ONVIF: Member driven security standards
ONVIF is an organization with members from the industry that all contribute to the specifications of standards. The organization has now been active for more than a decade. SecIndGroup.com was very interested in the progress that was made in those ten years and also about future plans of the organization. We had the pleasure of speaking to Tim Shen of ONVIF.
Can you briefly introduce yourself, your organization and your occupation?
My name is Tim Shen and I am the chair of the ONVIF Communication Committee, as well as the Director of Marketing for Dahua Technology USA. ONVIF began in 2008 as a small group of manufacturers collaborating to accelerate the acceptance of systems based on network surveillance cameras. The mission hasn’t changed much, but its application and influence has: ONVIF is now an industry alliance for the physical security industry, as a nearly 500 member strong organization with more than 13,000 ONVIF-conformant products. With members on six continents, our specifications for video and access control have also been adopted by the International Electrical Commission, one of the world’s most influential standards organizations.
Those are astonishing numbers. ONVIF started little over ten years ago after it was founded by Axis, Bosch and Sony. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am most proud of how we develop our specifications, based on feedback from our member companies. As a member driven organization, our member companies are paramount in every step of the standardization process. The advantage of the profile approach is that a number of features and implementation specifics can be defined under one umbrella and with greater specificity. The idea behind going with the profile approach to standardization was that if manufacturers developed products in accordance with the profile, their products would work together regardless of the manufacturer of the VMS or camera. ONVIF Profile S was released in 2011 following two years in development. If a product is Profile S conformant, it will always be conformant, regardless of when it is manufactured.
After decades of using proprietary protocols and interfaces, it seems that the industry is now more open towards embracing industry standards. Do you agree with that perception? What is your opinion on what is the cause of that? How do you see this progress?
Standards are contributing greatly to the growth of the physical security market, so in turn many manufacturers have embraced the initiative. With adoptable standards in place, developers and integrators can focus on creating the best solutions for their customers. Standards, such as those offered by ONVIF, foster innovation by providing a common language between different manufacturers’ products, in turn allowing security professionals to focus more on cutting edge, best of breed solutions. Without standards, the industry would face a build once and maintain forever business model, but standards set the foundation that can be built upon long-term. By embracing interoperability, users can commit to systems with the peace of mind that they are scalable, cost-effective, and easy to maintain.
That makes sense. ONVIF as a standard however consists of six protocols. Which one is most popular? What is the current penetration ratio in relevant industry segments?
“Profile S” for basic video streaming is the most widely adopted profile on the market today. It was also the first profile ONVIF deployed in 2011, following two years of development. “Profile S” is responsible for most of the conformant products available today, with over 13,000 on the market. As the industry changes, however, so must the profiles provided by ONVIF to adapt to new technologies and needs. “Profile S” for video streaming has been the most widely adopted ONVIF profile to date, but its successor, “Profile T”, for advanced video streaming, has been the most quickly adopted since its final release last year, with over 2500 “Profile T”-conformant products available. In the long run, “Profile T” is intended to replace “Profile S” and will support both H.264 and H.265 enhancements. It will have many of the same features as its predecessor with room for new advances, such as bidirectional audio streaming, allowing the client to talk back to the camera, which was not possible with “Profile S”.
How are you progressing with the profiles for access control? What is the general market response to it?
Two years after its founding, ONVIF extended its scope to include access control. Because of the framework established, the group’s scope for standards can include any discipline within the physical security industry and is no longer solely focused on video. ONVIF now has two profiles for access control: “Profile A” for access control configuration and “Profile C” for door control and event management. In contrast to the video surveillance market, access control technology has historically been slow to change. Primarily because of the high upfront costs to acquire and install a system and the longevity of the equipment — commonly between 12 and 20 years. End users and their need for open network-based infrastructures are driving recent changes in this market, as the line between physical security and IT continues to blur. Physical security systems are now often managed by IT departments and IT directors are rightfully demanding open architecture approaches (like IP networks) rather than the proprietary and sometimes duplicative design of traditional security systems.
How does ONVIF compare to OSDP? What would you advise vendors on how to proceed with these standards?
The efforts of ONVIF and the Security Industry Association, which created OSDP are quite complementary and can easily co-exist within an access control system. ONVIF and its interoperability interfaces and access control profiles provide the open interface between the access control panels and the management software client, providing end users the ability to choose an open architecture panel that works with multiple software manufacturers as opposed to proprietary panels that only work with a single manufacturer. In the future, the user could upgrade or replace control panels or the management software platform regardless of the respective vendors. In contrast, OSDP addresses the connection between card readers and access control panels and is designed to replace the decades-old Wiegand protocol that is widely considered vulnerable to hacking.
How many members does ONVIF now have? What is your anticipated projection for the years ahead of us?
ONVIF has nearly 500 member companies today. We have seen steady growth since our initial founding, so as the demand for interoperability continues to grow, we suspect this number will only increase.
And the final question: are there any future plans you can share with us?
ONVIF is a member driven organization and operates on the basis of consensus. The next ONVIF profile will be developed based on feedback from ONVIF members and the physical security industry at large. A new profile is currently in development.
Be sure to check the ONVIF website often for updates on progress.
Thank you very much for your willingness to share this information with us Tim. Good luck with ONVIF and also with your business at Dahua!