The Freedom of Choice

The interoperability of ONVIF-conformant products open up new avenues of integration possibilities


Security consultant Jeffrey Slotnick, from Setracon Inc., knows first-hand what it is like to try to integrate network cameras, storage devices and encoders from different manufacturers. His clients, which include universities, religious facilities and transportation venues, to name a few, are often faced with that very challenge.

Slotnick's customers recognize the benefits of an IP-based physical security system, such as remote accessibility, flexibility, cost-effectiveness and future-proof scalability. And more often than not, they request a security solution that avoids single-vendor lock-in. But Slotnick and his customers also know from experience that unless interfaces have already been written to enable devices from different manufacturers to talk to one another, creating an interoperable system from multiple vendors can require them to invest in manual configuration and testing.

Creating an integrated IP-based system from different manufacturers' components to meet the needs of today's end-user can be an expensive and time-consuming task, even for the most knowledgeable, technology savvy professional.

For consultants like Slotnick and his end-user clients, the wait is over for being able to identify truly interoperable, IP-based physical security solutions among a vast sea of surveillance cameras, video encoders, video analytic solutions, storage devices and other related systems from hundreds of different manufacturers. The recent introduction of ONVIF-conformant products now provides end-users and the security market at large with a greater freedom of choice to select best of breed IP-based physical security solutions from disparate manufacturers.

A Path to Interoperability

Recognizing these challenges, a change has been afoot with the security industry making significant inroads towards interoperability. This is thanks in part to the inception of the ONVIF a little over two years ago. ONVIF, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to developing global standards for the interface of IP-based physical security products.

To date, the ONVIF specification includes core and test specifications to cover local and remote device discovery, device management, imaging configuration, media configuration, real-time streaming of audio and video, event handling, video analytics, PTZ (Pan, Tilt and Zoom) control and security. It is now beginning to work on expanding the core specification relating to IP-based access control solutions.

There are now more than 300 conformant products, identified with an ONVIF logo, that fall under categories such as network cameras, encoders, network video recorders and video management software. The organization boasts 240 member companies, which account for more than 70 percent of the network video equipment market share, according to a report released by IMS Research in July of 2010.

But despite this progress, several specific questions remain. Security professionals still want to know how interoperability will contribute to the design, retrofit and management process. End-users want to hear about the global benefits of standards and the potential cost-saving benefits for their companies.

Real-World Benefits

Few in the security industry would dispute that when an end-user implements a new or upgraded IP-based physical security system at a facility, the overriding goal is to install a best-of-breed solution. Not only does an end-user want a cost-effective system, but a reliable one that delivers the best performance in all areas.

If an API (Application Programming Interface) did not already exist between two different products from different manufacturers, it was not uncommon for an end-user to commonly stick with one product from a single manufacturer instead of mixing and matching, for fear of technological challenges.

Now, when an end-user sees an ONVIF logo on a product to indicate the product follows ONVIF specifications, it provides that end-user with the confidence that the product has been through a rigorous set of self-certification testing to ensure it works properly with other ONVIF-conformant products.

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