Understanding the ONVIF IP-Camera and Access Control ‘Standard’
As with many smart-home and building-control "standards," not all ONVIF-compliant IP cameras, NVRs and other surveillance products are interoperable. Make sure to understand the multiple device profiles.
Like many smart-home and building-control "standards," not all ONVIF-compliant surveillance and access-control devices interoperate with each other. Or they might work with each other, but not communicate all the information available.
ONVIF (Open Network Video Interface Forum) is the main standard for IP-based cameras, NVRs and related products, as well as electronic access controls. It was launched in 2008 by Axis Communications, Bosch Security Systems and Sony Corp.
Membership is open to manufacturers, software developers, consultants, systems integrators, end users and other interested groups. The organization’s membership base covers six continents and offers more than 9,000 profile-conformant products.
How important is it for devices to be able to openly communicate, with some sort of standardization in effect? The technology researchers at the Gartner Group predict that by 2020 there will be 50 billion devices connected over IP networks, or what’s known now as the Internet of Things (IoT).
Further, they predict more than half of major new business processes will include some sort of IoT. Also forecast is a black market exceeding $5 billion to sell fake sensor and video data for enabling criminal activity and protecting personal privacy.
I did a quick ONVIF product search on Amazon and the results yielded more than 6,000 items designated ONVIF in one way or another. However, it’s important to understand that just because a manufacturer has claimed ONVIF compliance does not mean it will be compliant with all other ONVIF devices.
As ONVIF standards have evolved they have been designed around a list of performance profiles. Each ONVIF profile has a fixed set of features that must be supported by a conformant device or client. An example would be that an ONVIF Profile S device must work with other ONVIF Profile S devices.
Within each profile are product features listed by ONVIF and classified as mandatory (M), conditional (C) or optional (O). You can check online at the ONVIF Conformant Product List page and search for compliance confirmation.
To get an idea where products for your next project stand, here’s a look at current ONVIF profile specifications.
ONVIF Profile Specifications
For electronic access control systems:
- Profile C conformant devices and clients support site information, door access control and event and alarm management.
- Profile A devices can retrieve information, status and event, and configure entities such as access rules, credentials and schedules. Conformant clients can provide configurations of access rules, credentials and schedules. The client can also retrieve and receive standardized access control-related events.
For IP-based video systems:
- Profile S could be a camera or video encoder that can send video data over an IP network to a Profile S client. A client might be video management software (VMS). This profile also covers pan/tilt/zoom control, audio, multicasting and relay outputs for conformant devices and clients that support such features.
- Profile G products such as a camera or video encoder device can record video over an IP network or on the device itself. A Profile G VMS client is one that configure, request and control recording of video data over an IP network. Profile G also includes support for receiving audio and metadata streams.
- Profile Q aims to provide quick discovery and basic configuration for Profile Q-conformant products. Profile Q also covers specs for TLS (transport layer security) configuration. TLS is a secure communication protocol to protect against tampering and eavesdropping.
- Profile T is a release candidate for IP-based video systems. It supports video streaming such as the use of H.264 and H.265 encoding formats, imaging settings, and alarm events such as motion and tampering detection. This profile is designed to work with Profile S and not replace it.
About the Author
Bob Dolph is the "Tech Talk" contributor for CE Pro's security company Security Sales & Integration. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.
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