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Open Network Video Interface Forum

Updated on February 9, 2016

Why we need standards?

Standards are essential in networking world, since due to the wide variety of available software and hardware, they provide network design compatibility. IP video developers and end users need a common interface that allows them to easily connect technologies from a various set of manufacturers, both for today's purchases and tomorrow's upgrades. So by a global interface, end user do not have to be locked into using solutions from a single manufacturer for the life cycle of the system.

ONVIF is one of standards by which devices and client communicate, instead of relying on unique software integrations between particular devices such as cameras or door controllers, and clients such as video or access control management software.

In this article ONVIF standard in terms of its efficiency, characteristics and its future is studied. Also different profiles and their applications are described.

What is ONVIF?

ONVIF is a global standard for standardizing communication between IP-based physical security products to ensure their interoperability and to facilitate their integration. It was founded in 2008 by Axis, Sony and Bosch to provide increased flexibility and greater freedom of choice, so installers and end users can select interoperable products from different vendors.

Product interoperability is an achievement of ONVIF which means the ability of a product or system to work with another product or system, often of different brands or from different manufacturers. In other words, brand is pointless in ONVIF program.

ONVIF device manager is a Network Video Client (NVC) to manage Network Video Transmitters (NVT), Network Video Storage (NVS) and Network Video Analytics (NVA) devices. In the surveillance industry, ONVIF recognizes the camera as a NVT and other system elements as NVA and NVS, and allows cameras to communicate with each other and with network recording devices.

The advantages of ONVIF are summarized below:

  • Increased flexibility and greater freedom of choice: The standard enables end users to select interoperable products from a variety of different brands that comply with the ONVIF standard.
  • Simplified system design and installation
  • Security of investment by using a future-proof interface for system upgrades
  • Reduced total cost of ownership: Interoperable products result in less integration costs, and enable end users to choose the most suitable combination of IP-based security products for their specific needs, regardless of vendor.

Different profiles of ONVIF

The profile concept is a way for end users and systems designers to identify more easily what products will work together without needing technical knowledge of the specification or having to keep current on each new release.

Profiles are common sets of features and functionalities, so when two products for example an IP camera and NVR, both bear the Profile S for video and audio streaming, they will work together.

Profiles are designed to enable end users to more easily identify features supported by a profile without determining the compatibility between versions of the ONVIF specification. For example, users do not need to know whether specific devices in ONVIF 2.0 are compatible with clients that conform to ONVIF 1.0, or with newer versions of the specification introduced in the future. Instead, users and systems designers will be able to select the appropriate profile that offers interoperability at a specific functional level between units and software that fits their needs.

ONVIF's profile consists of fixed sets of functionalities for devices and clients that are mandatory to be considered conformant with an ONVIF profile. There are now four ONVIF profiles, S, G, C and Q.

Profile S

Profile S which is released in January 2012, describes the common functionalities shared by ONVIF conformant video management systems and devices such as IP cameras or encoders that send video data over an IP network to a client.

A client conformant with Profile S is a client that can configure, request and control streaming of video data over an IP network from a Profile S conformant device. The profile includes specific features such as pan, tilt, zoom control, video configuration and multicast, audio streaming and relay outputs.

Profile C

This profile is developed for IP-based access control. It enables interoperability between clients and devices of physical access control systems (PACS) and network based video systems. This profile extends the functionality of the ONVIF global interface specification into physical access control. With Profile C, systems integrators and consultants will be able to more easily deploy an integrated IP based video and access control solution from a variety of different video and access control providers.

As part of a physical access control system, Profile C conformant devices will be able to provide information about doors and access points in the system. Profile C conformant clients provide basic door control functions, such as monitoring of doors, access control decisions and alarms and locking/unlocking doors.

When Profile C combined with other Profiles such as Profile S for video and audio streaming, users can also group together related access control and video devices using a configurable discovery scope. Profile C and Profile S also share the same device management features such as network configuration and system settings.

Profile G

Profile G is designed to store, search, retrieve and playback media on devices or clients that support recording capabilities and on-board storage. A device conformant with Profile G is a device that records video data over an IP network or on the device itself, which this device may be an IP network camera or an encoder device.

A client conformant with Profile G is a client that can configure, request and control the recording of video data over an IP network from an ONVIF device that is conformant with Profile G.

Therefore, Profile G will encompass devices ranging from cameras and encoders to networked video recorders (NVR) and client systems such as video management systems, building management systems and physical security information management (PSIM) systems. Profile G also support receiving audio and metadata streams if the client supports those features, actually it supports video playback from a NVR, including specific features such as starting and ending recording; searching video using various filters such as time, event or metadata; video retrieval and playback; and on the receiver side, creating a source of IP media.

It is worth knowing that, although Profile G and Profile S are related, these two are independent profiles and encompass different functionalities of a network video system. Some devices and most clients may implement both profiles, for example a camera with on-board storage or a digital video recorder. In contrast, a camera may implement Profile S for transmission of the video while an NVR would encompass functionalities from Profile G.

Profile Q

ONVIF announced the release candidate for its newest profile in the early of 2014: Profile Q, the specification that provides quick and easy interoperability in addition to advanced security features. However, the final profile is published in the mid of 2015 and technology providers are able to test their products for conformance to the final version of Profile Q.

This profile is designed for easy configuration and advanced security. Profile Q by offering out-of-the-box functionality provides the security specific needs of an easy set-up mechanism and basic device level configuration. It also provides strong device monitoring and event management capabilities.

A device conformant with Profile Q is a device that can be discovered and configured by an ONVIF client. A client conformant with Profile Q is a client that can discover, configure and control an ONVIF device conformant with Profile Q over an IP network.

Profile Q also supports Transport Layer Security (TLS), a protocol designed to provide secure communication between devices and clients. This protocol utilizes an authentication process involving the exchange of certificates and keys over a network. The profile manages certificates and keys on ONVIF devices themselves, which can then communicate with clients across the network in a way that protects against tampering and eavesdropping.

Oncoming ONVIF

At the beginning, ONVIF's focus was on video surveillance. At the same time, ONVIF recognizes the need for specifications in other industry parts as consultants, integrators and end users request increased interoperability between brands and solutions. ONVIF's next profiles may include new advances in physical access control or a new market segment, such as intruder alarms.

ONVIF has grown in size and strength rapidly over these years. With more than 500 members and approximately 4,000 conformant products, ONVIF is the largest organization of its kind in the world. Since its inception in 2008, the membership of organization has grown by 25-50% each year, with the number of conformant products increasing by 250% in the last three years alone.

Summary

One of the greatest benefits of standardization is freedom of choice. This allows one to select the best and most appropriate camera, NVR or door controller and also ensures user that adding compatible equipment to a physical security system is possible in the future. So, developing a global standard to provide network design compatibility is urgent. When a product is ONVIF-conformant, it indicates that the client or device works with other products that are conformant. For example, a Profile G device is made to work with a Profile G client.

At the end, a quick review of ONVIF's profiles is presented in the table.

It is worth mentioning that redleaf security is a member of ONVIF.

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