IP Camera Standards Use Revealed

By: Ethan Ace, Published on May 20, 2012

Just four years ago, IP camera standards were no more than a dream. All IP cameras were integrated with proprietary interfaces or using the simplest most basic connections. This added to the cost of using IP and blocked out many cameras from being used. 

About two years ago, it became clear that ONVIF had beaten PSIA as the industry's choice for an IP camera 'standard'. Today, ONVIF has massive adoption while PSIA's video efforts have stalled. ONVIF lists over 1800 products [link no longer available] from more than 100 manufacturers supporting their 'standard'.

Clearly, standards have evolved from a dream to an operational reality. It is very possible to use ONVIF to connect most of the IP video products around the world. However, how often is that really happening? How well is it working out?

In order to find out how these issues have really impacted ONVIF's usefulness in the eyes of integrators, and how often it is being used in production deployments, we asked the following question of integrators in our Spring 2012 survey:

The ability to use cameras which are not directly supported by a preferred VMS was the number one reason given by both those regularly and occasionally deploying ONVIF. Most often, this is done to use lower-cost cameras, such as import brands. However, new models of camera may also use ONVIF until direct drivers being written, as well.

  • "We specialize in HD and Megapixel as we are a networking IT company rather than a traditional security installing agency. So we are trying to stay at the forefront of the latest hardware. Often times this hardware has not yet been introduced into the software platforms that we use. Even though Milestone is great at adding them quickly, we often use low cost cameras to meet budget requirements, and they may not be submitting to the Milestones of the industry to get their cameras specifically supported when they know they are ONVIF compliant."
  • "It allowed me to use my VMS of choice (Milestone) while using lower priced cameras (Aigis ie Brickcom) rather than my normal cameras (Axis) and still providing a MP system."
  • "I use Vivotek cameras more than any, just because of price and I have to use the ONVIF driver with the VMS I use."
  • "I love ONVIF, our Avermedia does it and i wouldn't be able to use most stuff without it"
  • "We have used ONVIF compliant cameras in cases where we will be using a different VMS then provided by the manufacturer. We had some issues with ONVIF protocol not being properly implemented between vendors but we test all cameras with VMS before going to customers installation site. In cases where ONVIF was not properly implemented we contacted both the VMS provider and camera manufacturer and they worked on the solution."
  • "When the camera isn't supported by the VMS being offered we have had to do that. Generally, we try to avoid it, but a few times project requirements have forced us to offer them, or deal with already existent cameras that had to be integrated."

These types of integrations do not always perform as expected, however, with multiple comments indicating such:

  • "Camera was only ONVIF compliant. Wound up being a headache. I would prefer having a device pack written specifically for the camera."
  • "It was the only driver that worked. I would not normally use them because there does not seem to be a real standard."
  • "We've done several projects using ONVIF and I wanted to poke my eyes out with a sharp pencil. ONVIF doesn't work and probably never will. It's a wonderful concept with zero enforcement of any kind of standard. Most manufacturers use ONVIF as a marketing tool. When you actually try and deploy they back pedal and say well we don't meet all of the ONVIF standards. We will avoid this at all cost in the future."

ONVIF Unnecessary

For those who have never used ONVIF in a field deployment, the most common reason was that it was simply not necessary, as their chosen cameras were supported directly by the VMS. For many, if not most, combinations, this will be true, as VMSs often support dozens of manufacturers and hundreds or cameras, or more.

  • "We always use cameras supported by the VMS."
  • "All the cameras we have used have been directly supported by the VMS."
  • "Camera brands we use are supported in VMS systems"
  • "Never had a need so far, would be interested to see how it works though"
  • "We never had the need to use it. Cameras we use are supported by VMS."
  • "I don't need to use ONVIF because, we always use combination Sony/Milestone. Sony cameras are very good supported by Milestone."
  • "Haven't run into a need for it yet. In fact, despite the VMS having supported it for a while now, we've only just run into the first cameras that support it, and they're directly supported in the VMS as well, so it's not an issue. (In fact, this camera works with the VMS using its direct support, ONVIF, and generic RTSP streaming - on my bench, I had it recording on three different channels using the three different methods simultaneously)."
  • "Most cameras are supported in the VMS. I guess if I got a new camera that just came out and my VMS didn't support it yet then yes but who wants a camera that is that fresh off the test bench?"

Little Trust in ONVIF

Lack of faith in the features ONVIF will provide was the other key reason given for not deploying it in the field. This segment generally felt that ONVIF was not ready for prime time, and needed more development on both the VMS and camera side before it could be as useful as direct integrations:

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  • "For us ONVIF is at the "marketing" stage. We see this a potential to remove obsolescence management issue. Personally I hope this will work. But if i refer to other standard, I think it could work at best in 80% of the cases. RS232 was a standard, but often you have to do particular pinout to accommodate some manufacturer design. MPEG is also a good example. Even if it is a standard, to often you have to download the codec in order to be able to view the video. From what I understand of the standard principle is that the decoding part should be standard, and the encoding is proprietary. Unfortunately, both encoding and decoding are often proprietary."
  • "ONVIF still needs a lot of work and proper development before we take a chance on it."
  • "No too risky, We don't need drama out in the field when I can avoid by going to the VMS's sites comparability list of cameras. If the camera is not listed with that 3rd party camera, it will not be deployed. It's one thing to play with ONVIF in the office but I can't risk it not working properly. Audio is a whole another animal where you have test it out first before you install it out in the field I only really trust using Axis cameras with audio on 3rd party VMSs. Milestone may see a Vivotek camera but it won't connect. than it's not worth it."
  • "We need RELIABILITY and low maintenance, and in this way the Software the manufacturer provides is still best against ONVIF."
  • "Onvif at the moment is not really there yet but having said that I think its the way forward. If you look at the Genetec VMS products (this is what I know best) their device support far exceeds Onvif to the point where you can completely configure and manage the camera without ever seeing the cameras web browser which is a big advantage for an Integrator. I'm sure Onvif will get better as more revisions are made to the standard."
  • "The standard is not mature enough to work properly in all conditions and there are so many potential problems that can arise. Maybe in a couple years"

Future Development

Though the majority of integrators are not deploying ONVIF today, many had expectations that ONVIF would become more of a factor in the future, as development continues. We believe this is true, as well, and further developments to ensure compatibility, such as the ONVIF profile system released early in 2012, will improve the perception of ONVIF's readiness.

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