Access Control Standardization

ONVIF and Access Control Standardization

For companies in the video space, this enables manufacturers to extend the functionalities of their products with access control functions using the same ONVIF specification that governs the video technology. For end-users and systems integrators, breaking free of the proprietary hardware and software in access control will dramatically increase freedom of choice in technology, reduce integration costs and the overall cost of ownership of access control systems.

While access control has always maintained different subsets of standards — most notably the Weigand interface between the card reader and the door controller — the interface between the controller and the access control management software has been where manufacturers maintained proprietary communication protocols. Now, for the first time, a physical access control standard would enable IP door controllers from different companies to become compatible with one another. Breaking these barriers will create a level playing field in the access control industry, fostering the creation of new, feature-rich devices and enabling competition from new entrants to the market that can contribute unique functionalities to a system instead of another proprietary protocol.

The ONVIF specification, which is currently being developed in a working group, would provide common language, allowing a system that enables IP door controllers to browse devices, creating a list of types of readers and connections, and subscribe to card reader and door controller events. The same standard would also be used to control the outputs of the system, such as switching networked field devices on and off.

The same open standard would also aid in the configuration of a security management system overseeing cameras, other network video devices and IP door controllers and enable device discovery and event management, where the management system seamlessly receives motion events from the cameras and door events from the IP door controllers. Physical access control systems integrated with network video devices would use the standard to position a PTZ dome camera for recording a card swipe at a particular door, activating network video recording on an invalid card swipe or controlling and coordinating schedules and access rights of integrated networked video devices and the access control system.

The Benefits of Open Standards

ONVIF’s initial focus on video enabled the forum to work efficiently to have everything in place — core specification, test specification, test tool and conformance process — to achieve real interoperability of participants' products in a relatively short time-frame. Having such elements in place should make it easier for companies to develop other fully interoperable devices such as those used in access control. This, in turn, will enable end-users, integrators, consultants and manufacturers to take advantage of the possibilities offered, resulting in more cost-effective and flexible security solutions, expanded market opportunities and reduced risk.

For the end-user, it will create the flexibility to choose products from different manufacturers in order to create the most suitable, practical, effective and cost-efficient access control solution. For the manufacturer, it offers the possibility to enter new security areas by having the ability to interface with systems and solutions from various integrators. For the integrators, it offers greater flexibility with the ability to offer customer-specific solutions, rather than those based around the products of a single manufacturer.

The establishment of open standards within video is already helping to drive the migration from analog to digital solutions, bringing the benefits of network video available to everyone along with interoperability, flexibility, quality and future-proofing.
By expanding the ONVIF scope to include access control, the industry is moving a step closer to facilitating the integration of IP-based security and safety devices using a global open standard.

About the authors

Jonas Andersson is Director of Business Development at Axis Communications AB with the global responsibility for business development of Axis’ standardization initiatives. Mr. Andersson is also Chairman of the ONVIF ( Steering Committee and leads standardization activities. He can be reached at