The long road to IP video standards

ONVIF and PSIA are giving end-users what they want: Usable specifications and the end of proprietary video systems

ONVIF-Compliant Products

In 2009, several manufacturers released ONVIF-compliant IP cameras, encoders and recorders, as demonstrated recently at a so-called plug-fest, and repeated at ASIS 2009, where nine industry players demonstrated interoperability. Since the ONVIF-compliancy roadmap and schedule for manufacturers and software vendors is a confidential and internal matter, it is impossible to say with any certainty when the leading VMS vendors will officially release ONVIF support. However, I speculate they, along with hardware edge device manufacturers, will announce this in early 2010.

At the time of writing this article, ONVIF has 112 members and as stated by IMS research in July of 2009, ONVIF member companies account for roughly 60 percent of the network video surveillance equipment market. The membership includes Axis, Bosch, Sony, Panasonic, Cisco, Samsung, Genetec and Milestone plus many other significant hardware and software manufacturers, distributors, integrators and others from around the world.

The Future

The progress of these organizations’ standardization efforts is unstoppable, not only because the members wish it to be successful, but because the market forces demand it.

Manufacturers with larger market share will find smaller competitors who are spontaneously compatible with any ONVIF-compliant software out there. Knowing that ONVIF will commoditize their offerings, they will need to innovate to deliver other differentiators than “our cameras work with more software than anyone else’s does.”
They will focus on many things including image quality and reliability. If functionality is offered that is not exposed via ONVIF v1.0 (the current specification), they will encourage the VMS providers to use their specific SDK allowing their products to shine.

Conversely, VMS providers with larger market share will find smaller competitors who are spontaneously compatible with any ONVIF edge device out there, and so they will not be able to differentiate on the issue of “we work with more brands of cameras.”
However, they may continue to use deep-integration via specific SDKs to key brands and models to leverage key differentiators to give them the edge — which is in the interest of the end-user. Also, they will be able to redirect R&D resources to usability, scalability, reliability and functionality, which again benefit the end-user.

It’s important to realize that ONVIF v1.0 is not the end of the road. For example, v1.0 means an IP camera or encoder can be recorded on, for example, a hybrid DVR. A VMS that allows a user to view the DVR currently uses a proprietary method such as an SDK to reach the DVR; however, v2.0 of the ONVIF specification includes among other things the ability to control playback. This means that even a regular DVR could now be ONVIF-compliant, enabling any ONVIF-compliant VMS to use and control it. It also means that IP cameras or encoders with embedded storage also become viable as an ONVIF 2.0-compliant VMS — as users will be able to view them live as well as replay video from them.

It is hard for most people to imagine that ONVIF is more than just about IP cameras. In fact, it pertains to all video-oriented devices that are on the network. Even the focus on video may broaden at some point, but whatever the direction, it will always be geared towards making networked devices work seamlessly together, and that will certainly make everyone’s life better.

Dr. Bob Banerjee is the IP video product marketing manager for Bosch Security Systems, Inc. in the Americas. He developed Bosch’s IP Resource Center found at and can be reached at

Gerard Otterspeer is the product marketing manager CCTV for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Bosch Security Systems. He has more then 10 years of experience in distribution and channel marketing in the IT industry and joined the security market in 2004. Follow him via