You must have the answer to the question "What is ONVIF" if you are working in the security camera industry and deals with a different brand of devices.
This protocol is already implemented in most of the IP cameras out there, so I recommend that you read this article to understand more about this topic.
Let's start talking about the basics without dive into the technical details (you can learn more later), so you can have useful information to use right away.
What is ONVIF?
ONVIF is a worldwide industry-standard protocol for video surveillance interconnection between devices such as IP cameras, DVRs, NVRs and VMSs. Most modern IP CCTV devices are ONVIF compliant and use some of its profiles.
Founded in 2008 by Axis, Bosch, and Sony, today ONVIF already has more than 500 members and more than 5,000 products that are compatible with the standard. Most of the IP cameras on the market have the ONVIF protocol.
Before the implementation of the ONVIF protocol cameras and recorders from a different manufacturer were not able to communicate. So it was mandatory to continue always using equipment of the same brand.
Let's use a common protocol
Imagine a system integrator who sells IP cameras and NVRs (Network Video Recorder) to a customer who later decides to use different brand devices.
By using the ONVIF protocol, those devices can communicate among themselves, so the customer will have more freedom of choice.
Let's suppose you have an NVR (Network Video Recorder) from Bosch and want to use IP cameras from Hikvision but they are not directly compatible since their protocol is different, so you need to bring a common protocol that both devices work with to make everything work seamless.
Just like English is the universal language for humans to communicate, ONVIF is the universal protocol for IP security system devices.
If you visit different countries (or even different states in the US) in are going to find variations of the English language and the same is true for the ONVIF protocol which has some variations known as profiles. (more on that later).
Quick video explanation
Watch this quick video to understand more about this important protocol.
Relate article: ONVIF protocol, the benefits, and drawbacks.
Relate article: ONVIF Device Manager Review and Download.
Why use the ONVIF protocol?
This video will help you to understand even better the ONVIF concept.
The devices communication
When a Network Video Recorder (NVR) sends commands to an IP camera to request high-resolution videos, a common standard enforced by the ONVIF protocol allows to such camera to delivery what was asked even if the NVR was manufactured by another company and has a different brand.
So the commands that are used by a PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) camera, for example, to change its position or send a Full HD video stream are always the same, it doesn't matter who is the camera or VMS software manufacturer.
The problem with a different IP camera system
The integration between IP cameras and recording and monitoring systems is cumbersome as it involves a lot of time to study the proprietary protocols of several manufacturers and many hours of development.
Just imagine companies developing surveillance software, their developers need to contact different camera manufacturers to request documentation that shows how to communicate with the IP cameras.
As over the years, more and more IP camera manufacturers have entered the market, the work of these developers has increased significantly, as well as the need for constant code updates because manufacturers launch other product lines and also update the firmware of their cameras.
The benefits of the ONVIF protocol
ONVIF allows the IP camera and software manufacturers to use the same protocol, so it's not necessary to rewrite code every time a new IP device comes to the market or a new IP surveillance software is launched.
Is the ONVIF protocol the only standard?
No, there is another standard called PSIA that came up first but did not have the strong support of major manufacturers in the industry, so the ONVIF standard eventually took the lead and is used worldwide by most IP camera manufacturers and Video Monitoring Systems.
What are the disadvantages of ONVIF?
Each manufacturer has its protocol that allows you to work with special features such as Fish Eye camera view, video analytics and many of these special features are not supported by the ONVIF protocol.
Some incompatibility issues also occur between devices that claim to be ONVIF compliant but are not quite ready to work as expected.
The protocol profiles and features
In addition to the video, you can also use other features through the ONVIF protocol such as alarms, video analytics, audio, and PTZ control, it all depends on the protocol version used by the manufacturers.
There are versions 1.x and 2.x of the protocol, the 1.x is already very old and practically no longer considered by most manufacturers.
