ONVIF Standardizes IP Physical Security Products to Help Multiple Technologies Work Together

ONVIF is considered to be one of the largest organizations to develop standardization initiatives for IP-based physical security products.

ONVIF has more than 500 members and approximately 4,000 conformant products, and since its inception in 2008, the organization has seen its membership grow by 25-50% each year, with the number of conformant products increasing by 250% in the last three years alone.

In this context, SDArabia had a special interview with ONVIF’s Steering Committee Chairman, Per Björkdahl:

1. With more than 500 members and more than 4,335 conformant products, ONVIF is the largest standardization organization in the physical security industry. Tell us more about ONVIF’s history, who were its founders, where did the idea come from, what were the reasons behind its undertaking, and how did you manage to achieve and sustain such a high growth rate every year?
“In 2008, IP technology was really beginning to take hold in the industry and Axis Communications, Bosch Security Systems and Sony Corp., arguably three of the largest cameras companies in the market, realized that the growth and adoption rates of IP technology could potentially be hindered by interoperability issues between network-based devices from different manufacturers. For products to truly work together, specific interfaces must be developed between specific products, which can get very costly for IP video manufacturers, particularly when it comes to maintaining these interfaces as products move through updates and improvements. ONVIF was founded by these three organizations and issued its first core specification and test specification that same year.
Since its founding, ONVIF has progressively grown its membership through word of mouth, a strong media presence, an open dialog with the physical security community and through the influence of its leadership. Manufacturers realized quickly the benefit that standards would provide and the importance of their contribution to ONVIF’s development of its profiles. As an organisation, we continue that same approach to membership growth that we used in the beginning: a balance of dialog, media and leadership. In the last year, we have focused heavily on increasing our dialog with the physical security community and responding to its questions and concerns. That will continue to be a focus of our efforts in the future as well.”
2. What significant trends do you expect to play out in the coming year and what will be their impact? How will the business change over the next year?

“We see an increased awareness for interoperability amongst the end users in the industry, which in turns reflects back on the need for a broad acceptance for what ONVIF provides to the industry. There are signs of a change in the EAC industry in favor for systems based on interoperability as proposed by ONVIF.

All of these major trends are on ONVIF’s radar as well. The new Profile Q actually addresses three of these areas. Profile Q’s modus operandi is to provide the end user with out of the box functionality and enhanced security features. ONVIF is continuously working to make interoperability as easy and secure as possible.

As technology changes and advances bit by bit, the industry finds new ways to deliver faster, more accurate and more intelligent products to market. Interoperability is the lynch pin that ties all of these technologies and advancements together, because in order for new technology to be of use to the end user, it must be able to work in concert with other devices, systems and brands.”

3. As integrated systems become more common, interoperability and unification are needed at many different levels in the market. What role can ONVIF play in helping to make all these different technologies work together?
“ONVIF will continue to be integral in helping to make multiple brands and technologies work together. Having a set of technical specifications that defines how devices are expected to work is a big leap towards interoperability.
Without standards in place, the common theme of the industry would be “build once, maintain forever.” Integrated systems built with custom interfaces between specific products are dependent on the ongoing support from those individual manufacturers who must maintain and update those integrations. Systems designed with common communication interface standards, however, will have far more longevity because they are based on a common platform that will remain constant throughout the life of the system.
ONVIF has invested significant resources in the development of test tools. We currently have a test tool for Profiles S, C and G devices and one for the ONVIF export file format. In early 2015, a new test tool will also be available for Profile Q devices, as well as the first client test tool for Profiles S, G and C.
The adoption of standardization is happening quickly in the market, and the growth of ONVIF has happened very quickly. From just a few companies, ONVIF now has more than 500 members. More importantly, we have reached a critical mass of representation from small firms as well. From the beginning we understood that the intent of ONVIF would be to provide standardization to an entire security system, so we prepared for that by creating the underlying architecture of ONVIF, which is already prepared to add other technology segments.”

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