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Video surveillance is growing in popularity fueled by lower costs and technology that is easier to use. And, over the last decade, new hardware manufacturers and software players have entered the CCTV market to capitalize on the movement toward networked video systems.
IP video surveillance is a wise investment for those who want to use the reach of their IP network and benefit from the flexibility it brings. These systems can allow a single operator to monitor cameras from anywhere on the network. Conversely, remote and occasional users have a variety of ways of accessing live and recorded video without requiring a significant amount of dedicated CCTV hardware.
While sales of analog video products still outnumber those of IP video products in North America, the CCTV market is leaning more and more toward IP-based surveillance solutions. Now, the penetration of network video products is becoming significant.
However, without a standard to define how components of network video surveillance systems – such as IP cameras, video encoders and video management systems -- should communicate, there is great effort required by installers to integrate products from different vendors. The current incompatibilities of IP video devices can be frustrating for end users, as they limit the ability of system designers to combine best-of-breed products from separate providers. In order to support the technology shift toward IP video systems, the market leaders need to work toward creating increased flexibility for end users, integrators and consultants.
While the Security Industry Association (SIA) is working toward a standard that defines what information should be exchanged between the video components, how this information is communicated has yet to be defined. Through the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) non-profit organization, leaders in the IP video market are paving the way forward in the creation of a standard that defines this “how”. The new standard will generally follow the requirements set by SIA but furthers the work by enabling network video products, in effect, to understand one another.
Purpose and Scope
It is the founding members of ONVIF who hold the majority share of the global IP video surveillance market. And, as leaders, it is the responsibility of these companies to invest in areas that are in the best interest of the market.
ONVIF’s purpose is to define standardized procedures for communication between network video clients and video transmitter devices. It defines precise procedures for video, audio and metadata (for video content analysis) streaming – including stream setup and control – in IP networks from JPEG, MPEG-4 and H.264 network video devices. It will encompass device discovery, management and configuration, enabling the installer to use a simple request command to obtain the capabilities and services offered by a camera. Pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera control, network security and encryption for protected streaming, control of storage functions, and event configuration are also included in the scope of the standard, which will be hardware and software independent.
It is important to understand that ONVIF’s efforts will not create a camera standard. Instead, ONVIF will define a means by which the cameras communicate their streams to video management systems or network video recorders. IP camera manufacturers will continue to differentiate their products through innovative features and video recording technology will continue to evolve. However, any IP cameras that are compliant with the standard will now be compatible with these devices – similar to how all analog cameras and digital video recorders speak composite broadband video signal over coaxial cabling.
Another correlation that helps to explain how an IP video standard will impact the market is taken from the IT industry. IT already works with strict standards in the networking world and can choose a product based on feature set, not manufacturer. Because the products follow the standards, IT knows the devices will work with others.
In real terms, a widely-used standard for the IP video industry means that video management systems and network video recorders that are compliant with the standard will be able to recognize IP video streams from other manufacturers who are also compliant. This level of compatibility reduces the integration workload for software developers, system designers and testers and greatly benefits the end user.
Impact of a Standard
The initial development work of ONVIF’s founding members has brought forth a framework for a standard that all joining members can now contribute to. More than 300 companies have already expressed interest in ONVIF and the development of a global open specification for the interface of network video products. This high level of attention indicates the time is right for the creation of a standard in the IP video industry. And, the companies who join ONVIF as members will have full access to technology and tools that will facilitate the development of compliant products.
The overall goal is to make it easier for end users, system designers and consultants to take advantage of the possibilities offered by network video solutions - regardless of the brand of product they choose. An open standard will enable them to easily use products from various vendors in the same installation – achieving seamless integration of different network video surveillance products regardless of brand. In short, they’ll be able to take advantage of plug and play capabilities.
Interoperability between different vendors’ products makes it easier for system designers to offer cost-effective and flexible solutions. It gives them greater freedom to design a system with products from different manufacturers, making it less complicated to fully meet the specific needs of various customers. End users can choose best-of-breed products for their applications instead of being compelled to use products from a manufacturer – that offers a larger breadth of devices – due to improved or easier integration.
For vendors, standardization tends to benefit smaller players that specialize in certain types of products. However, the industry leaders recognize this and still continue forward, as standardization is the right move to further developing the market.
Overall, from the viewpoint of all stakeholders in the IP video market, it is clear that simplifying the integration process is a key component in accelerating adoption of IP video surveillance systems. And, ONVIF represents a step in the right direction to achieve this goal.
For more information on ONVIF, visit www.onvif.org.
About the Author
Dr. Bob Banerjee is the product marketing manager for IP video products at Bosch Security Systems, Inc. He has developed Bosch’s IP Resource Center found at http://www2.boschsecurity.us/ip/. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
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