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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
April 15, 2016


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ONVIF on Profile T, H.265 and IoT Interoperability Beyond Security

greg alcorn

Greg Alcorn

IFSEC Global has interviewed Greg Alcorn, vice chairman of ONVIF’s Communication Committee.

Alcorn, who is also senior vice president for strategic alliances at 360-degree camera manufacturer Oncam Grandeye, discusses forthcoming profiles, widening interoperability beyond traditional security solutions and the impact of a raft of recent major acquisitions.

ONVIF was set up by some of the security industry’s biggest names to develop a common set of technical standards for technology.

IFSEC Global: Hi Greg. What were ONVIF’s major achievements in 2015?

Greg Alcorn: The first thing to start with is the release of Profile Q [for quick installation] and Profile A [about access control configuration], which was a good step forward. We’re continually looking at adapting those profiles to ever-changing technology and market requirements.

It’s been a while since an asset had come out on the video side. And Profile Q really just started to open up and make it easier for a lot more manufacturers and developers to take that first step to get that really quick integration.

Probably then looking at the client test tool for Profiles S, G and C. I think clients are quickly using it to test products themselves. That’s been a really big advantage for us, for clients to validate stuff, track conformity, and check it works.

Everyone has been talking about the fact we’ve breached 5,000 conformed products and around 500 members. That was probably the major development from where I’m sitting and we can now start to focus on how we can make that more beneficial as technology changes.

Oncam Evolution 12 indoor

Oncam’s ONVIF-conformant Evolution-12 indoor 360-degree camera

IG: Any more profile developments in the pipeline?

GA: We’re looking at what will be Profile T. We’re also now starting to see the rise of H.265, so Profile T will incorporate that. It will incorporate some of the quick features in Profile Q and additional stuff other than profile S. It’s not a replacement for Profile S; it will stand separate.

And that’s really come from a lot of our members, users and operators to really grab more of those elements from the network specification – saying “hey, we need to focus on incorporating more of those features that we use on a regular basis”.

For the communication committee it’s about getting more involved with our users. I mentioned nearly 500 members, and that is really starting to show benefits.

From a member perspective, for example, at Oncam we’ll go through the process, where we see profiles and the advantages of what we’re doing and our propriety API, if you like. And moving over to ONVIF and being more involved on technology committees and working groups, we really saw that begin to benefit our engineering departments.

I think we really want to share that message with users to say “this is something you can be more of a part of”. As technology grows and changes, and requires different elements and features, we really want to engage members to make ONVIF a global leader in terms of interoperability.

ONVIF is keen to stay at the forefront of developing interoperability to meet the ever-changing needs of our members, and ultimately end users.

IG: And with the internet of things, it’s increasingly about interoperability with non-security systems, as in ‘smart buildings’ or ‘smart homes’…

GA: We have to be aware of the tools and devices being used outside of traditional surveillance areas and where there’s more interoperability needed for multiple devices. Whether or not that continues with the development of things like the IEC standards and taking things more broadly to make sure it is very much a global standard.

We’re conscious of engaging more members from outside the direct security or surveillance areas, to broaden our horizons to ensure there is a common global standard for interoperability.

IG: There have been several major acquisitions in the security industry in the last few years. Might this consolidation trend simplify ONVIF’s role insofar as there are fewer and fewer people sitting around the table, fewer parties there to agree a consensus?

GA: I’m not sure about ‘simplify’. We are seeing, a lot of mergers and acquisitions at the moment. We saw a lot towards the end of 2015, we’re just through Q1 and we’re seeing a lot more. And I think we’ll continue to see that.

A lot of these are quite large acquisitions and we’re going to see a lot of businesses run independently – like with Canon buying Axis and Milestone.

I think it’s really just an exciting time in the industry, which probably creates more interest in things like ONVIF for people who are not involved yet. They see these mergers and acquisitions and ONVIF is a way to maintain that interoperability, whether or not they’re an individual company, or merged with or acquired by another company.

We still ensure the customer has that freedom of choice and flexibility to get the products that meet their needs, no matter who they’re owned by.

IG: Have you got a message for technology buyers in terms of ONVIF compliance?

GA: The first thing is to check the ONVIF database.

There’s also a point to looking at those profiles and understanding what it is you’re actually after. A conformant product will be conformant to one of those profiles, and that will help them understand what they’re actually getting.  It makes things a lot clearer.

You can double check on the website. We now have the ability to report products that don’t conform. We also have a test tool.

And if there are some products that happen to be questionable about compliance, there’s an opportunity to tell us, so we can qualify that. So end users will know that if it does have an ONVIF logo against it then it has gone through the certification process, has registered with ONVIF and it’s showing on the database.

That’s a really improved process and we’re starting to see a lot of activity around the website where people are coming to double check.

IG: Do you work much with installers and integrators and their associations?

GA: We spend a lot of time at trade shows trying to get feedback from integrators, to understand the benefits that they’re seeing and their frustrations. That then flows back into that process to make sure they have a great experience when connecting products across the ONVIF profiles to get true interoperability.

We’ve also opened up a new ‘Observer’ membership level for ONVIF. It’s really a way for system integrators, consultants and end users to get involved, not only to see what’s going on at a closer level, but also to provide input into where we’re going.

So I encourage integrators to get involved. We’re reaching out to our members to say “listen, let’s get feedback directly from the field – from the users and integrators – so we ensure that what we develop is what they need. But I’d encourage integrators to come one step closer and help us really make sure we’re meeting their needs and requirements.

IG: Anything else to add?

GA: I’m excited to see the changes in technology this year. I think we’ve got an amazing group of members who contribute on a regular basis. We recently had a great face-to-face meeting of our internal committees and working groups in Japan with a really good cross-section of members helping to develop and push things further.

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