Standards good for all

September 2011 News

How new standards are benefiting the world of network video surveillance.

Consumer technology has long benefited from standardisation – connecting a laptop to a monitor or projector, plugging a memory stick into a computer and even using a 3G phone oversees are all made possible thanks to industry standards. They establish uniform engineering or technical criteria that vendors agree to adhere to when manufacturing their products. Because of these standards, consumers enjoy freedom of choice, constantly – improving products and low prices when purchasing technology.

But despite the clear benefits, some business to business technology has yet to develop its own standards. The security industry is beginning to address its own shortfall in standardisation. This should give rise to great competition for best-of-breed components from which end users can choose to build their ideal surveillance system solutions.

Roy Alves
Roy Alves

Standardising video surveillance

Specifications only become standards once they have been ratified by a Standards Developing Organisation (SDO). SDOs can operate globally, regionally or nationally.

While ‘standards’ has a very specific meaning, the term sometimes gets applied to products that have not been ratified by an SDO. The Internet Protocols (IP version 4 and version 6), for example, were not ratified by an SDO. Rather they were specifications worked out by several companies working together. These types of specifications usually work as well as standards ratified by SDOs and often become widely accepted and deployed by the market.

In the analogue world, regional organisations NTSC (America) and PAL (Europe) have ratified standards for the video signal coming from the analogue cameras. Those standards came from the television industry in the 1950s and have made it possible for analogue cameras from multiple vendors to be used in a single system. Since the standards are regional rather than worldwide, however, vendors still need different versions of their products for different markets, which add to development, manufacturing and logistics costs.

In contrast, most standards developed for network video surveillance come from the IT industry and have the benefit of being worldwide standards.

Driving its own standards

Currently, there is no global standard defining how network video products such as cameras, video encoders and video management systems, should communicate with each other. But now standards developed within the security industry itself are on the horizon, which will complement the existing standards already deployed.

Recently several organisations have become active in the development of standards for network-connected video surveillance devices. One group is SIA (Security Industry Association), which is accredited by ANSI as a national SDO. Two other groups – ONVIF (Open Network Video Industry Forum) and PSIA (Physical Security Interoperability Alliance) – were started in 2008 and are focusing on improving compatibility by creating global open standards for the network interface between network video products. They want to define how network cameras, video encoders and video management systems communicate with one another to make it easier to integrate various brands of video equipment into a single solution. Among the IP video standards the groups plan to address are issues surrounding video streaming, device discovery and management, intelligence metadata and event handling, as well as real-time viewing and remote pan/tilt/zoom control. ONVIF is also addressing testing to ensure conformance to the standards, especially important in the early days of a new standard.

Alastair Hayfield, senior research analyst at IMS Research (, has observed ONVIF and PSIA’s rise. “The video surveillance industry has clearly decided that standards are desirable,” he says. “Well over half of all video surveillance equipment sales can be attributed to companies in one or both of these standards bodies. In fact, 11 of the top 15 video surveillance vendors have joined either ONVIF or PSIA.”

Benefits of standardization

The ultimate goal of these organisations is to standardise the interfaces on the network layer level of the products in terms of functions such as video streaming, intelligent metadata, and device discovery. A seamless integration of different network video surveillance products operating on this standard will be enabled regardless of brand. This will make it even easier for end-users, integrators, consultants and manufacturers to take advantage of the possibilities offered by network video solutions.

The biggest beneficiaries of standards are end users. Instead of being locked into proprietary solutions, standards allow them to pick and choose best-of-breed components from different manufacturers with confidence that all the pieces will work well together. Freedom of choice tends to increase competition between vendors, ultimately speeding delivery of better products to the market at a lower price as the market expands at an ever-higher rate. Greater product demand, higher production volumes and lower integration costs for vendors and manufacturers will also translate into lower costs for the end user.

Standardisation will also offer end users a greater level of future-proofing for their investment. The standard will ensure that inter-operable products are available from a large variety of vendors, no matter how the market develops.

The interoperability between different vendors’ products, aided by the standard, will make it easier for integrators and consultants to offer their customers cost-effective and simple solutions. Installation will be simplified, regardless of brand, and there will be greater freedom to specify a system with products from different vendors, thus making it easier to fully meet the specific needs of each customer.

The benefits offered by standards to end users, integrators and consultants will result in increased interest in network video products and IP-based security/surveillance solutions. This means that the development of an industry standard is an important spur to the growth of the network surveillance industry as a whole.

Standards offer manufacturers interoperability with other products without losing the ability to differentiate products from the competition. They also present extended market opportunities, as the products/software can be easily used as a part of a global network video solution, and reduced in-house development costs.


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