“Software video management is our core business,” says Henrik Sydbo Hansen, Milestone Camera Partner Program Manager. “We appeared on the market in 1998 after the introduction of the first IP cameras, forming an early connection with Axis in Sweden, as well as other early adopters. They made the cameras and we developed software to manage them. Early on, it was potentially high risk as the technology was so new, but our position and subsequent acceptance in today’s market has reinforced this bold decision.”
“The open platform approach drives our business,” he continues. “We deliver a product designed to capture video, which can then be displayed on Windows, Android, and IOS. It can also be fully scaled from a very small, simple solution to full large-scale implementation, such as retail chain with hundreds or even thousands of stores. We have seen applications in banking, the nuclear industry, homeland security, breweries and the police.”
So what is the industry demanding? “High efficiency, high reliability, effective scalability and, of course, an open approach. The main reason why we believe we are number one in respect to video management is our open platform. We give customers and integrators the option to deploy what they want.”
With an open approach already cemented in the company’s psyche, it was feasible that ONVIF could dilute the company’s approach, but this is far from the case.
We see ONVIF as complementary,” Henrik explains. “If you think about it, there were a few manufacturers back in the late ’90s who delivered proprietary protocols. Today there are hundreds delivering IP cameras, potentially with multiple different closed protocols. ONVIF simply said that for the IP camera to become successful we need to standardize…and we agreed. ONVIF changed the industry and I honestly believe that IP camera technology may not have been successful without some form of standardization.
He continues: “Looking from a systems perspective, as we deliver management solutions, we are highly dependent on the reliability and openness of the cameras with which we interface, in order to utilize all the functionality. If everyone were to deliver a unique interface, we would have major challenges. So, from a Milestone perspective, ONVIF is crucial for us to be able to deliver what we do today. Our software supports 150 different manufacturers and over 4,200 camera models. If we had to spend research and development time and money on interfacing hundreds of bespoke APIs and camera features we would not be able to deliver what we do. This time would also absorb much of our own research efforts meaning that we potentially could struggle to further enhance our system. In this respect, ONVIF is vital.”
The market is also expanding at an incredibly fast rate, with more cameras arriving all the time. “Every camera potentially has more features than before,” he continues. “It is a multi-dimensional explosion. As a management company, we simply would not be able to cope with the pace of new arrivals. The past three years have seen real acceptance of ONVIF in the market and the camera manufacturers are now implementing it even more. If not the primary API at least it can sit on top. They now know that if they don’t implement some form of ONVIF compliance, they may miss out on subsequent integrations of their technology. The proprietary approach is now more than ever counter-intuitive.”
ONVIF compliance also plays a huge role in the ongoing operations of systems. “Because we support more than 4,200 IP camera models,” he elaborates, “we can offer support to a huge range of systems. We have ready-made integration for these 4,200 models and, as a result, we can offer other manufacturers and system partners this flexibility. They automatically get integration with these 4,200 devices, which delivers huge benefits to the next step of the supply chain.”
Henrik explains Milestone’s involvement with ONVIF: “By being a member we can follow what’s happening. In the early days we did a simple integration. Since then there has been a huge push from camera manufacturers to undertake integration based on their APIs rather than ONVIF, meaning we had to create a dedicated integration based on each brand’s specific technology. But the game has changed. There isn’t this massive pressure to do tailored integrations and ONVIF is being requested even more. We have stayed up to date with ONVIF and can support most standard features of IP cameras.”
It has also been a game changer inside Milestone to significantly stepped up its use of ONVIF tools. “When we have conversations with system integrators and customers, they often think that because we are the VMS that supports most cameras, we are against ONVIF. In fact the reverse is true – we are pushing our manufacturers in ONVIF’s direction. It’s not practical the other way around: we cannot tailor for everyone.”
ONVIF has done a tremendous job. It faced a huge challenge to convince the industry. It had been tried in the past by some suppliers to ‘ring fence’ APIs, but it didn’t work. Indeed, some big players have completely changed their strategy and are now much more open in their mindset. It has been fascinating to see the industry change in this direction. ONVIF has evolved itself. The certification process is still not bulletproof because some of the specifications are still open to interpretation. It’s not quite perfect yet, but it is getting really close.”
Henrik sees the benefits trickling (sometimes cascading) down the supply chain. “Installers over time will get more options and freedom of choice, simply because there will be more manufacturers on hand to solve any challenge they face from the end user. If we were all working on proprietary solutions, we couldn’t take the bits and pieces and throw them into the solution without having to look at the minutia and foibles of each individual technology and how they interact with each other. ONVIF gives freedom of choice, playing a role in video, analytics and access control, for example, and delivering a foundation for the system integrators to pick and choose best-fit solutions. When the technology is ONVIF compliant, they know it will work – this is what delivers the true value.”
Discussing the benefits to the end user, Henrik elaborates: “First of all it’s about cost. If everything is standardized, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel and spend time and resources on implementation and installation, this lowers costs. Time to market is also vital. The end user has options for more devices arriving available at higher speed. This means that better technology and the resulting VMS integration can be delivered much faster.”
So, what does Henrik see for the future? “There are many different drivers. Right now the industry is talking about 4K and new compression algorithms for data transport. and storage efficiency. 4K will happen in the security industry, but it is highly dependent on the broadcast and mobile industries. We are dependent on these other industries for our technology to progress.”
On the future of ONVIF, Henrik concludes: “I think the next step will be more specifications and more applications being embraced. IT’s no longer just about video, it is about business systems, such as analytics, barcodes and other security-related disciplines. ONVIF has not yet reached market saturation, but at the rate it is going both on a technological front and in terms of customer demand, I can only foresee a significant increase in uptake over the next few years.”
Visit ONVIF’s newsroom for more information on their participation in the field.