Why Integrators Should Care About ONVIF

As a systems integrator, no doubt you have been have sounding the interoperability drumbeat the past few years, calling for  “true integration” between components of network video or access control systems. Perhaps you’ve also experienced firsthand the pains of designing a video surveillance system using best of breed components only to find the products don’t work together as seamlessly as promised.

That sting of unrealized promises may soon be over. Since its introduction to the market nearly a decade ago, IP-based systems have held the potential of true plug-and-play network video components, but only recently has the technology been delivering on that premise. Thanks to the work by the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF), an industry consortium with more than 240 members in the IP video space, a multitude of products are readily available that conform to ONVIF’s global interface standard.

Since version 1.0 of the specification was released in late 2008, ONVIF members have also released to the market test and conformance tools for ONVIF product self-certification. Various working groups are also collaborating on the expansion of the ONVIF specification to simplify the integration and installation of IP-based access control systems that interface with network video. That portion of the specification is expected to be released to the market in early 2011.

Today the specification has rapidly gained industry acceptance from multiple channels in the market, including manufacturers, consultants, integrators and end users, all of whom are invited to join the group to offer their perspective on the interface and its future direction. No matter what your affiliation or physical footprint in the market, ONVIF membership affords the opportunity to participate on technical committees responsible for driving the technical direction and core specification development, as well as technical working groups that craft ONVIF’s test specification, testing tool and conformance process.

With membership to ONVIF, systems integrators have a unique opportunity to bring to the table unique and field-tested solutions they have deployed for end users, as well as valuable knowledge of end user needs, wants and demands. And as ONVIF prepares to become a major player in physical access control, input provided by systems integrators can be particularly valuable determining where the lack of functionality exists in today’s current systems.

As members or as adopters, integrators can see benefits from the growing popularity of the ONVIF standard, which specifies how network video devices communicate with each other. This means that an IP camera bearing the ONVIF logo can be plugged into an ONVIF-conformant IP video management system. Almost immediately the two components can send and receive information from one another without additional interfacing software or the need to adhere to a proprietary platform or vendor for compatibility between components.

This type of product interoperability helps to remove much of the complexity of network video system design and product selection for integrators, as well help decrease costs in several areas of the design/build process. Many systems integrators spend costly field hours conducting product acceptance testing to ensure that video components will work together as part of an overall system.

ONVIF-conformant products can dramatically reduce the time spent in this process, since the devices have been pre-certified to work together, resulting in much faster results. And in some projects, acceptance testing is part of the overall project management budget, where any cost overages reduces the overall profit for the project.

Integration companies looking to brand their own solutions to the market can also use the ONVIF specification to streamline internal product testing in determining the right technology selections for the solution.

Using ONVIF-conformant products can significantly reduce the time to market for these types of solutions by cutting product interoperability testing times in the lab and letting the solution be rolled out at the branch level.

Steve Surfaro is a security industry liaison and ONVIF specialist for Axis Communications Inc. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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