What is ONVIF ? (Learn more about this protocol for security cameras)

 You must have the answer for the question "What is ONVIF" if you are working in the security camera industry and deals with different brand of devices. 

ONVIF Protocol

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.

Surveillance room

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 a NVR (Network Video Recorder) from Bosch and want to use IP cameras from Hikvision but they are not directly compatible since their protocol are 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.

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.

Shaking hands

The problem with 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, in fact, 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 the ONVIF?

Each manufacturer has its own 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 totally supported by the ONVIF protocol.

Some incompatibility issues also occur between devices that claim to be ONVIF compliant but are not quite ready to really 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 T: Profile will support the new H.265 CODEC

Profile C and A: Profile that supports Access Control

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 artice 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

Onvif compatibility list

That's all for today, please don't forget to share this article.

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