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

China Hot For Intelligent Video on Oct 27, 2016
The clear top theme at the 2016 Security China show has been intelligent video. This is a big shift from past years, and China's historical focus...
Flying Security Guard Startup Aptonomy Examined on Oct 27, 2016
Backed by Silicon Valley's biggest incubator and led by two robotics PhDs, Aptonomy is set to launch, what they describe, as 'flying security...
Bidding Divisions (08, 26, 27, 28) For Security Systems Guide on Oct 27, 2016
Navigating the world of system specifications and bidding work can be complex and confusing, but a standard format exists, and understanding it...
Dahua Says They Are Botnet Attack 'Victims' on Oct 26, 2016
'Victim' or 'accomplice'? Dahua has issued a new press release, referring to their products as 'victims' of the massive botnet attacks hitting the...
Milestone Launches $50,000 Developer Contest on Oct 26, 2016
Milestone wants independent developers to enhance XProtect. In a hackathon-style contest Milestone is soliciting developers to submit ideas for a...
Smart H.265 Samsung Test on Oct 26, 2016
In our first test of H.265 cameras (including Samsung and Vivotek), H.265 benefits were essentially nil, both versus leading H.264 cameras and,...
The Xiongmai Botnet 'Recall' Will Not Work on Oct 25, 2016
The Xiongmai 'recall' has been the topic of global news, following the unprecedented bot net attacks that use their equipment, among...
Hikvision Partners With Intel Movidius For Artificial intelligence Cameras on Oct 25, 2016
The world's largest camera manufacturer is partnering with the worlds largest semiconductor company to create a series of intelligent...
Intel Movidius Targets Video Surveillance Market on Oct 25, 2016
The most commonly used chips in IP cameras come from Ambarella, Hisilicon or TI. Now, Movidius, who Intel announced acquiring in September, is...
Favorite Access Control 2016 on Oct 25, 2016
Integrators told us "What is your favorite access control management software/system? Why?", and the responses are interesting indeed. While no...

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