ONVIF – Standardizing Network Video & Access Control for Inter-operability

Network-based IP Video surveillance cameras are great, but they are not like the SIP phones. You can connect a SIP phone to any IP PBX that supports SIP (most of them do) and expect – at the least – all the basic functionality to work.

But, you cannot manage IP cameras from different manufacturers (or stream, record/retrieve video) using a single interface/application. You cannot integrate IP security cameras made by different vendors, with an integrated security management system (as long as individual manufacturers don’t offer an interface). This not only creates issues like vendor lock-in, but also makes management of older cameras/cameras made by multiple manufacturers, difficult.

ONVIF or Open Network Video Interface Forum was initially created by Axis Communications, Sony Corporation & Bosch Security Systems, to solve this problem. According to ONVIF website, more than 1700 products from 465 ONVIF members confirm to their basic standard – Profile S.


“ONVIF defines a common protocol to ensure inter-operability between multiple network video product/application manufacturers.”

It seems, ONVIF is based on Web Services and utilizes other industry standards like RTP/RSTP (streaming, motion detection), H.264 (compression), etc. ONVIF compliance is based on profiles. So, if you notice that a particular product is compliant with ONVIF Profile S (for example), that means that certain functionality is inter-operable with third-party applications/devices. ONVIF profiles and the functionality supported by each is given below (in short).

Profile – Functionality

  • Profile S – Video and Audio streaming, System Settings, Network Config, etc.
  • Profile G – Video storage, retrieval, playback, searching, etc.
  • Profile C – Integration with (certain aspects of) Physical Access Control systems.

As you can see, such a standardization enables application manufacturers, video management system developers, physical security management system providers, building management system designers, etc. to integrate network video devices and systems into their platforms. This, in addition to basic inter-operability between IP camera systems from multiple manufacturers.

The IP video surveillance industry has set a positive example by opting for an industry standard instead of hoping that their clients in all the branches and all the locations will uniformly buy their own products (with the same versions also, maybe) in order to achieve centralized management. Such fantasies – except in very rare cases – remain fantasies. That makes me wonder if it’s time for video conferencing industry to follow suit?

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