IP Cameras Standards - ONVIF Won

By John Honovich, Published Nov 13, 2010, 12:00am EST

In just over 2 years, IP camera 'standards' have made impressive strides. In 2008, when the efforts commenced, major questions existed as to when they would go 'live' and who would win.

Now, entering 2011, two things have become clear to us:

  • Standards are Here
  • ONVIF has Won

Adoption of IP camera standards (ONVIF, in particular) is widespread already and growing. While ONVIF is Axis's group, ONVIF adoption provides the additional benefit of making it easier to choose other IP cameras beyond Axis - the heretofore de facto standard.

The key metric in determining standards success is the number of products supporting standards in production. Committing engineering resources to implement and test standards is a far stronger sign than companies simply signing up to be members (of any group) or the market share of the companies becoming members. Production support impacts real world use; Member announcements alone can simply be marketing fluff.

Both ONVIF and PSIA have publicly available product conformant lists (see the PSIA list [link no longer available] and ONVIF list [link no longer available]) making it straightforward to track uptake.

Manufacturers Supporting Standards

As of November 15, 2010, over 50 manufacturers are supporting ONVIF while only 10 are supporting PSIA.

The 3 most well known companies supporting PSIA are HikVision, Arecont Vision and IQinVision. HikVision is already supporting ONVIF as well and is listed on the ONVIF conformant list. Additionally, we confirmed with both Arecont and IQinVision that they will be adding ONVIF support in 2011, further reducing the uniqueness or motivation to support PSIA.

By contrast, ONVIF has a list of "who's who" already delivering production support. Of course, there are the founders - Axis, Bosch and Sony. However, notable ONVIF supporters include major Russian VMS provider Axxon, fast growing megapixel specialist Avigilon, incumbents March Networks, Dallmeier, DVTel, Panasonic, Samsung, Siemens, etc. Morevoer, more than a dozen notable Taiwanese and Chinese manufacturers already support ONVIF.

Also, compare this to our July 2010 standards support review, where we reported than 33 manufacturers supported ONVIF while only 2 supported PSIA. In the last 5 months, 20 new manufacturers added ONVIF support to the 8 that added PSIA.

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Products Supporting Standards

ONVIF's lead in total number of products (cameras, recorders, etc.) with production support mirrors or exceeds its lead in manufacturers. While ONVIF lists nearly 400 products, PSIA includes just over 60.

At nearly 400 products, ONVIF is at or approaching critical mass. While many ONVIF manufacturers are not adding support to legacy products, almost all of their new product releases include ONVIF support.

With this level of support, ONVIF becomes extremely attractive to manufacturers wanting to expand their interoperability. Breaking down ONVIF support, 38 camera/encoder manufacturers (NVTs in ONVIF terminology) and 19 recorder/VMS manufacturers (NVCs in ONVIF terminology). are supporting ONVIF (note: a few ONVIF supporting manufacturers are implementing them in both cameras and recorders). With one implementation, a manufacturer now achieves integration with a significant portion of the market.

PSIA's Future and Recording Specification

We are not sure what, if any future, PSIA has. PSIA's value proposition centered around supporting the entire security industry - cameras, recorders, access, intrusion, etc. ONVIF's, by contrast, was its backing by 3 of the largest IP camera providers. From the results, it appears clear that the market has chosen to associate with the largest suppliers rather than the broadest ambitions.

On the video side, the next major push will be to 'standardize' video recording. While PSIA already has a draft recording specification (RACM), ONVIF does not (claiming that it will come in Version 2.0). Unless ONVIF delays significantly, we doubt IP video manufacturers will adopt a separate interface for recording than they do for live streaming (which is the current spec that all manufacturers are implementing). We think ONVIF leaders Axis and Sony, in particular, will be motivated to push a recording specification as adoption will spur the use of cameras as 'recorders' leveraging the use of the already available on-board storage.

Immediate Trends

The two main trends in ONVIF adoption we see are:

  • Incumbents using ONVIF as a way to rapidly expand into IP. Many companies previous IP product strategy was fairly closed (e.g., Avigilon, Bosch, DvTel, Geovision, March, Optelecom-NKF). These companies are using ONVIF to open up to a much broader market. This will let them compete in more deals and let consumers have more choices.
  • Asian manufacturers are using ONVIF to eliminate barriers for them to compete and integrate with NA/EMEA VMS systems (examples include: Brickcom, D-Link, DynaColor, HikVision, HiTron, Hunt, Messoa, Planet, Win4Net, Dahua, etc.) This will increase the number of lower cost IP camera options in the market.

New Entrants

We expect this will spur greater investment from new entrants into the IP market. The historical problem for new entrants was that, even with a great VMS or IP camera, gaining even modest support from 3rd party vendors could take a year or two and hundreds of thousands of fees to partners. ONVIF significantly reduces both barriers and should give new entrants greater confidence to enter the market.

Integrator / End User Impact

The most fundamental and practical impact for integrators and end users should be a lot more choices for using IP cameras. Historically the IP camera manufacturers with the most 3rd party support tended to be the most sophisticated, costly products - e.g., Axis, IQinVision, Sony, Panasonic. The only two broadly supported lower cost IP camera manufacturers have been ACTi and Vivotek (perhaps add Arecont but they were inexpensive primarily compared to MP cameras). Outside of Axis, who essentially everyone supported, still quite a number of VMS systems did not even support all Sony and Panasonic cameras.

A good example of the practical benefits that ONVIF support brings is our recent examination of low cost HD domes. Of the 4 manufacturers listed (GVI, Grandstream, Vivotek and Sony), all support ONVIF and 2 of them would likely have poor support without ONVIF (GVI, Grandstream).

In general, ONVIF will help specifiers choose the right balance between desired feature sets and cost. The number of IP camera features and functions is both blessing and curse. It's a blessing because the cameras can do a lot but it's a curse because the cameras can get really expensive as more mechanical and software elements are built in. With limited interoperability, you often had to pay a premium for features you might not need (e.g., interchangeable lenses, audio, analytics, vandal proof, day/night, auto back focus). With more cameras to use, specifiers can choose the right feature set for the application. With prices for fixed IP camera ranging from a few hundred to over 1500 dollars, this should allow savings of $50 or more on many camera choices (without sacrificing quality).

That flexibility will be similar to what specifiers have had forever with analog cameras, only more useful as the tradeoffs between features and prices are much more significant with IP.

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