IP Standards Cometh

The adoption of IP camera standards is considered a vital component to the continued expansion of the IP video surveillance market.  A select few groups, including Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF), are leading the charge to create a global standard for interfacing network video products. Tom Galvin, vice president-product management for SAMSUNG | GVI Security and a member of the ONVIF testing board, discusses the topic.

Why are standards needed?

A network video system is comprised of the IP camera, NVR and video management software. Today, network camera manufacturers provide proprietary camera interfaces. Yes, some standards exist for compression and streaming, but the basic command and control interfaces for setting video quality parameters, network parameters and p/t/z control are all proprietary. To integrate network cameras, software and NVR manufacturers must implement camera-specific software interfaces. System designers and installers must cautiously confirm the interoperability of the basic camera, recording and management components.

Although such VMS vendors as Milestone and OnSSI have diligently integrated hundreds of network cameras and encoders, the level of integration on many platforms can significantly differ between devices. Software can support some features such as audio on one camera, but not on another. Compare this to the plug-in approach of CCTV, where the NTSC signaling seamlessly works across DVRs, monitors and cameras. In the world of CCTV, integrators and installers need not concern themselves with interoperability.

How do network video standards benefit integrators?

Currently, it is up to the integrator to determine the degree of interoperability between network recorders, software and IP cameras. The level and functionality of an integration varies between manufacturers and products, leaving the integrator to determine if the product integration will meet his customer’s requirements. With ONVIF certification, the basic level of integration will be standardized, allowing the integrator to focus on other services that add more value versus product integration testing.

Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) is developing network standards as well. Are there other competing organizations?

There is standards activity in the U.K. and Australia. However, ONVIF and PSIA seem to have the most momentum and interest from major manufacturers. In the short term, both standards will coexist. The emergence of both standards is raising the general profile of standards activity and industry adoption.

Does the existence of competing groups help or hinder the standards-writing and adoption process?

In the short term, I think the emergence of competing groups is a positive thing. It’s bringing a lot of focus on the issue and forcing all manufacturers to pay attention and make plans to support one or both standards. Long term, it’s reasonable to assume that one of the standards will prevail.

What are some of the problems currently faced in network video adoption and implementation that could be solved by standards?

Standardization can eventually lower the cost and complexity of IP video implementation. These are among the biggest barriers to more widespread adoption of IP video.

Should the effort to adopt network standards have happened sooner?

I’m not sure it could have happened sooner. Network video had to reach a level of maturity and a critical mass of user acceptance before manufacturers could be motivated to put efforts into standards. Network video solutions are now widely deployed in many critical infrastructure projects. Integrators are seeking interoperability from the broad number of choices of available products.

ONVIF’s founding members (Axis, Bosch and Sony) hold a significant percentage of market share for IP cameras. Some are concerned ONVIF may be motivated to control or delay the adoption of standards. The thought is they have the market power, they do not need to rush into any program that does not support their interests. Your response?

Many people have questioned why the founding members were motivated to pursue standards. For example, Axis is arguably the most highly integrated camera line in the industry with a very large array of development partners and integrated software platforms. The real issue for these three companies comes down to growing the overall market for IP video.

The real play for the founding members is not to take market share from each other as much as it is to grow the overall share of IP video versus its analog counterpart. Of course, the success of the standard will be determined by how widely the standard is implemented. The recent news is promising. Sony recently released an entire generation of ONVIF-compliant products at the ASIS trade show in September. Other sources indicate that all Axis products will have ONVIF-compliant firmware by the end of 2010.


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