By all accounts, Network Video is the fastest growing segment in physical security surveillance applications. Despite the phenomenal growth, network video components are challenged by a lack of interoperability. This is beginning to change as the market leaders in network video are beginning to converge on standards such as ONVIF – the Open Network Video Interface Forum.

The basic system components of a network video system are the IP camera, NVR (network video recorder) and video management software (VMS). Currently, every network camera manufacturer has implemented a proprietary camera interface. Although some standards exist for compression (H.264, MPEG-4) and streaming (RTSP), the basic command and control interfaces for setting video quality parameters, network parameters and PTZ control are all proprietary. This situation requires software and NVR manufacturers to implement camera-specific software interfaces to integrate network cameras. This is in stark contrast to the “plug-in” approach of security video, where the NTSC signaling seamlessly works across DVRs, monitors and cameras.
In the world of security video, integrators and installers do not concern themselves with interoperability. With network video, system designers and installers must take great care to confirm the interoperability of the basic camera, recording and management components.
Many VMS vendors such as Milestone and ONSSI have accomplished the painstaking task of integrating hundreds of network cameras and encoders. Milestone's XProtect software currently supports over 650 devices. Despite this impressive accomplishment, the level of integration on many platforms can significantly differ between devices. Software can support some features such as audio on one camera, but not on another camera.
Axis, Bosch and Sony consider the lack of interoperability as a barrier to growth for IP video. Despite the market competition among them, Axis, Sony and Bosch have focused on growing the entire market for IP video using interoperability as one of the drivers.
These companies formed ONVIF in November of 2008. ONVIF has three basic goals:
  • Standardization of communication between network video devices
  • Interoperability between network video products regardless of manufacturer
  • Open to all companies and organizations
Since its inception, ONVIF has several key accomplishments during its first year of operation. ONVIF has published the first version of its interoperability standard and released a compliance process and compliance tools for companies to test conformance.
Over 90 companies have joined ONVIF. A recent report from IMS Research found that ONVIF member companies hold nearly 60 percent of market revenues for network video surveillance equipment. The typical profile of ONVIF members is that of a camera manufacturer; however several key software vendors have joined, including Milestone and GVI Video Management Solutions with their new AutoIP product. Also noteworthy is Anixter’s membership. Anixter is a leading distributor of network video products and is actively involved in ONVIF committees.
When end-users benefit, the entire industry will benefit: integrators, software developers and manufacturers. Interoperability will allow the overall market for IP-based solutions to grow and benefit the entire supply chain.