Opening the door to global standards in access control

October 2013 Access Control & Identity Management

Providing a comprehensive, long-term security solution today requires more than one manufacturer’s state-of-the-art technology. It requires a way for current systems not only to communicate with each other, but also with systems of the future. End users want the flexibility to determine which products best suit their security needs both for today’s purchases and for tomorrow’s upgrades without being locked into using solutions from a single manufacturer.

A variety of initiatives in the industry have sought to devise a single, global interface for the interoperability of IP products. This common protocol as to how network video devices exchange information would enable installers to integrate products from different manufacturers into a single system. The standard will also help software vendors to ensure that their products support various brands of network-based products. For product manufacturers, an open standard ensures interoperability with other manufacturers.

Michael Lützeler, Head of Emerging Technologies at Enterprise Security, International Headquarters, Building Technologies Division, Siemens Switzerland.
Michael Lützeler, Head of Emerging Technologies at Enterprise Security, International Headquarters, Building Technologies Division, Siemens Switzerland.

In this environment, systems could be updated or upgraded with products from a choice of different manufacturers, rather than being confined to the product ranges of a single manufacturer. With more than 460 member companies, ONVIF is one of the largest organisations involved in this initiative, in terms of membership and market penetration, with more than 3 700 commercially available conformant products.

While the growing popularity of IP video has captured the bulk of the attention in this burgeoning world of security industry standards, other segments of the market such as access control are beginning to see the benefits of this global standards approach.

The technology used by the existing ONVIF specification in network video, Web Services, is equally suitable for other technologies, such as physical access control, an area in which ONVIF will soon publish an expansion of its scope, known as Profile C.

ONVIF introduced the profile concept to enable end users to more easily identify features supported by a device or a client without determining the compatibility between versions of the ONVIF specification. The first introduction was Profile S for video and audio streaming, PTZ, relay output control, video encoder configuration and multicast. Profile G, which covers recording and storage functionalities along with Profile C are slated for release in early 2014.

Integration for physical access control with video systems

For companies in the video space, a global network interface allows manufacturers to extend the functionalities of their products with access control functions using the same ONVIF backbone that governs their video technology. For end users and systems integrators, breaking free of the proprietary hardware and software in access control, one of the more traditionally proprietary segments of the market, will increase freedom of choice in technology, reduce integration costs and the overall cost of ownership of access control systems.

While access control has always maintained different subsets of standards, most notably the Wiegand interface and OSDP between the card reader and the door controller, the interface between the controller and the access control management software has been where manufacturers maintained proprietary communication protocols. Now for the first time, Profile C would allow IP door controllers from different companies to become compatible with one another.

Profile C will provide common language enabling a system that allows IP door controllers to browse devices, creating a list of types of readers and connections, and subscribe to card reader and door controller events. The same profile would also be used to control the outputs of the system, such as switching networked field devices on and off.

The Profile C concept will also aid in the configuration of a security management system overseeing cameras, other network video devices and IP door controllers and allow device discovery and event management, where the management system seamlessly receives motion events from the cameras and door events from the IP door controllers. Physical access control systems integrated with network video devices would use the standard to position a PTZ dome camera for recording a card swipe at a particular door, activating network video recording on an invalid card swipe or controlling and coordinating schedules and access rights of integrated networked video devices and the access control system.

The establishment of open standards within video is already helping to drive the migration from analogue to digital solutions, bringing the benefits of network video available to everyone along with interoperability, flexibility, quality and future-proofing.

By expanding the ONVIF scope to include access control, the industry is moving a step closer to facilitating the integration of IP-based security and safety devices using a global open standard.

Michael Lützeler is Head of Emerging Technologies at Enterprise Security, International Headquarters, Building Technologies Division, Siemens Switzerland, with a global responsibility for innovation. Lützeler is a member of the ONVIF Steering Committee. He can be contacted at

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