When the formation of ONVIF was announced in 2008, many believed that it would change the face of networked video solutions. At the time, most installers and integrators looking to implement IP-based solutions had two choices: NVRs and software with limited device support (often limited to a single brand) or open platform VMS solutions. Eight years later, the use of ONVIF protocols still isn’t a smooth and seamless process. However, the question of who shoulders the responsibility for this invariably ends up with the installer and integrator; the people who have no influence over ONVIF, and who the specification was supposed to help!
When ONVIF was first launched, the goal was to create a specification that ensured manufacturers offered uniformly compliant products, thus simplifying the process of device discovery and connection for installers and integrators. The move was designed to allow a greater level of freedom to those designing and implementing advanced security solutions.
Before ONVIF had even published details of its first version of the protocol, specifiers were adding ONVIF compatibility to tender documents. The race was on to claim ONVIF compliance and many manufacturers found that they could make such claims by implementing certain elements of the protocol. All too often, devices did not have the same elements of compliance.
The fractured nature of claims of ONVIF compliance was the main driver for the introduction of Profiles. The thinking behind the Profiles was that in order to claim compliance, all elements of the Profile had to be implemented.
However, before Profiles were introduced, the fragmented and somewhat haphazard approach to ONVIF compliance impacted on installers and integrators. The much vaunted benefits of the specification could not be realised by many, and yet the official line via the media and the various plugfests – the name given to collective demonstrations of ONVIF compliance in action – was that everything in the ONVIF garden was rosy.
Benchmark tried to replicate the ‘successes’ of the plugfests, and kept hitting problems and issues. After publishing our report a number of companies (made up of installers, manufacturers and even training providers) contacted us to report similar results. One even mentioned that they were glad so many people agreed with our findings, because they thought it was them doing something wrong!
The biggest issue was that no one seemed willing to accept responsibility for the confusion. ONVIF stated their protocol was fine; it was the manufacturers not implementing it properly. A number of manufacturers claimed their implementations were fine; it had to be others causing the issues. Some even blamed the installers and integrators, and went to great lengths to try and capitalise on the chaos. One company even showed their own cameras connected to their own NVR as evidence that ONVIF worked!
Interestingly, when Profile S was announced, there was a slight softening in attitude from ONVIF, with then chairman Jonas Andersson telling Benchmark that the introduction of the ONVIF protocol could have been done better.
In truth, the use of Profiles has improved things, but there is still a long way to go. The recent Benchmark VMS test did highlight that ONVIF still isn’t reliable.
For many, open-platform VMS solutions are the best way forward, because ONVIF compliance becomes less important. However, surely the ideal goal is that ONVIF goes back to its core mission, but also takes full responsibility for ensuring that ‘compliant’ really means compliant!