Milestone HTML5 Web Client

Author: John Honovich, Published on Sep 06, 2012

Web clients are supposed to make it easy to view a VMS system but often that does not happen. Displaying and playing back video in web browsers typically requires adds on, such as ActiveX controls, Flash, Silverlight or Java Applets. And if adds are not used then one is generally restricted to JPEG only which has extreme bandwidth demands. Trying to resolve these problems, Milestone has released a web client based on the increasing popular HTML5 standard. In this note, we look at the pros and cons of HTML5 and Milestone's implementaion.

Background on HTML5

HTML5 is the next generation of web markup language and, most important for VMSes, allows for embedding video directly without using plugins like Flash, Silverlight, ActiveX, etc.

The main issue for HTML5 has been waiting for browsers to support it but it is becoming increasingly common for new browsers. The newest versions of all of the most commonly used browsers (including Microsoft's Internet Explorer) now support HTML5. However, large percentages still use older versions of Internet Explorer (8 or earlier) that do not support HTML5.

Pros and Cons of HTML5 for VMSes

The two clear pros of HTML5 for VMSes are:

  • Even in Internet Explorer which historically worked with VMS browser clients, users no longer need to install, wait or deal with getting plugins installed or updated. This makes it easier and quicker.
  • Users on Macs with Safari or those preferring Chrome (whose adoption has surged over the last few years) can now use VMS web clients where previously they were shut out.

However, one critical problem exists, especially for the security market. So many security users are stuck with older versions of IE (8, 7 and yeah even 6). Part of it is 'conservatism' but also this is often what is approved by corporate wide IT departments. It is hard to estimate exactly and it depends by market and region but a quarter to a third of security end users likely use browsers that do not support HTML5. This will, of course, change but like with many things in security slowly and over time.

Milestone's new web client will be faced with this problem as it does not support IE versions prior to 9 (see their release notes).

[Note: Test your own web browser now to see how HTML5 compliant is - My Chrome browser scored 500 but my IE9 browser only scored 128. However, both supported the video element and H.264 video streams.]

Update: Milestone only supports MJPEG to their HTML5 web client. This significantly detracts from the value of the new web client as this is possible in older HTML versions and is less bandwidth efficient.

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Milestone's New Web Client

Beyond Milestone's use of HTML5, the new web client is far more streamlined and less clunky than the previous web client (see short video of old web interface). Here's Milestone's marketing demo that overviews the layout and use:

An additional nice touch is that includes training videos under the learning tab to help unfamiliar users to get started.

To use the web client, an additional server side component needs to be installed in addition to the recorder(s) - the XProtect Mobile 2 Server component. The web client is free and server side components are free.

The good - improved usability. The bad - incompatible with older browsers widely used in the security market and uses bandwidth inefficient MJPEG.

Compared to Genetec's Unified Web Client

Earlier in 2012, VMS rival Genetec released a unified web client. There are some key differences between this client and Milestone's HTML5 offering:

  • HTML 4 vs. 5: Genetec opted to used HTML 4 and javascript in their web client, and claim support in many current and legacy browsers, such as IE 7 and 8 which are incompatible with HTML5. No ActiveX is required. Like Milestone, Genetec uses MJPEG streaming.
  • Unified client vs. video only: Genetec's web client mimics their thick client, displaying video as well as access control and LPR events. Milestone does not display other subsystems.
  • Cost: While Milestone's required server component is free, Genetec requires a mobile server connection license for each concurrent user ($250 USD MSRP each).

Genetec also offers an Omnicast-only (no access or LPR) web client which is free of charge, requiring only IIS be installed on the server. Unlike the unified client, however, this client works only in Internet Explorer, as ActiveX is required.

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