The most current version has different profiles that show what the protocol supports, see the following list for more details:
Profile S: This is the most basic profile for the cameras, it supports video streaming from the camera to the recording or monitoring system
Profile G: Supports video storage control, if a camera records videos on your memory card for example and a VMS has the need to make a video inquiry, that profile can be used.
Profile Q: Profile that allows you to discover the cameras on the network through a scan, and also increase security by eliminating standard passwords.
Profile C and A: Profile that supports Access Control
Profile T: Profile will support the new H.265 CODEC
The ONVIF Profile T was created to address advanced video stream capabilities which include motion detection, video analytics, and H.265 CODE support.
The standard was published in July 2017 as a release candidate which means the protocol was not stable and well-tested yet.
The ONVIF Profile T features
Advanced video metadata
The H.265 CODEC is supported by the Profile T via the Media2 service.
I know you are going to ask "what is the Media2 service?" and here is the answer...
Media 2 service is a standard framework designed to support different codecs, so the H.265 and other ones can be implemented into the protocol which makes it future-proof and easier to work with.
VMSes can now benefit from the use of the H.265 available on modern cameras.
The use of motion detection is essential for surveillance systems since it allows us to generate events that are used to trigger alerts and reduce the use of storage.
VMSes can use the motion detection feature from the IP cameras or use their built-in motion detection, the first method reduces considerably the need for extra processing power that's why it's proffered in most cases.
Before the ONVIF Profile T release, only IP cameras with proprietary protocol implementation were able to trigger the motion detection event to the VMSes.
This scenario changes now and as long as the IP cameras have the profile T, they can send the motion detection events to different VMSes and that's is something very useful for those with use a mix of different device's brand.
Most of the professional IP cameras have some type of video analytics features available and usually, their use is tied to a proprietary VMS.
Not anymore... with the ONVIF Profile T now the VMSes can receive the advanced analytics events and trigger an appropriate response to that.
Most of the IP cameras on the market are compliant with the ONVIF Profile S which supports the use of audio on IP cameras, however, it's just one-way audio.
Bi-directional audio can now be used with the profile T which allows us to transmit and receive audio from the IP security cameras and other network devices.
This feature is essential for applications that require two-way communication, such as public transportation, parking and emergency alarm/alert systems.
Why ONVIF Profile T is important?
The ONVIF Profile T is important because it supports the new technologies that are being used by the security camera manufacturers for years.
The H.265 CODEC, for example, was implemented in IP cameras and VMSes from different manufacturers to reduce the use of camera bandwidth and storage and this is very important to help in the project cost reduction.
Video motion detection and video analytics are also very important to allow the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) which helps to maximize the system efficiency.
Depending on the surveillance project, the bi-directional audio is also an essential feature that in most cases are the default standard on the IP cameras.
By allowing the use of all those technologies and features, the ONVIF Profile T contributes to the interoperability between different systems and manufacturers which gives the end customer the freedom of choice.
ONVIF Free Software
You can use software to check which ONVIF version is implemented in your IP camera. Please read the article: ONVIF Device Manager Review, and Download.
ONVIF profile T is very important to help the product integration in the surveillance and access control industry, in the next future more manufacturers will be playing this game that benefits everybody.
Manufactures such as Axis, Dahua, Hikvision, and Sony already have their products listed on the ONVIF's database and soon others will also be listed.
ONVIF device test tool
If you want to test your IP cameras and recorders to make sure which version of the protocol is being used, just download a software that can test that for you.
In this blog, you can find the article ONVIF Device Manager Review and Download that will help you understand how to use this software with your cameras.
You can also find more information about this tool in the following video.
The protocol Conformance Verification
ONVIF compatible cameras
Keep in mind that not all products have compatibility, although we often find models that report this compatibility, to be officially ONVIF compatible is necessary to be on the list.
See the compatibility list below
That's all for today, please don't forget to share this article.
Claudemir Martins is a former Samsung Engineer with 15+ experience in the surveillance industry. He has been traveling around 17 different countries to teach people how to design, and install CCTV systems.