A Peek Into Vicon’s Mission for Open Standards
Vicon Industries CEO Eric Fullerton believes video surveillance consolidation has stifled innovation. He is now challenging security systems integrators and end users to spec only ONVIF-based open platform systems.
Vicon Industries (NYSE: VII), the venerable 50-year-old CCTV pioneering company, is on a mission and openly challenging the rest of the industry to follow its lead. The company, led by new CEO Eric Fullerton, sees innovation being stifled in the video surveillance industry over the past few years as a rash of buyouts have led to consolidation that is feeding an increasing emphasis on proprietary end-to-end video solutions vs. open standards.
No doubt consolidation is occurring: Tyco buys Exacq, Panasonic buys Video Insight, Canon buys Axis, Avigilon buys VideoIQ. Indeed, Vicon has not been immune to the acquisition bug… the company merged with megapixel camera pioneer iQinVision last year. But, all the buyouts have led to what Fullerton calls “proprietary jail under vendor lockdown” for end users that binds them into a single solution with less flexibility to upgrade in the future.
“The level of innovation in the industry has been on the decline for the past three to four years,” says Fullerton. “Back in 2000, when the Internet Protocol took off, it enabled a company to separate the software from the hardware. That led to a very fast innovation cycle on the hardware side where it seemed like almost daily you were seeing new IP-based products that rose in megapixels and capabilities. On the hardware side, we saw a similar speed of innovation. But lately, companies have just been adding megapixels or features. It’s not very innovative.”
To combat this stifling trend, Vicon has reloaded with new company Vision, Mission and Values statements aimed at providing an open source solution built on the ONVIF standard.
“A lot of manufacturers, instead of trying share on a standard for the whole community, try to protect their own innovations by becoming proprietary. A good example of that is the ONVIF standard that was established by three major players (Bosch, Axis, Sony). All three of those companies will release low-level stuff based on ONVIF, but they tell integrators and end users that if they really want the sexy features, they will have to go with their proprietary equipment ,” says Fullerton, who joined the company right after the merger last fall.
Fullerton says the manufacturers “all say they are going to stay open, but with the amount of money they have invested in these consolidations, they will become more proprietary because they have to reap the benefits of the investment.”
The result is that manufacturers are not contributing to the open standards at the same pace, claims Fullerton. “I would even go so far as to say that what was open platform and driving capability before is very much becoming proprietary. The manufacturers are now holding on to the control of their devices so they cannot be opened up and controlled by a third-party in an open source.”
He adds that some vendors are claiming their video solution is open source, but it is in reality a “make-believe, proprietary open platform,” says Fullerton.
Pushing ONVIF Open Standards via Specs
So what can be done? For its part, Vicon has recently established the Vicon Developers Store.
“We are taking the ONVIF drivers for our cameras and putting it in to open source so it is freely available to anybody,” says Fullerton. The goal is to give developers access to the ONVIF application.
“This will allow others to implement solutions without restriction. We will not be holding on to it like it is the crown jewels. We hope to spark a new wave of innovation for people building new applications on ONVIF. You can even go so far as to take this driver and place it on third-party hardware that we have not even developed.”
Fullerton says this is not a foreign concept.
“This is what the networking and telecom industries do. You develop a standard and you drive standardized hardware and you start innovating software on top of these platforms. So that is what we are going to do to unleash innovation in the industry and free the end users from proprietary jail under vendor lockdown,” he notes.
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