Into the Air
Standards development assists with integration issues, but will interoperability ever become a reality?
- By Ian Johnston
- Jun 01, 2012
You probably know the story by now, but let me provide a quick
synopsis. A few years back, a number of leading IP surveillance
manufacturers got together to discuss the development of an organization
that would promote and develop IP standards. The
overarching goal was to design an “open and free” interoperability
standard that would ease connectivity issues between IP-based security cameras
and video management software (VMS). Without standards, custom video drivers
have to be written in order to enable one manufacturer’s camera to work with a
particular VMS platform. This leads to huge amounts of time and money spent on
basic connectivity versus focusing on research and development.
The development of custom video drivers is a huge barrier for less-established
brand names. From a stand-alone camera manufacturer’s perspective, it is impossible
to gain market share without being included in the more popular VMS platforms.
Without strong market share, however, VMS companies cannot devote the
time or the energy to support these lower-tier brands.
The interoperability challenges in the IP security space stand in stark contrast
to the very standards-rich analog world. Due to the ridged adherence to the NTSC
and PAL video specifications, almost any analog camera can connect into any
DVR. Everything analog is plug and play—in short, it just works. It is estimated
that 60 million cameras will be installed in 2012 and, even in this highly digital age,
50 million of those cameras will still be analog. This fact demonstrates that the
market demands systems that offer ease of installation and manageability, and this
preference outweighs the benefits that digital surveillance offers.
IP standards promised to change the proprietary nature of IP. Shortly after
talk of standards began, two groups formed to construct IP standards and, due
in part to the competitive nature of the development process, both groups made
significant headway in developing standards for video surveillance cameras and
access control devices. The idea of these standards was great, but to date, they
have not delivered on the promise of true interoperability. Standards are supposed
to deliver ease of integration to the installation community, a high return
on a future-proof investment for the end user and IP systems that are easy to
configure and operate. Unfortunately, little progress has been made in delivering
So why has the standard movement stalled? When you walk through a tradeshow
exhibit hall, you’ll see plenty of companies marketing their support and
adoption of standards. Many of the companies supporting standards are new and
smaller players—with many coming out of Asia—eager to grab hold of a piece
of the profitable video surveillance market. These companies were first adopters,
quickly integrating IP standards into their camera lines to come to market quicker.
Before IP standards, these camera manufacturers were at the mercy of the VMS
providers because they had to wait for the development of a custom driver to allow
their cameras to work with a particular software program.
Also on the tradeshow floor, you’ll see industry heavyweights displaying their
support for their standard group of choice. Most often, these companies do not
have any standard-compatible products to display, market or sell. Rather, they use
their support of standards to market the belief in the benefits of interoperability
and all it promises to bring to the industry as a whole.
Unfortunately, this brings us to the problem at hand: The companies that are
adopting standards are often smaller providers that are looking to build market
share while the others are waiting to see where the initiative will go from here. This
effectively stalls the drive for true interoperability and, therefore, limits the benefits
the industry can experience from truly open systems.
As the standard “game” continues onward, there is another option emerging
that provides users with the usability, flexibility and manageability of IP surveillance
without limiting the rich features users expect of network-based technologies.
Emerging manufacturers are focused on the delivery of IP surveillance devices
that enable ease of deployment and effortless system configuration, right out
of the box. These companies believe that IP-based surveillance solutions should be
simple to configure and easy to install without sacrificing functionality. The goal
is to develop network surveillance cameras that combine high-resolution IP video
with the ease and simplicity associated with traditional analog devices.
As much as the standards movement tried to propel the adoption of IP technology
throughout the industry, it has unfortunately limited the adoption rate.
Even with the development of standards for a host of IP devices, systems are still
too overly complicated to operate and install, providing frustration for integrators
and end users. For IP to truly reach mass adoption, the industry has to re-imagine
how IP cameras are configured and deployed to enable users to experience the true
benefits and value that IP technologies offer. Only then will the
entire industry benefit from a new level of usability and system
performance that will simplify the path to greater security, new
applications and immediate and long-term ROI.
This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Security Today.