Claimed: All Surveillance Manufacturers Are Proprietary

Author: John Honovich, Published on Nov 12, 2014

Are all surveillance manufacturers proprietary?

Is proprietary a good thing?

Mobotix's magazine, MxInstaller, makes that case.

In this note, we examine what makes surveillance manufacturers proprietary and what factors differentiate them as being open.

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Comments (28)

Just because something is open-source does not always mean there is going to be this magic community of fixers and enhancers. Github is filled with buggy abondoned projects, all of them "open".

There are already enough items to deal with in a security system, I do not think we have a strong need for open software in the sense of open source. We *do* need software and hardware that is reliable, compaitble with a wide variety of products/protocols, and supported by the manufacturer for ongoing fixes and enhancements.

People want reasonable assurance that whatever they deploy today has a strong chance of still being relevant and workable 5 or 10 years from now. I think overall health and stability of the company is as important (more important) than ready access to any source code used to deliver those products. If new standards and technologies come along (like h.265 on the horizon), you want to be able to reasonably assume your vendor(s) of choice will embrace those technologies as they stabilize.

As you point out, I think that Mobotix fails today in most of the basic tests of "am I reassured the choices I make today will still look good 5 years from now?"

There are benefits to a "closed" strategy if you do it right. Microsoft essentially rode that wave for a very long time, and still today manages to pull in a decent chunk of revenue. But other than both company names starting with "M", I don't see a lot of commonalities between Mobotix and Microsoft in their broader strategies.

I always thought "proprietary" was the opposite of "intercompatible".

I am not sure 'intercompatible' is a word. Scrabble fans?

But maybe 'interoperable' is the opposite of proprietary?

Of course it's a word. I used it in a sentence and you knew immediately what it meant without being told. Boom, new word.

But we'll use "interoperable" if you don't feel like being as daring as I am.

Only the very smartest are able to create new words

Winner of the hypergeneral statement of the day award.

Professed MIT man seriously use word without lingering peerful wrath, Cited by 4, Scrabble score: 23

Open architecture television receivers and extensible/intercompatible digital video representations

1) Understand market conditions and reasonable expectations of the provider and end user communities.

2) Ensure your product meets or exceeds those expectations.

3) Remember Sisyphus and don't try warping the expectations of users to fit your product line.

4) Failing at point #3, its time to dump your stock.

There is so much wrong in this video I just sat with my jaw agape the whole time. This is on the level of misleading marketing from a few years ago, the heyday that brought us "replaces 25 analog cameras!" and "JPEG2000 is the only CODEC suitable for video surveillance!"

I'm just baffled.

I know the point you're getting at, and I mostly agree, but it is throwing the word "open" further into chaos.

Truthfully the Mobotix guy is correct when talking about Proprietary and Open Source. The problem is that we-the-people do not know the true definitions and/or throw them around loosely (I'm just as guilty).

The problem is we use the word "Open" wrong. If our "Industry Software" was "open", then we all could study the full code, make changes to it and even distribute it to anyone for any purpose. In fact, it will come with a license stating this. It can also have an open source certification.

The vast majority of the industry software is proprietary. Your slider scale should look more like this.

The word you want to use is "interoperability" or "IP interoperability" like ONVIF does. In fact, ONVIF only uses the word "open" when they state they are an "open industry forum" and state "Open to all companies and organizations". ONVIF creates standards.

API's/SDK's help make our software more "interoperable".

Something beneficial would be coming up with a scale that shows each VMS & Camera Manufacturer and where they rate on the Proprietary side. Proprietary is not a dirty word, as long as you can work with other devices and not be locked down completely.

"Something beneficial would be coming up with a scale that shows each VMS & Camera Manufacturer and where they rate on the Proprietary side."

The challenge is that people will disagree about how much weight goes to each potential component of 'openness'. Milestone know vehemently disagrees that being owned by a camera company has any impact on their openness, etc.

It's easy to make the contrast between Mobotix and the rest of the industry, because Mobotix is so obstinate but, e.g., who is more open / less proprietary - Exacq, Milestone, Genetec?

Who is less proprietary?

The answer should not reflect ownership.

The answer should be based off of interopability.

