Open Platforms Are Ready for Liftoff

Integrating disparate security systems together in pursuit of a seamless overall solution can be a time-consuming, expensive and frustrating process. Find out how an increasingly united movement toward establishing conforming products is alleviating these challenges and paving the way to true interoperability.

The migration of physical security onto IP networks has hastened the move away from proprietary (closed) system architectures toward nonproprietary (open) platforms. End-user demand for interoperable systems and unified interfaces has been one of the key drivers in this evolution. However, it is a trend that also eases integrators’ challenges and is a path manufacturers and technology suppliers are increasingly realizing affords them new opportunities.

Three organizations have been at the forefront of this industry-morphing paradigm shift: the Security Industry Association (SIA) with its Open Systems Integration and Performance Standards (OSIPS); the Physical Security Industry Interoperability Alliance (PSIA); and the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF). However, the latter in particular has been gaining traction recently in its pursuit of interoperability and integration.

Established four years ago, ONVIF seeks to bring standardization to IP technology in the physical security market. Let’s take a closer look at how far along things are in this process, and the multitude of benefits to be realized throughout the supply channel.

Changing Currents in the Market

With the recent economic struggles of the past three years fast becoming a distant memory, the security industry is regaining its vigor and refocusing its efforts on solutions that meet the increasingly sophisticated needs of its customers.

Today’s security end users themselves are increasingly more aware of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the security systems of their buildings – from the planning phase, through installation, training, maintenance and future extendibility. And as their personal IT competence grows, alerting them to the possibilities of harnessing IP technology within the security space, their expectations increase.

Many have a ‘plug and play’ mentality brought about by their own use of computers at home and at work. So they are now increasingly expecting the interface of their security systems and software to operate in a similar, simple way. This means not just across the different brand lines of a single vendor’s proprietary technology but between the systems of different manufacturers.

These end-user experiences are gradually resulting in an increased emphasis on integration and interoperability within the normally disparate systems in physical security. This makes these issues important drivers in today’s market.

At the higher end of the market with large end users and sophisticated installers, there is a growing movement away from the ‘single discipline’ purchase. Rather than focusing on video or access control or intrusion, a more holistic approach toward total building technology is favored that includes security integrating with general business and building processes.

Fulfilling the Promise of IP

ONVIF’s ongoing work to develop a framework for global interoperability is aimed at contradicting the current experiences of security consultants like Jeffrey Slotnick of Tacoma, Wash.-based Setracon Inc. He knows firsthand what it’s like to try to integrate network cameras, storage devices and encoders from different manufacturers for his clients, which include universities, religious facilities and transportation venues.

Slotnick’s customers recognize the benefits of an IP-based physical security system, which include 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 users 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 them is a vast sea of network video transmitters, such as cameras or encoders; receivers; video analytic solutions; storage devices; and other related systems from hundreds of different manufacturers.

The introduction of ONVIF-conformant products now provides systems integrators and the security market at large greater freedom of choice to select best-of-breed IP-based physical security solutions from disparate manufacturers. This has helped 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.

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