Providing a truly comprehensive, long-term security solution today requires more than one manufacturer's state-of-the-art technology. It requires a way for current systems to communicate with each other now, and also with systems of the future. End-users want the flexibility to determine which products best suit their security needs both for today’s purchases and for tomorrow’s upgrades without being locked into using solutions from a single manufacturer.
Since 2008, a variety of initiatives in the industry have sought to devise a single, global interface for the interoperability of IP products. This movement is beginning to bear fruit, spawning new confidence in the end-user, consultant and systems integrator communities that compatibility between IP products from different manufacturers is a reality as part of a truly integrated, fully functional security system.
The Move to Open Standards
An open standard for the interface of all network security products would enable installers to integrate products from different manufacturers into a single system. The standard will also help software vendors ensure that their products support various brands of network products. For product manufacturers, an open standard ensures interoperability with other manufacturers.
In this environment, systems could be updated or upgraded with products from a choice of different manufacturers, rather than being confined to the product ranges of a single manufacturer. ONVIF is a global forum — membership of which is open to manufacturers, software developers, consultants, systems integrators, end-users and other interest groups that wish to participate. As of August 2011, the group had more than 300 member companies, producing nearly 900 commercially available products that conform to the ONVIF specification.
The ONVIF specification for video currently defines a common protocol how network video devices exchange information such as live video, audio, metadata and control information. Conformant network video transmitters (cameras or encoders), and receivers from different participating ONVIF manufacturers are able to communicate with each other by requesting and sending live view video streams. The specification also ensures that conformant devices are automatically discovered and connected to network applications such as video management systems.
While the growing popularity of IP video has captured the bulk of the attention in this burgeoning world of security industry standards, other segments of the market are beginning to see the benefits of this global standards approach. As end-users increasingly demand best-of-breed solutions, standards are being developed that would bring technologies such as access control into the interoperability fold.
The technology used by the existing ONVIF specification in network video — Web Services — is equally suitable for other technologies, such as physical access control, an area in which ONVIF is currently working to expand its scope. Standardization within access control has started with the definition of main application/use cases, establishing the basic technical architecture and the creation of interfaces for basic functions with the emphasis on system expandability. Main nodes in the drafted architecture are the Identification Point (a credential reader), the door infrastructure and an Authentication and Authorization Engine.
The move to standardize access control — one of the more traditionally proprietary segments of the market — will have specific benefits to various stakeholders. Not only will a global network interface ease the integration and simplify the installation of network video and network physical access control systems, but it will also facilitate the incorporation of physical access control functionalities into network video systems.