How Well Does a Video Surveillance System Design Based on ONVIF Work?

Having just completed some training on ONVIF, it appears there are many aspects that need to be considered before selecting the surveillance camera for your system design as not all cameras offer all aspect of the standards and some work better than others.

As a CCTV consultant I am concerned about what will happen when calling for ONVIF compliant design to a tender response. Simply quoting ONVIF compliance appears to be about as useful as putting a 1 line specification out that asked for a camera. At present over 700 products claim to comply but many of them only with portions of the ONVIF standard and many of the expected functions don’t exist.

For example:ONVIF

An ONVIF camera is MJPEG, MPEG4 or H.264. It only has to implement one of these to be compliant.

There is currently no provision for alarms from the camera to be monitored. So no BIO, video loss or other events can be monitored.

PTZ cameras under v1.2 do not support preset recall

Audio is only from the camera to the VMS

There are now 2 core specifications and it appears (and I may be incorrect) that if the VMS and camera are not at the same level, you cannot view video

Some cameras will only allow one stream and if you view it live, you can’t record it.

Analytics events are not supported.

Some products lock you out of the configuration menu if authentication is enabled for security over unauthorised access to the camera stream. The camera needs to be defaulted to recover it.

If you replace a camera, the live viewing and recording settings have to be deleted and recreated as the Service ID will change.

Some cameras will take as long as 15 seconds to start streaming video live.

Some models are streaming at 2CIF even when you configured them for 4CIF

Citing IP Video Markets independent testing.

Prior to specifying or selling products that depend on ONVIF support, we strongly recommend you verify interoperability in a test setup. Do not assume a camera and VMS both having ONVIF ‘labels’ will simply work in a meaningful way out of the box. The first step we recommend is contacting the VMS manufacturer for the make/model/firmware of devices known to work with your version of the VMS. Additionally confirm the specific camera feature set that will be available for use in an ONVIF integration.

If you intend to call for ONVIF compliance in a tender, it would pay to itemise every part of compatibility you want or you may find a dispute further down the line.

Core compliance statements to include:

  • Must stream in H.264
  • Must start streaming video in less than 1 second of being requested
  • Must be capable of 2 independently configured streams to operate at the same time to facilitate recording and live viewing at the same time, with no dropped frames at full resolution 25ips
  • Must support multiple resolutions and frame rates to be streamed from the camera at the same time. IE 12ips 4CIF for recording and 25ips 2CIF for live
  • All cameras and VMS must be configured for the same ONVIF core standard.

Outside of this, you can request the normal camera specifications but bear in mind there is likely to be compliance to the camera part and non compliance to parts of ONVIF or vice versa.

Some VMS manufactures are giving blanket ONVIF compliance statements but only having implemented the bare minimum to comply. They are responding to tenders where they comply with ONVIF compatibility but not which parts. In other sections of the tender that they cannot comply with ONVIF such at PTZ presets on alarm, they are referring to using the API functions of the camera, which is not ONVIF and defeats the reason for requiring ONVIF.

What a fun time we are moving into.  :(


Further reading:

Things to note when thinking ONVIF

More Things To Note When Thinking ONVIF CCTV

Australian Standards for CCTV

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