Surveillance Recorder Standards Examined (PSIA / ONVIF)

Author: John Honovich, Published on Oct 25, 2009

Security managers suffer from no standards for surveillance recorders. Even large organizations with thousands of cameras and hundreds of sites rarely use more than 1 or 2 manufacturer's recorders (even if they use more than a dozen manufacturer's cameras).

Emerging interoperability specifications from PSIA and ONVIF aim to eliminate this problem.

Operational Constraints from Poor Interoperability

The main practical issue is that each manufacturer has their own proprietary viewing software that almost never supports viewing video from other manufacturer's recorders. Because of this, if security managers used multiple recorders, operators would be forced to use multiple applications. 

The limitations are serious. Operators would have to switch back and forth to view different cameras, could get confused about what cameras are associated with which manufacturer's recorders and would not be able to display all cameras on a single monitor.

Financial Penalties from Having to Use a Single Vendor

Because of these drawbacks, the pressures to use a single recording vendor is high.

However, the costs and penalties of 'locking in' to a single vendor is also high:

  • If better quality (or less expensive) alternatives arise over time, it's hard to switch.
  • If some sites are better served by other manufacturers (specific features needed or lower price points for different camera configurations), it's hard to choose them.
 
Emerging Interoperability Specifications from PSIA and ONVIF
 
Following last year's launch of IP camera interoperability specifications, both organizations are preparing to launch 'standards' for video surveillance recorders.
 
In October 2009, the PSIA announced a draft specification for video surveillance recorders (RaCM). The full draft of the PSIA's "Recording and Content Management" specification may be obtained by registering at the PSIA's forum.
 
ONVIF is also pursuing specification for video surveillance recorders. ONVIF has a storage working group that is developing similar specifications. However, ONVIF does not plan to release these specifications publicly until 2010.

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Business ******* *** ******** *********

******** ********* ****** ** *** ********* ******** ** *************. *** benefits *******:

  • Simplifying *** ***** ***/*** ***********: PSIM and access control manufacturers will clearly find these standards advantageous. Their solutions require integration with a large number of 3rd party DVR/NVRs. These interoperability standards will reduce the cost and complexity of tasks they currently undertake.
  • Reducing **** ** *********** **** **** *** ****** *******: Video recorder manufacturers who need to integrate with many access and PSIM systems may be attracted to supporting the specification, simply to reduce the cost and complexity of performing integrations with a variety of other vendors. On the other hand, such integrations usually do not win projects - the key driving favor for most manufacturers. To the extent they do, video recorder manufacturers may find it easier to perform integrations on a 'one-off' basis using their existing APIs.
  • Supporting ***** ************'* *******: Upstart recorder manufacturers may adopt these standards in an attempt to displace incumbent manufacturers. This would overcome a historic constraint that encouraged end users to stay with their incumbent recorder manufacturer. On the other hand, incumbents who stand to lose because of increased interoperability may find this to be a disincentive.
  • End **** ************: If end users require the support of these specifications, video surveillance recorder vendors will be motivated to add support. However, this will be unlikely to occur until a sufficient number of recorder vendors add support. As such, this could take some time to occur. Also, depending on what specific functionalities an end user require, they may be reluctant to disqualify manufacturers who do not yet support the specifications.

Obstacles ** ******** *********

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Examining ****'* **** *************

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Impact ** ******** **************** **************

** ******** ************** *** ******* *******, ** ********** * *********** industry *******:

  • Growth ** ****: Providers of command and control software will find it easier to integrate with video recorders. Today, most PSIM systems only integrate with a handful of the leading recorder vendors. Given the fragmented state of the video surveillance recorder market, a large percentage of products are not supported. The growth in PSIM will still be constrained by limitations in integrating with other access control system such as intrusion detection and access control (though PSIA has a working group in area control dedicated to these segments).
  • Mix *** ***** *********: End users will start considering how to mix and match recorders for different applications and over longer time frames. For instance, a large corporation with branch offices may use Genetec or Milestone for their corporate facilities but deploy low cost DVRs for the branch offices. 
  • Accelerate ********* ** **-***** *************: As end-users look for their next generation of video surveillance recorders, these specifications will make it easier for end users to 'free' them self from the incumbent. Smart up-start VMS manufacturers will add support for this specification so they can manage legacy DVRs, providing a simpler transition to the use of their software/user interface.
  • Free/ ***-**** ***** ********** ********: As these specifications mature, some manufacturers will find it advantageous to offer this software for free or low cost that integrates with any PSIA and/or ONVIF enabled camera or recorder. This could come in the form of selling complimentary products or 'monetizing' from services as is common with open source software providers.
  • Enhanced ******* *** '********'/'******' **** **********: Many VMS UIs are cumbersome to use, often generating comparisons to spreadsheet software. As it becomes easier to interface with recorders, basic support will lose its value. Manufacturers are likely to differentiate themselves with 'easier to use' UIs and end users will have greater flexibility to choose such offerings.

Projected ********* *** ********* ********* ********

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  • How **** ********* ** **** **** ** ********* *** ********* *************? Because recorders are more complex than cameras, implementing the recording specification will likely take more resources than the camera specification. Also, it may take more manual testing and revisions to optimize compatibility.
  • How ********* **** ************* ** ** ***** *** ********* *************? As examined above, incumbents may be resistant to adopting such standards. Even for up and coming IP video companies, recording specifications likely represent less of a growth opportunity than IP camera specifications.
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