  • How many camera models and manufacturers does it work with?
    • Does the model have complete functionality?
  • The same as above with Access Control and various other devices, platforms, apps, and etc.
  • What does the SDK\API's consist of?

Outside of the answer as notes

If you want to add future speculation into the mix, then it should be countered with past history as well.

"The answer should not reflect ownership."

And that's the problem with doing a scale. People are going to disagree about the assumptions used.

I think lots of reasonable people will find Genetec to be more open for camears than DVTel or Avigilon (as examples) because Genetec does not have its own camera line to push.

I am not seeking to debate this specific point. I am raising this as an example of why a scale is hard to design if people disagree on what drivers impact the scale.

Then do multiple scales and add them up for an overall score. For each scale, you can have micro scales. I would not call the overall scale as "Open", as that term is being misused and people will think the software is actually "Open", which can be a good thing or a bad thing to an end user. With individual metric scores, people can decide for themselves what drivers impact it.

  • Interoperability Scale (How proprietary is the actual software)
  • Company Scale (What is the overall attitude/reflection/etc. of company to working with other manufacturers - Do they use ONVIF as a standard guideline? If they do, are they an official ONVIF member/certified? Or does the company use another standard or go it alone)
  • Parent Company Scale (Same as above but for the Parent Company if they have one)
  • Distribution Scale (Can you buy product at various Distribution Channels? Is 3-4 Distribution Channels good? Anything more or under bad? Survey Integrators on their thought on how many channels should be available and what is considered too many to help this metric along)
  • Integrator Scale (The same thought as above. For an end user not to get stuck with a specific integrator, you need more than 1 certified integrator in that area) Survey various groups how many is the correct amount and how many is too many or not enough)

I'm not seeking a debate or heated exchange, but this post made me realize how the term "Open" has been misused by all of us and you have a forum that can start putting the terms back to original meanings.

I have never sold or used a Mobotix camera in my life, however, what the Mobotix guy said about their software is pretty darn true. Marketing has dirtied the word "open". "Open" should only be used if you have 100% access to the Source Code, make changes to it and to be able to distribute it for any purpose.

Example of Marketing

"Open Architecture"

"Non Proprietary"

Jeremiah, 'open', applied to products, is an inherently vague term.

Vague, because it has been muddied. When something is vague, then someone or group needs to clarify and classify it.

Original meaning of Open != Open Source (this is brand GNU usage)

Original Open by self usually mean Open API or Standard API

Mobotix mixing up both meaning on purpose, try for confusion.

You're getting a Public API confused with Open API. A Public API can be released to everyone or a certain group of people or company.

This is the muddied part. Media is notorious for mixing them up and companies are using the mixup for marketing purposes (Pressure because others are doing it) or are just confused themselves.

An Open API is not that common, however they are becoming more common like Facebooks SocialAPI and Wikipedia.

A web based VMS with an Open API would be pretty cool.

"Open Platform" is another marketing term. It basically means it has API's.

Open Platform sounds better than API and it has the word Open which means freedom...right?

Since proprietor and proprietary have the same latin root, the opposite of the one should be equivalent opposite of the other. The opposite of proprietor is customer so the opposite of proprietary should be customary.

Ipso facto....

Thank you to those who brought the discussion to the real issue of interoperability. At the risk of revealing my age, this is a very old discussion and may turn into a rant. The reason PC is far more prolific than Apple today is because of interoperability. It's only in recent history you could buy a printer from HP that would work on your Apple computer. It had nothing to do with which one was the better computer. In fact, you could argue that Apple was the better computer. For most purposes though, PC won.

End users have struggled with this in security since the begining. Can you imagine after nearly a hundred years, buying an analog camera that would not connect to your recording system. IP didn't create the situation it has only complicated it. PTZ protocol is another example, going back to Diamond protocol for those of you who are old enough to know where that came from. Eventually, if you manufactured a PTZ, it had a half dozen protocols or it didn't sell.

From an end user standpoint, much of software design today stops short of a finished product. We live in an age where software designs other software and yet it is still a problem if you power up a network device before the server or vice versa! Wouldn't a simple loop solve this?

Interoperability requires a standard, not a new developer project for every SDK/API. I have high hopes for ONVIF but I also realize manufacturers feel they need a gimic to get you to buy their products. Trust me, a proprietary gimic is not what's required. A good product is what wins the day. Ask anyone who's ever scrapped a system because the company didn't embrace interoperability.

