ONVIF: a guide to the open security platform

ONVIFThe Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) was set up by some of the biggest names in the security industry to develop a set of technical standards for security technology.

Encouraging manufacturers to join the group and help guide the standards’ evolution ONVIF seeks to be an inclusive organisation with as much buy-in to its core goal – use of a single, open platform rather than closed, proprietary networks – as possible. ‘Interoperability’, whereby cameras, storage systems, video analytics software and systems can be easily integrate with one another.

Among the forum’s  most famous members are Axis Communications, Bosch, Cisco, HIKvision, IndigoVision, Samsung, March Networks, Dallmeier and Milestone Systems.


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A history of ONVIF

ONVIF was founded as a non-profit organisation 2008 by Axis Communications, Bosch and Sony.
The concept that it based itself on however had been talked about in security circles for much longer than that says Per Björkdahl, chairman, ONVIF Steering Committee.

“There was a strong support for a standardized approach for a common communication interface for IP-based surveillance cameras. Acknowledging that this was the direction the market was heading, Axis, Bosch and Sony recognized that to help move forward the adoption of IP in the market that standards were necessary,” said Björkdahl.

This was one of the reasons why the organisation appeared to hit the ground running when it first became public at the Security Show in Essen in the autumn of 2008. In fact, by the end of the year it had already released the first version of its core and test specification.

These specifications covered local and remote device discovery, device management, imaging configuration, media configuration, real-time streaming of audio and video, event handling, video analytics, PTZ (Pan, Tilt and Zoom) control and security.

By the following year (2009) ONVIF’s member based had grown to 127 members. It had also set up five working groups: one dedicated to storage, one for the development of the core specification and the remaining three on support and conformance issues. Then in May it released its first test tool and conformance process.

Standards were the way forward

The industry had clearly decided that standards were the way forward. Only a year after the organisation was founded, industry analysts, IMS Research, reported that ONVIF members held a 40% share of market revenues in the video surveillance market, rising to a 60% within the network surveillance sector.

“Manufacturers in the market were very quick to jump on board with ONVIF even from the very beginning. Our membership grew very rapidly in the first few years of our existence and continues to grow, though at a steadier pace,” adds Björkdahl.

In the summer of 2009  Taiwanese camera manufacturer Merit Lilin (www.meritlilin.com) brought out the world’s first ONVIF con-formant network video products: a range of high speed domes, encoders and IR cameras.

martin gren 2

Axis co-founder Martin Gren waas instrumental in the formation of ONVIF

It was however now time to extend the scope of the organisation and in 2010 ONVIF turned its attention to the access control sector and began work on developing a profile for physical access control systems.

If increased interoperability was the goal, then it made sense that network video systems need to be able to integrate successfully with the access control systems they were likely to be connected to. After all, IT departments that were increasingly influencing the security setup would demand it.

By the beginning of the following year there were more than 600 con-formant products on the market and both the core and test specifications had been revised and updated. In 2011 the first profile was released. Profile S, as it was known, naturally covered interoperability between IP video products – as this represented the interests of the majority of its members at this stage.

The idea behind creating a Profile was to better to communicate which specific fixed set of features or functions of an ONVIF con-formant product would interoperate with others. As the number of products that were ONVIF con-formant had grown so significantly it was necessary to make it simpler to end-users by grouping products and their key con-formant features under sub-groups – or profiles.

When Profile S was finally released, there were already nearly 1700 products that were con-formant with it.

Profile C

The following year (2013) with Profile C ONVIF extended its scope to include Physical Access Control products or (PACs) reflecting the increasing integration in the industry between IP-based video and access control products. Profile G swiftly followed in 2014 to increase interoperability between live video and video storage.

This profile covers cameras, encoders and network video recorder devices, as well as client systems such as video management systems, building management systems and physical security information management (PSIM) systems.

On its release Bjorkdahl said: “With the finalization of Profile G, we have completed the circuit, providing the means whereby product manufacturers and software developers can present at a basic level an integrated video and access control system. This is a true complement to our existing Profiles S and C, and takes standardized interoperability to new heights.”

The most recent profile currently out for review is Profile Q. The profile aims to increase ease of configuration between devices – so called ‘out of the box functionality.’

The release candidate was announced in January of this year with the final profile expected to be announced half way through the year and will offer a big plus to systems integrators, making plug and play a reality.  No surprise then that as of 2015 the organisation has more members than ever before/ 500 and counting.

It has of this month released its first client test tool that allows manufacturers to test their conformance to profiles C G and C, making it much easier and quicker for vendors to get a Declaration of Conformance – which it is becoming clear has become a rather important badge to have in today’s market.

As  Björkdahl puts it:  “The industry was always enthusiastic about the concept of interoperability from very early on and that hasn’t changed. What is different now is that interoperability is an expectation rather than a luxury.”

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