If you’ve been shopping for an IP camera, chances are you’ve seen the phrase “ONVIF-compliant”. But what does ONVIF means? Literally – Open Network Video Interface Forum. Conceptually it is a ‘common calling protocol‘ for all devices that establishes conformance expectations for easy plug and play when a single interface has been implemented. In simpler words, it enables different brands of cameras to communicate with different brands of recorders or security surveillance softwares.

ONVIF was founded in 2008 by Axis Communications, Bosch Security Systems, and Sony Corporation. According ONVIF.org, it’s an open industry forum for the development of a global standard for the interface of IP-based physical security products, such as communication between video management systems and devices (i.e. cameras and encoders) as well as access control systems.

In the past, when a camera manufacturer would release a new camera, it would develop a new technology protocol to go with it. If the same manufacturer were to develop another new camera line, another set of new protocols would need to be created – and so on and so forth. Making the matter even more complicated, if you want the VMS you’re using to talk to those cameras, you would have to develop separate drivers for each protocol API. ONVIF allows the VMS to integrate with cameras from multiple different manufacturers much more easily.

The three core tenets of ONVIF are about interoperability between network video products, regardless of manufacturer; standardization of communication between network video devices; and be open to all companies and organizations. The ONVIF Specifications covers things like IP configuration; device discovery; device management; PTZ camera control; and video analytics. Working in parallel are ONVIF Profiles. Profile C is for IP-based access control; Profile G is for edge storage and retrieval; and Profile S is for IP-based video systems.

What does it mean to be ONVIF compliant?

It means that you will have the confidence that your product, be it client or device, will work with other products certified at the same level. For example, a Profile S device can be expected to work with a Profile S client.

To help with that, ONVIF provides a test specification tool and a test tool to its members. The test tools and procedures are used in order to declare compliancy with an ONVIF Profile. Once all requirements are met in the conformance process, members can declare they are ONVIF Compliant. Members can get compliant within a week after completing testing and submitting their application to ONVIF. The testing process itself varies depending if issues are encountered or not during testing. Currently, there are more than 3,700 ONVIF conformant products out on the market.

Do you have to be ONVIF compliant and Profile S compliant?

It is not possible to be ONVIF compliant only; you need to be compliant to a Profile as well. You can be ONVIF conformant only, but if you are it is not guaranteed that you would get interoperability between other ONVIF devices and clients. To truly reap the benefits of ONVIF, you need to be Profile S compliant as it dramatically increases the chance of things like video and audio streaming or video configuration and multicast actually working well together.

How to tell whether my camera/recorder supports ONVIF?

The easy way is to contact the manufacturer and ask them whether their product supports the ONVIF protocol. If the equipment you purchased is a recent product and from a well-known company then most likely is ONVIF compliant. Before purchasing make sure to confirm if the manufacturer.