As a industry specific definition, ONVIF is the CCTV and video surveillance industries voluntary data format that standardizes IP camera signals so different brands of equipment can communicate with each other. Without it, each manufacturer would develop their own data structures making their equipment proprietary, meaning only equipment from the same manufacturer could be used on the same system.
ONVIF sets standards so different brands of equipment can process each others video data feeds, making them an open source product and allowing different brands of equipment to be used on the same system or platform.
What does ONVIF stand for?
ONVIF is an acronym for (Open Network Video Interface Forum). ONVIF is commonly used to describe a standard data format, but also used to describe the voluntary forum of manufactures who contribute and follow the agreed upon data standards.
Why was ONVIF needed?
When IP cameras came onto the market, the video clarity was superior over the best analog video over coax performance. It did not take long for companies to see the benefit of IP based cameras and they started migrating from analog and coax to IP and network. Manufacturers expanded their IP development departments and started creating features to enhance their products performance and desirability over their competitors. The problem was, different brands of equipment were not compatible with each other so the consumer had to choose a brand and stay with it. As the technology progressed each manufacturer developed different cameras and features the consumer found desirable, but could not take advantage of because they had selected a different brand in the beginning.
It became clear this was unacceptable to the consumer market and they started demanding the ability to utilized different brands on the same platform. The only way to do so was to create a standard data format that all the manufacturers followed.
Who created ONVIF?
ONVIF was founded in 2008 by Axis Communications Inc., Bosch Security Systems AG and Sony Corporation. Its mission is to facilitate the development and use of an open standard for the interface between physical IP-based security devices. In other words ONVIF develops standards for how IP cameras and other physical security devices can communicate with each other, so they can work together seamlessly.
Does ONVIF work?
Yes and no. ONVIF compliant devices will work together and different brands of cameras will operate together on the same system and record to different NVR (network video recorder) brands. So far so good, the video will stream and the clarity will be consistent, but that's about it. Many other features may or may not operate.
For example, using brand A camera and brand B video recorder, the camera will connect to the video recorder and the video recorder will record the video stream 24 hours. But many other desirable features may not work depending on the combination of brands and equipment. Features such as, motion activated recordings, remote alerts, two-way audio, digital image adjustments, and AI features may or may not work if the camera is a different brand than the video recorder. Why? Because ONVIF is voluntary and each manufacturer develops their own features unique to their equipment. These features cannot be completely regulated by ONVIF because the feature is specific to the manufacturer. In other words, we are only about 75% of the way to true industry compatibility. As newer versions of the ONVIF protocol are introduced these issues seem to be reduced slightly, but in our opinion there will always be limited compatibility because of each manufacturers custom development.
Best ONVIF Advice
Standardize on one brand. Most brands offer such a wide selection of camera types and NVR features, there are few reasons to mix brands.
ONVIF is very helpful if you are migrating a large system to a new brand. First replace the video recorder (brand A), connect-program the old cameras (brand B) to the recorders, and then start replacing the existing brand B cameras with new brand A cameras over time.