical security devices through the development of IP-based specifications. ONVIF's primary focus is on IP surveillance specifications, while PSIA develops a range of specifications that enable devices to communicate as a comprehensive IP solution.

Standards are critical to propelling the widespread adoption of IP-based technologies in the physical security industry. Until IP technologies are just as easy to design, sell and install as traditional analog CCTV systems are today, IP will not deliver on its promised value. Therefore, deploying standards that drive complete system interoperability is critical to unlocking the potential of IP for the industry as a whole.

The Benefits of Standards

PSIA is committed to developing IP specifications for all product segments including video surveillance, access control, recording and storage devices, and video analytics. This approach offers numerous benefits. For end-users, it protects existing investments and guarantees that an IP-based product deployed today will be supported in the future. IP standards also provide a common platform for future expansion, which decreases the total cost of ownership of an IP security system.

IP standards enable systems integrators to offer cost-effective and best-of-breed solutions to customers. Standards also lead to an ease of installation of IP-based security products regardless of brand, as integrators can deploy a solution with products from various vendors to deliver world-class security solutions to end-users.

For product manufacturers, standards increase market opportunities for IP-enabled solutions, as products can be easily integrated with others, without custom interfaces or integration. Standards also allow manufacturers to highlight a product's features and benefits regardless of cost. This increases the market size for IP-enabled products and enable providers to further invest in future product development.

There is substantial industry support for PSIA initiatives. To date, more than 1,800 industry professionals have accessed existing PSIA specifications including the IP Media Device for IP camera and VMS compatibility; the Recording and Content Management specification, which standardizes the way recording and content management products interface with other devices in the security ecosystem, specifically security management systems; the Video Analytics specification that enables video analytic platforms of all types and brands to automatically integrate with video management systems and physical security software; and the PSIA Common Metadata and Event Model. The PSIA Area Control Working Group is currently working on an access control specification that will be released in early 2011.

A Solutions Approach to Interoperability

As previously mentioned, PSIA develops specifications that enable the interoperability of various IP devices. This enables video management, video analytics, access control and intrusion devices to communicate without customized software development or integration. This combination provides end-users with increased awareness and ability to respond. When video management is tied to an access control system, users can immediately access video footage of an access control event, such as a door forced open. For example, an employee can badge in and hold the door open for others to enter, and this triggers an alarm through the access control system. The security operator then recalls the event with the associated video and visually validates that the badge holder is the person who forced the door open. If video analytics are enabled on the camera, the face captures of the tailgaters is presented and compared with the access control database for possible non-employee entry. This example is possible through the use of various PSIA specifications.

Once APIs and specifications are developed through the respective PSIA working groups, the PSIA Systems Working Group oversees the process of confirming individual specifications work in concert to enable system-wide interoperability. Furthermore, the group provides architecture and design leadership in areas that span multiple working groups to ensure cohesive system designs that ensure interoperability.

Another benefit of a broad range of specifications is that it ensures IP-enabled security devices work seamlessly with other systems such as building management, and fire and life safety. Overall, the PSIA systems approach brings networked-enabled security and operational solutions to the market that allow for flexibility and freedom of choice.

The Future is IP

Until all IP products are able to communicate, IP will be second to analog in terms of market share. For IP to reach mainstream adoption, we, as an industry, need to promote and develop standards for these devices. It is not just industry incumbents that need to be involved - companies from diverse and emerging markets are critical as well. Input from a variety of vendors, providers and end-users are critical. The more who contribute to this process, the stronger we are as an industry.

Therefore, it is beneficial that there are multiple organizations working to push this initiative forward. Although some industry insiders have positioned it as a "standards war" - rather, it is a preference of which standard works best in a particular application or device. Not only does it give the industry freedom of choice, but it drives competition, and therefore, open standards are brought to market more quickly and are more feature-rich.

The industry needs to remember that two standards are far better than hundreds of proprietary standards.

Danny Petkevich is Vice Chairman of the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance and Vice President of Engineering for Next Level Security Systems in Carlsbad, Calif. To view PSIA specifications and a list of PSIA compliant products, visit