ONVIF Detailed Technical Answers

Author: Carlton Purvis, Published on Mar 31, 2013

ONVIF is simultaneously one of the most successful and disliked new offerings of the last few years. On the one hand, its adoption has been staggering, with over 3000 products supporting it. On the other, many people have had problems integrating devices with ONVIF. While it has improved significantly over the last two years, ONVIF integrations cannot be taken for granted. Worse, outside of their plugfest, their public interaction has been underwhelming.

However, we recently talked with key ONVIF technical team members to get a better sense of the issues involved, receiving a lot of useful information. This long review summarizes them, including:

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Profile

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Profiles: ****'* ****?

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VMS ***********

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Comments (10)

I think it is quite ironic that this was posted coincidentally on April 1.

That in a nutshell completely sums up my experience with ONVIF as a real platform that hardware vendors can target for broad VMS support.

Their too lax on their requirements. Having the Onvif badge could be a great marketing tool for manufacturers and Onvif could really capitialize on this. Their should be much stricter guidelines for being Onvif conformant. Otherwise, we will continue to have the same problems. Every device should have the most up to date Onvif conformancy or the manufacturer would not be able to display the Onvif badge when marketing. After reading this, it seems like they really dont have a plan to take care of this issue of intercompatibility between Onvif devices which leaves us at the same issue we were before.

Sean, the combination of how difficult it is to (1) find what version of ONVIF a device supports and (2) what each version does makes for a very risky situation.

While it would be ideal for them to be strict on supporting the most up to date version (i.e., all devices must support the most recent ONVIF version X months after its release), at the very least, they could make their display/listing/search feature easier to report the model's ONVIF version. For instance, VMS manufacturers typically do a good job of listing the specific firmware of camera/encoder models they support. ONVIF could easily do the same (example - here's Milestone's camera support listing).

I just wish they would make it like a UL listing or a building code or something to that effect. something like "If you are not able to meet these guidelines then you cannot display the Onvif badge in your marketing material"

One of the big problems we have seen which undermines the value of the standard is tha so many hardware and software manufacturers claim ONVIF compliance when they are, say, 90%, compliant and that last 10% of non-compliance is the difference between being useful and useless. ONVIF is slowly and steadily moving to the point where it can be relied upon but manufacturers claims have really hurt market acceptance.

Bill, can you share an example or two of the 'last 10% of non-compliance'? Are you alluding to specific features that are not supported via ONVIF (like motion detection) or?

I agree that it's too hard to find the version. It would be easy enough to turn the conformant devices list into a matrix/spreadsheet type of thing, which showed more information at once, and let you sort by said information. I did mention this to them, and it wasn't the first time they'd thought of/heard of/discussed it.

Ethan, I brought up the subject of version information as well at an ONVIF meeting when profiles were first introduced. Prior to profiles, and prior to having the detailed conformance test results available, there has been no feasible way for a consultant to determine if any specific product's "ONVIF compliance" would meet a particular design's functional needs. Even now it still requires a lot of work.

Things are moving in the right direction, but in the mean time the difficulties have been building a bad reputation for ONVIF among customers. I was in a venue last year where three end users talked about how they had specified ONVIF integration, and all three had run into considerable problems and ended up abandoning the ONVIF approach. They were fairly emotional about it. About 40 end users and integrators walked away with a negative impression.

The customers that were not having problems with ONVIF had no reason to attend that function, and so their voices were not heard. Bad news travels easily, and it is easy to get a worse reputation than what is deserved.

I have seen statistics of how many manufacuturers are on board and how many conformant products there are. I'm much more interested in how many successful deployments there, what ONVIF profiles were of particular interest and benefit. Case study information (in-depth reports, not just promotional articles) would help. Of course there will come a point where ONVIF usage is common and ho-hum; what is unknown is how long that will take.

I am a strong advocate for what ONVIF (and PSIA) are doing, and I also understand that these things can take time. The strictness with which ONVIF holds the manufacturers accountable will have a lot to do with the rate of progress going forward.

The primary objective of interoperability standards is for the specification and deployment of technology to become easier and less costly. Ease of access to reliable feature information for ONVIF specs and product compliance--for both designers and end users--will remain key.

Hi John,

Do we have an article, which talks about the various versions like 2.1,2.2. I am unable to gather this info from the ONVIF website.

When a manufacturer says his camera is ONVIF 2.2 profile S conformant and another says his cameras are 2.1 profile S conformant, how big a differentiator is this?

We don't have an article on that. I don't think ONVIFs full changelogs are public. They generally keep the release notes for the last release available, but even that is a lot to read just to get basic information.

To answer your question, if you have one 2.1 Profile S camera and one 2.2 Profile S camera, there may be no difference whatsoever. Profile S mandates it will connect and stream (and a few other features), which have remained largely unchanged for a lot of versions now. Spec version updates generally include bugfixes and impact minor or optional features. The issue is that optional features are just that: optional. So the camera manufacturer and VMS manufacturer don't need to implement them, so they could change absolutely nothing in your particular camera/VMS combination.

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