ONVIF protocol, the benefits and drawbacks

The ONVIF protocol is used by most of the  IP camera manufacturers and has been very important to keep systems compatibility in the security industry.

ONVIF Protocol

In this article, I will explain what are the different profiles used by this protocol and also what are its advantages and the drawbacks. Just Keep reading.

What is ONVIF?

ONVIF stands for Open Network Video Interface Forum. It's an open industry standard that provides interoperability among IP security devices such as security cameras, video recorders, software, and access control systems.

Founded in 2008 by Axis Communications,  Bosch Security Systems, and Sony Corporation, the standard was adopted by most manufacturers in the IP security industry and to date, there are 470+ members. 

You can check the Onvif Member List to see all the members.

Why the ONVIF protocol is so important?

Freedom of choice is one of the strongest benefits of the ONVIF protocol. 

Just imagine a situation where you are interested in the features of an IP camera manufactured by Axis Communications, but your also interested in the Network Video Recorders manufactured by Sony Corporation.

Those devices can communicate by using a common protocol known by both parties the same way people have a universal language such as English.  

A common language (protocol) of communication

If there's no direct integration between those devices by using the manufacturer proprietary protocol you can use the ONVIF protocol to make them work together as long as they are compliant with the same profile.

ONVIF protocol communication

Nowadays when people think about IP surveillance systems, they usually start searching for ONVIF camera manufacturers because they want to use the IP camera advantages to have freedom of choice for their CCTV project.

ONVIF makes life easier

Before the ONVIF protocol surveillance software developers had to check every single manufacturer technical documentation to be able to understand the proprietary communication protocol used by their devices.

This is a nightmare because it slows down the development process and also there's a need for constant software update every time the device manufacturer introduce a new feature or change some part of the protocol.

Code for All IP Manufacturers

The developer will be happy to know that instead of rewrite code for every single manufacturer, he now can use the ONVIF protocol to write once and the software will be compatible with all of the devices.

That will also benefit  customers, system integrator, distributors, installers and everybody else involved in the IP security industry

How does the ONVIF work?

By using the same protocol, every IP security device can receive the same commands to execute some instruction such as initiate a high-resolution video streaming, record the footage or move a PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) camera.

Those commands are well documented and available to every member who wants to be compliant with the protocol standards. They just need to get the documentation and start developing according to the specification.

After finish the development it's necessary to run a software to test if the device meets the compatibility requirements before submission to the official list.

Benefits for the end customer

The customer can choose different vendors to work with when looking for the best solution for the CCTV surveillance system. See the video below:

Benefits for the system integrator

ONVIF standard reduces the integration complexity and drivers development which helps to save time and money during the project implementation.

The ONVIF profiles

The ONVIF protocol works with a different group of features called profiles. 

So if need to configure an IP camera to broadcast video stream to a recorder, the basic profile will be enough and as long as both devices are compliant, everything is going to work just fine and you will be a happy person.

Now, if you want to have some extra feature such as alarm, video analytics or PTZ control, is necessary to use a different profile to accomplish the task.

Let's talk about the profiles, so you can have a better understanding:

Profile S

The most basic profile used by IP devices such as IP cameras and NVRs, it supports the request and control of video streaming, audio, metadata, relay outputs and PTZ (Pan, Tilt, and Zoom) control over IP networks.

Profile G

This profile supports features related to the recording, searching and playback, so it's possible to work with VMS (Video Management System) retrieving recorded videos from Network Video Recorders or even from SD memory cards installed on IP cameras.  

Profile Q

Profile Q is useful to discover IP cameras, and other IP security devices in the network by scanning the network, that makes the installation process much easier and fast, especially in an environment with different brands. 

Profile C

This profile support access control and event/alarm management. It's very useful to control the access to specific areas. 

Profile A

Access control system can use the profile A to support system integration to create specific rules for granting or revoking access to areas controlled by card readers and other devices compliant with this protocol. 

ONVIF alternative

If you want to use something else other than the ONVIF protocol, there's an alternative called PSIA that have basically the same principle of IP security devices conformance and compatibility, however, it's not so popular. 

PSIA was created before the ONVIF standard but it didn't take the lead.

The pros and cons of the ONVIF protocol

OK, I've been talking about the best of ONVIF protocol, however, there are also some drawbacks you must be aware of, let's see a list of pros and cons

ONVIF Pros

- Allows the compatibility from different vendors devices

- Easy to implementation on VMS software

- Compatible with more than 5,000 IP devices

- Support by most IP based security devices manufacturers

- Members contribute to the protocol improvement

- Continuous protocol development

- Well supported and documented

ONVIF Cons

- To date, there's no support for H.265 Codec (under development) 

- Does not support some advanced video analytics features  

- There's no policy control for the self-proclaimed compatible device 

- Sometimes the devices fail to communicate using the protocol 

Conclusion

ONVIF protocol is very interesting for IP security devices compatibility, it's not perfect but most of the time is very useful for IP CCTV projects.

Everytime you buy an IP camera or device, make sure it's ONVIF compliant and take a look at the profile that's available, this is also important.

Want to become a better professional ? 

If you want to become a professional CCTV installer or designer, take a look at the material available in the blog. Just click the links below:

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