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How to manage surveillance systems across multiple sites

For end users with multiple locations, managing surveillance systems is complicated.

May 9, 2018  By  Colin Bodbyl

One end user could have a hundred locations that all require video surveillance systems. Much like other infrastructure, not all locations will have the same age, brand, or type of equipment. Very rarely do businesses overhaul their security platforms across dozens or hundreds of locations at one time. This typically results in disparate systems. Security directors find themselves managing dozens of different VMS’ through different client software, mobile apps and browser interfaces.

To solve this problem, end users could pay to convert all their sites to one new software. This process can lead to serious compatibility issues as older cameras or recorders may not support the new software. In addition, the cost of purchasing new software licenses for hundreds or thousands of cameras is significant, especially considering the only justification is to create a single standard user interface for otherwise perfectly functional systems.

Another potential method for solving this dilemma is through third-party or custom built software that could be integrated with each VMS using individual software developer kits (SDKs). Similar to new software licence purchases, SDKs can be expensive and development costs or third-party licensing costs can become substantial.

A lesser known solution is through ONVIF. Most people will know ONVIF from its popular protocol that enables cameras to be viewed and recorded through different VMS platforms. Fewer people are aware that the same ONVIF protocol could be used to stream video out of VMS software to other platforms. For end users who want to view all of their disparate systems on one client software, this could completely solve their issue. Unfortunately, the vast majority of VMS providers are not adding ONVIF support for streaming video to external software and instead force integrations to be made through complicated and expensive SDKs.


While supporting outbound ONVIF connections on the VMS may seem like a sensible solution from an end user perspective, it poses some complex dilemmas for VMS providers. One concern could be the risk of losing portions of an end-to-end surveillance system because customers would no longer be forced to standardize on one VMS in order to receive one consistent user interface.

As an example, if a customer has two different VMSes on two different sites, their only clear option to view both sites through one interface is to choose a winning VMS from the two and pay for licences to convert over the losing site. Of course, every VMS provider believes that they would beat out their competition in this scenario and in turn do not believe this is a real threat. Instead, VMS providers consider this an opportunity to generate new sales and eliminate a competitor.

While end users and third-party software providers could benefit substantially from outbound ONVIF support becoming a standard in all VMSes, the competitive advantage of controlling and restricting external integrations will always be more important to VMS providers. For those of us waiting for a simple and free standard for connecting to video through any VMS platform, the ONVIF protocol is unfortunately not going to become that solution.

Colin Bodbyl is the chief technology officer for UCIT Online (www.ucitonline.com).

This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of SP&T News.

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