Interoperability means manufacturers adhere to a standard and things plug in and work, including the bells & whistles. NTSC was well established before me but it's like IP started us over again. Go ahead, someone bring up PAL, then find a camera that doesn't do both. Sometimes we go backwards. For decades we had 14" and 15" tires with reasonable prices. Anyone bought tires lately, 16", 17", 18", 19", 20", 22"?

"Proprietary" or "Open" may be the scale but "interoperability" makes a level plating field for either one. "He who is most interoperable wins!"

Taking a look at analog makes it easy to see. People didn't buy a camera because it was the only one that worked on their system (proprietary). They bought the best camera for the money and purpose.

OK, it did turn into a rant!

MxInstaller is back, with another video: Open Platform vs Proprietary.

His key claims are:

and that because of that:

The conclusion being that all proprietary systems (Mobotix, everyone else) are the same.

Of course, this is absurd because Mobotix has refused over and over again to support other cameras and IP standards (like H.264 and ONVIF) while Mobotix's rivals add support routinely for third party cameras and new standards.

What he is saying is correct. They are all proprietary systems that have EULA's. Truthfully, you are locked into one software vendor even if you do have a lot of API's (Open Platform). In fact, there is someone on your discussion page looking to Unify 2 VMS's . Will these 2 VMS's work with each other without a 3rd party work-around? The answer is no.

I'm not hearing his claim that all proprietary systems are the same. He is stating they are all proprietary systems. He is not stating they are all the same in functioning or anything else.

I believe I know why he is stating this. It is because many people in the industry and many end users think that many of the VMS systems in the market are "Open Source" or "Open Platform", a marketing term which basically means API's, due to various marketing messages and misinformed information. All Mobotix is trying to do, in my opinion, is to educate people and try to play on a more level playing field.

Personally, I like API's.

I just read the blog posts that go with the videos. They explain everything and not a thing they write is misleading. They also explain why they are doing this post. Here is a few of their statements.

Every IP video vendor wants to be associated with the “open platform” concept, but no one wants to be seen within a hundred feet of the word “proprietary”.

Some surveillance vendors go so far as to say that “open platform” technologies are non-proprietary.

Does “open platform” and “non-proprietary” mean the same thing? Devoid of semantics, the answer is no!

"What he is saying is correct. They are all proprietary systems that have EULA's."

But it's reductionistic / misleading to focus on that.

Just because all systems are 'proprietary' does not mean they are all equally open / unopen.

Mobotix is more proprietary than Genetec. Anyone care to debate me on that?

I don't understand the need to try and explain this unless they think people are falling for these marketing embelishments and they need to right the world.

I don't know anyone who believes a VMS on the market is open source. "Open source", "API", etc, are only of interest to someone with time, money, and a development staff to build middleware. This applies to large scale situational awareness systems and the like, which are few and far between.

I made a remark earlier about Apple not winning the computer race. One thing they did well is not wait around on their customers to decide what they want so the developers could API it. I know, API isn't a verb.

I agree that "openness" is a broad term and has no single meaning, and is better viewed on a scale.

I usually see it like this, in order:

1. is there an API or SDK available?

2. what do I have to agree to to get that API/SDK? Can anyone get it or do you have to present a convincing business case? Or be an OEM with a certain sales volume, etc? There is an entire subscale contained in this item.

3. Does the API or SDK follow any standards?

4. Is the implementation open source?

Depending on what type of equipment, in our industry, you might find things at different points on this scale. For cameras these days you can easily get to 3 with ONVIF. For VMSs and NVRs you can usually get to 2 and not have to sell your soul or do a big song and dance to get the SDK. For access control, you don't get very far at all in general:

- most hardware is not even at 1.

- The access panels with any remote degree of openness are only Mercury, HID, and AXIS. Mercury: have to be an OEM to get the SDK. HID: much easier to get the SDK. AXIS: even easier to get the SDK, and the SDK is based on ONVIF C although still not fully a standard.

For intrusion there are SDKs but AFAIK for the equipment with any traction in the market they are not easy to obtain.

Nothing in our industry with any credibility is at 4.

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