As the new Chairman of the Steering Committee for the Open Network Video Interface Forum, Per Björkdahl of Axis Communications is now leading the organization’s charge to create and promote IP standards within video surveillance and other physical security areas. He joins the conversation to discuss ONVIF’s work.
ONVIF’s 2013 standards roadmap includes the release of Profile G for video storage and Profile C for access control. What is the significance of being conformant to these?
The primary benefit of our Profile concept is knowing that when two products bear the Profile C or G mark, the same as what is already available with Profile S [video streaming] conformant products, they will work together. Rather than trying to figure out whether one version of the ONVIF specification is compatible with another, or which features of the product might interfere with interoperability, seeing that mark ensures a successful interface. This has been part of the success of our first Profile release, Profile S, and it will be true going forward with our Profile G release for recording and storage products and Profile C for physical access control and video integration.
Few would argue that standards are necessary as the industry moves forward. How is ONVIF shaping that migration?
The adoption of standardization happening in the market, and the growth of ONVIF, has happened very quickly. From just a few companies, ONVIF now has more than 400 members. More importantly, we are reaching a critical mass of representation from small firms as well.
From the beginning we understood that the intent of ONVIF would be to provide standardization to an entire security system, so we prepared for that by creating the underlying architecture of ONVIF, which is already prepared to add other technology segments. For access control, we expect to have the specification and test tool available in spring 2014. Once that process is complete, our members have indicated an interest in intruder alarms. Each next step is determined by member interest.
Does existence of competing groups help or hinder the standards writing and adoption process?
Competition has always helped to drive speed and innovation in the marketplace and that means customers usually benefit from the results. For example, since ONVIF and other groups with ongoing interoperability initiatives are following different paths to standardization, it will be up to manufacturers to decide which one they want to follow.
Of course, companies will continue to maintain their own interfaces to add additional functionalities to their products in the market, but standardization will provide a common interface for the most widely used functions. Even if the more fundamental features will become the same in several products, this will really push companies to further innovate and drive the market to produce better products that will benefit the end user.
Is there room for ONVIF and PSIA to coordinate a harmonized approach to standards in the electronic security market? Can they coexist?
We think the industry participation that ONVIF has achieved speaks for itself. More than 400 companies have joined the forum to contribute to the work going forward and to implement the interface to their products. Comparisons with other groups such as PSIA are difficult because our approach is quite different. ONVIF excels with its Web services and strong legal framework, as well as its decision to establish an underlying specification and then tackle each discipline, such as video or access control or intrusion, individually. Technically, of course, there is room for two standards and ONVIF has always maintained that we would be open to discussions with PSIA.
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What are your top priorities as ONVIF's chair of the steering committee, short term and long term?
My main priority is to maintain the momentum that ONVIF has been able to achieve over the past five years, and continue to educate the market that ONVIF is available, that it is useful and that it is a long-term solution for ensuring that end users can realize the full potential and flexibility of IP technology. In the near term, however, I will be focused on delivering Profile C and Profile G to the market while continuing with Profile S [video streaming], as well as on our ongoing processes of refining our test and conformance tools to meet the needs of the marketplace.
In the time since ONVIF launched in 2008, has interoperability progressed at a pace you expected?
When we first began this initiative on behalf of Axis, Bosch and Sony, the industry was only beginning its transition to IP technology, and that of course has had a huge impact on the efforts and impact of ONVIF over the past five years. Now the industry is also moving toward standardization to take advantage of the opportunities in the market, including the opportunity to integrate with products from a multitude of manufacturers in the industry. This adoption of ONVIF and of standardization within IP video has happened very quickly, much more quickly than we had originally imagined, as standardization efforts typically take several years to impact the marketplace.
What can the market expect of IP standardization in the future?
Although standardization is typically a more gradual, evolutionary process, ONVIF has grown in size and strength quite rapidly over its first five years. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in some growing pains between the market’s expectations for the specification and the technical limitations for standards based on the current maturity level of IP technology. Both ONVIF and IP have experienced rapid deployment. With that in mind, the next few years will be focused not only on moving forward into new technical areas, but we will also concentrate on refining the overall process of standardization. A strong focus on the conformance process will ensure the quality of the specification and its continuing acceptance in the market.