Milestone ONVIF Bridge Tested

By Ethan Ace, Published Jul 06, 2016, 09:09am EDT (Research)

The Milestone ONVIF Bridge could be a breakthrough.

Enterprise VMSes have long restricted 3rd party access making larger system integration more difficult, PSIMs more complex and expensive and greater lock-in.

Now, Milestone's ONVIF Bridge, enabling open, free 3rd party integration of live and recorded video could make one of the bigger players more open and spur their rivals like Avigilon, Exacq and Genetec to do the same.

But does it work?

We tested the Milestone ONVIF Bridge with 5 VMSes including Avigilon, Exacq and Genetec to see how it worked.

Summary

While marketed as an 'ONVIF' Bridge, it worked more like an 'RTSP' Bridge for live video only sharing.

In our tests, the Milestone ONVIF Bridge failed to work with most VMSes, with only Avigilon Control Center able to connect properly, with Exacq and Genetec even causing the service to crash upon connect.

RTSP streaming worked with all VMSes tested without issue, making it a potential option for those which failed to connect via ONVIF, though it is more time consuming to set up and lacks advanced features such as PTZ control found in the ONVIF integration.

Key Findings

Here are our key findings from this test: 

  • In our tests, connecting to the ONVIF Bridge failed outright when using four out of five ONVIF Profile S VMSes (Exacq, Genetec, Network Optix and Axxon Next).
  • Connecting with Exacq and Genetec caused the ONVIF Bridge service to crash, requiring it to be manually restarted.
  • ONVIF Device Manager was able to connect to the Bridge and stream all cameras without issue (live video only, not recordings).
  • RTSP streams worked properly in VLC player, Avigilon, and Exacq.
  • Only live video was supported in our tests as the only Profile G VMS tested, Axxon Next, was unable to connect to the Milestone Bridge.

Tech Support Concerns Important

Beyond the Bridge not working well, which is certainly a problem, we suspect tech support would be a challenge if the Bridge is being used to 'takeover' existing Milestone accounts. On the one hand, Milestone confirmed that they would "support the reseller using the ONVIF bridge to make their project work, regardless of what other components they use." On the other hand, Milestone also noted, "The support would however be limited to the functionality of providing video out. Support on the receiving end, the 3rd party client, is not in scope for Milestone support." Moreover, Milestone clarified that they intended use was more for central monitoring and that they were cautious about the Bridge being used for competitive / takeover purposes

Finally, the 'ONVIF' Bridge, despite its name, is not officially ONVIF conformant, as it only uses a subsection of ONVIF capabilities, which eliminates the benefit / potential of validating both sides to the official ONVIF standard.

Because of this, any attempt to position the Bridge as a solution to takeover live and recorded video monitoring from Milestone to a 3rd party VMS faces significant risk in working reliably.

Availability

The Milestone ONVIF Bridge is available starting with version 2016 R2 at no additional charge.

It is available in all versions of XProtect except the lowest two tiers (Go and Essential).

ONVIF Bridge Server

Note that it is a separate server component, not built into the Milestone server itself.

It may be installed on the same server or a separate server if CPU load is a concern. In our tests, CPU impact was low, only increasing load by 1-2% for 4 cameras (mixed resolutions from 720p to 5MP).

Configuration

There is little configuration required for the ONVIF Bridge with users only needing to supply credentials to the Milestone server during installation.

Once installed, ONVIF and RTSP ports may be changed (default to 580 and 554, respectively) and users for remote systems created

The second tab of ONVIF Bridge configuration contains settings which are reported to ONVIF clients (not actual). The full resolution stream is sent via ONVIF as well as RTSP, regardless of what is entered here, with no transcoding is performed.

Milestone claims in their documentation this step reduces the time required to connect to clients. Users may also select the "Use configurations from cameras" option to report the camera's actual CODEC settings to VMes. However, in our tests, this option proved less reliable, with Avigilon functioning properly with it disabled, but not connecting at all when using configurations from cameras.

We look at configuration in more detail in this video:


Unable to Test Recorded Video

Milestone claims the ONVIF Bride supports recorded video via Profile G. However, this is of limited use, as only two VMSes (Axxon and Visiospace) are officially conformant. Moreover, in our tests, Axxon Next was unable to connect to the Bridge and stream live video, let alone recordings.

Connecting with ONVIF Device Manager

ONVIF Device Manager was able to discover and connect to the ONVIF Bridge without issues, with live video properly displayed for all devices. However, configuration capabilities of ONVIF DM did not function properly, with CODEC, network, time, and other settings not able to be configured as they may be with most ONVIF devices.

Note that ONVIF DM provides the easiest way to locate an ONVIF Bridge camera's RTSP URL, found in the "Live Video" menu (discussed further below).


Readers looking for more information on ONVIF DM should see our ONVIF Mega Test.

VMS Integration

In our tests, connecting to the ONVIF Bridge via ONVIF failed in most VMSes, including Exacq, Axxon, and Genetec. Further, when attempting to connect with Exacq or Genetec, the Milestone ONVIF Bridge service crashed and had to be manually restarted. These issues occurred regardless of number of cameras, throughput, or Bridge settings.

Only Avigilon Control Center was able to properly connect and stream ONVIF Bridge cameras, and only when the "Use configurations from cameras" option (discussed above) was disabled.

We review these issues in this video:


Though it connected and streamed properly, stream configuration (below) and PTZ controls did not function in ACC in our tests, eliminating the two main benefits of using ONVIF over RTSP. Even simple configuration tasks such as renaming devices failed in ACC.

RTSP Integration

The ONVIF Bridge also offers an RTSP option for camera streaming, which worked without issues in all VMSes in our tests, in contrast to the ONVIF integration.

Note that as is typical with RTSP streams, no camera side VMD or other events, I/O, or PTZ control is supported.

RTSP Stream Location

The simplest way to locate camera RTSP URLs is via ONVIF DM. Users may simply copy the RTSP URL from the Live Video menu and paste it into their VMS (if supported).

If ONVIF DM is unavailable, users may build the URL via the following format:

rtsp://hostname_or_ipaddress:554/live/camera_guid

Milestone provides these instructions for locating GUID:

To determine the camera GUID in an XProtect Advanced products or Milestone Husky Advanced products, open the Management Client, navigate to the camera, select the Info tab, hold down Ctrl and click on the camera. The GUID will be displayed at the bottom of the Info tab.

To determine the camera GUID in an XProtect Professional product or standard Milestone Husky, navigate to C:\ProgramData\Milestone\Milestone Surveillance and open the “configuration.xml” file in Notepad. Do a search for the name of the camera (whatever the camera is named in the Management Application). The line directly below the name of the camera will be the GUID for the camera.

<cameraid>Harrison Tunnel - Southbound</cameraid>

<guid>725F110E-4D72-4574-8406-FBF94E6B6D3B</guid>

Software Versions Used

The following VMS versions were used in this test:

  • Milestone XProtect Corporate: 2016 R2 10.1a
  • Avigilon Control Center Enterprise: 5.8.4.10
  • Axxon Next: 4.0.0.3770
  • ExacqVision Enterprise: 7.8.1.90866
  • Genetec Security Center: 5.4 SR 2
  • Network Optix NxWitness: 2.5.0.11500
  • ONVIF Device Manager: 2.2.250

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