Top 3 Problems with Choosing Open Systems

Author: John Honovich, Published on Aug 20, 2008

While being 'open' is the trend, 'openness' is vague, claimed by all and underestimated in its difficulty to achieve. If you are buying or specifying video management systems, you need to carefully consider this.

Not too long ago, I was sitting with one of the most known and respected experts in CCTV. He expressed his frustration and dismay that a vendor who told him they were open were actually not. This was having a serious impact on systems he was designing.  Now, if he could get caught by this, this could happen to any of us.

Here are the top 3 problems I see:

  • "Openness" is vague - what does it actually mean?
  • Everyone claims to be open - even if they are not really
  • Being open is hard but it's routinely assumed as easy

Because of this, you may never know the truth and be stuck with a system that is locking you in.

Openness is Vague

At a basic level, being open means that a system can work with other systems from different manufacturers.  But how many other systems should a system work with to be called open? And how many other manufacturers do you need to work with to be called open?

Respected industry leaders often define openness as a vendor working with one or two other manufacturers in a single category.  Certainly this is somewhat open but is it open enough?  For most users, it is not and poses a big risk that when the day comes for you to integrate with a different system or product that it just will not work.

Everyone Claims to be Open

To me, this is the most dangerous element in the 'openness' discussion. Politicians have learned that racism is no longer acceptable. So is the result that no politician is racist anymore? Of course not. The result is that politicians know to avoid racist language and make claims to racial equality. This is analogous situation with video surveillance systems.

Regardless of how closed a system is, all sales and marketing people know that you must claim to be open regardless of how open you really are. To publicly state to a client that you are not open is very risky so to solve that problem vendors simply claim that they are open. And because the commonly accepted definition of openness is so vague, it's easy to do it without reservation.

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

Openness is Hard

It seems as if vendors simply will openness into existence; As if the act of saying your open makes you open.  It's backed up by the absurd claim that "We have an API." Though you need an API, simply having an API is just the beginning. It's like saying your are a Chef because you can barbecue hamburgers.

The reality is that truly being open takes a huge commitment from the vendor.  It means optimizing your API to make it easier for other parties to use. It means doing custom integrations to support other people who use legacy technologies or are not as open. And perhaps most of all it means a huge development effort to actually support the hundreds of devices out there.

One of my favorite questions to ask is, "What products do you actually support today?" This smokes out a lot of spin and hype of 'open systems.' Most vendors take the approach that if it's theoretically possible for them to integrate with another product that they can claim to a customer that they support the product. Beware of this.  Push for the details and smoke out the truth.


As a first step, we all need to be careful about properly assessing openness. I also think we may need to start getting better definitions and assessments of how open systems are.

What do you think? Are you concerned about systems being open? Am I overdoing this?

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hikvision RSM Professional Misconduct on Mar 19, 2018
A Hikvision RSM engaged in professional misconduct of a US State's licensing law, involving continuing education held at an ADI branch. In this...
Thank You - Today, IPVM Turns 10 Years Old on Mar 19, 2018
IPVM turns 10 years old today. 10 years ago, IPVM was an experiment. Today, it is the largest and most read publication in our industry. I wanted...
Integrator Help Desk Software Usage (Statistics) on Mar 19, 2018
Maintaining accounts and customer satisfaction often depends on the effectiveness of responding to issues. Keeping an integrator's support...
April 2018 IP Networking Course on Mar 18, 2018
Save $50 ends this Thursday, March 22nd. Register now and save. Lots of generic network training exists but none of it really explains how it...
May 2018 Camera Course on Mar 16, 2018
Our next course starts on May 8th. Register now for the Spring 2018 Camera Course This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based...
ADT Hammered Again, Loses Another Billion In Market Cap on Mar 16, 2018
ADT's CEO told investors that, 'in baseball terms', ADT was batting 5 for 5. But investors told ADT's CEO, 'in baseball terms', that he was...
Camera Form Factor Guide on Mar 16, 2018
When selecting surveillance cameras, users may choose from a number of different form factors, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses,...
Free Trip To China - CCTV.Net / Univew on Mar 15, 2018
Pack your bags? 'Closer than you think'? Well, a non-stop flight from NYC to Shanghai is 15 hours plus another 100 miles to Hangzhou...
Access Control - Restricted Keys Guide on Mar 15, 2018
Not all doors, even in larger facilities, can justify using electronic access control. And even for doors that do have electronic access control,...
Rack Mounting NVRs Tutorial on Mar 14, 2018
Rack mounting recorders is common in professional systems, but manufacturers are making it difficult, with simple design failures causing multiple...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact