Network video standards: ONVIF vs PSIA vs OPSIS
Of course, general comms standards like Weigand in the
access control industry, have not led to open architecture across multiple
access management software and hardware platforms and there’s not much chance
the video surveillance market would go all the way down that path – is there?
Regardless of the difficulties, standards are on the
horizon and they need to be seen in the context of the interests of the groups
pushing them. In some cases the interests are commercial and while this is all
perfectly legitimate, it’s not surprising there are subtle differences in
ultimate goals – though they are very subtle.
Of course, there’s a bunch of talk in the market about
competing interests as well as a growing fear of a network video standards war
akin to the annoying VHS vs Beta video player wars of the early 1980s. So,
which horse should you back or can you sit back and ignore the whole business?
Let’s look at the protagonists first. For a start there’s
a powerful grouping led by Bosch Security Systems, Axis Communications and
Sony, the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF). This group proposes an
independent organization working to develop a global open industry standard as
part of a push to increase the take-up of networked video surveillance
solutions. The ONVIF idea is a common protocol for the exchange of information
like device discovery, live video, audio, metadata and control information
between all network video devices.
ONVIF’s approach is that the bigger the market the
greater its members share of the bigger pie. The easier things are for users
and integrators, ONVIF reasons, the greater the penetration of networked video
gear will be and the bigger the market will ultimately become. ONVIF is open to
all manufacturers with a similar mindset.
Then there’s the PSIA which is made up of companies
including Pelco, Panasonic, Honeywell, GE, DVTel, Verint, IQinvision, CISCO,
March Networks including Cieffe, Johnson Controls, Texas Instruments and ADT.
While these are big players, this group of companies has a smaller share of the
networked video market than say, Axis Communications, which is market leader.
PSIA’s idea is a standard that enables physical security
and video management systems to recognize and change the configs of various IP
media devices – controlling their behaviours. The idea is to eliminate
endlessly confusing device driver customization to achieve interoperability
between devices – that would mean seamless video management. PSIA is open to
any maker who likes this idea and the organization is broadly supportive of the
Some of these players look more likely to benefit than
others, given that the ultimate result of interoperability is like to be
product churn as well as seamless management. For camera makers being in the
game will make their hardware useable should the standard fly while for players
like Cisco, which has a 25-30 per cent market share in networking hardware,
anything that increases network demand increases turnover. Breaking down walls
is what Cisco is all about.
Of course there are plenty of companies who would benefit
from maintaining the status quo – maybe not the extent Elbex took its
proprietary protocols in the 90s – but at the very least in maintaining an
organization’s ability to sell a complete solution rather than a few boxes in
competition with the rats and mice. The trouble for them is that they can’t
stay out of play if standards are adopted.
Finally there’s the SIA’s OPSIS iniative. The Security
Industry Association has a deservedly righteous reputation when it comes to
standards and it’s probably the world’s most respected security industry body.
Essentially OPSIS mirrors what the other groups are doing but it’s being
handled by an existing industry body not a recent team-up of manufacturers.
With OPSIS, integration of different types of components in enterprise systems
will be facilitated.
Simply, SIA sees OPSIS as a framework that will allow
precise definitions of system elements and provide a common means of communication
between these devices. So, OSIPS outlines requisite definitions, including
interface infrastructure requirements and special interfaces for shared
activities, such as event reporting, schedules exchange, and other common
What’s to worry about from the installer or end user
perspective? Well – nothing really. The nice thing about this is that it shows
the electronic security industry realizes that for networked security solutions
to reach a zenith of interoperability (and salability), they must communicate.
From a manufacturer’s point of view, however, the tightrope is there to see.
The IT market is full of grey boxes speaking the same language manufactured in
Chinese factories by one or another of a handful of huge corporations.