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Open standards in physical access control gain momentum as ONVIF adoption grows

Current state of access control market
 The outlook of the access control is bright despite economic downturn
Belying the tough economic environment in which it is operating globally, the security industry is apparently ‘weathering the storm' quite well. Despite some expected adverse impact of the economic downturn, overall the security industry has been relatively immune and resilient compared to some other sectors. This could well be because of the growth in unemployment and higher crime rates necessitating the need for more security and asset protection.

Access control is a major element of the security mix, although it is now more often part of an integrated approach to protection. Integration and interoperability are primary drivers in today's market, with end-users looking not only to the benefits in terms of security but also beyond. Increasingly, security buyers are moving away from the ‘single discipline' purchase-particularly with more sophisticated installers and bigger customers- and adopting a more holistic approach to building technology that is characterised by a tight integration of security with general business and building processes. This is in sharp contrast to how it used to be previously, where the various security disciplines were ‘stand-alone' technologies that only offered the possibility to connect and communicate either at very low level via hard-wired signals or at a very high level by means of bespoke software applications, developed by system integrators.

In this article Michael Lützeler, Innovation Manager, Siemens Building Technologies Division, outlines the integration possibilities available in the access control market today, particularly in view of the rapid adoption of ONVIF.

The "plug and play" mentality

Integration and interoperability are primary drivers in today's market, with end-users looking for benefits beyond security 

For long, access control systems with their databases and transaction logs have utilized the IP (the principal Internet communications protocol) of the computer systems within the buildings they serve. As video surveillance has migrated to a digital environment and leverages the same infrastructure, integration of access control systems has become even more viable. Moreover, there is much greater awareness amongst customers about the total cost of ownership of the security systems of their buildings - from the planning phase, through installation, training, maintenance and future extendibility. Expectations from IT have risen as they recognise the possibilities of IT. The plug and play mentality which they have gotten used to with the use of their personal IT systems has become pervasive- they are now increasingly expecting the interface of their security systems and software to operate in a similar, simple way - not just across the different brand lines of a single vendor's proprietary technology but between the systems of different manufacturers.

Plug and play mentality demanded from end-users when it comes to their access control systems
End customers are now increasingly expecting the interface of their security systems to operate with the plug and play mentality

The move toward open standards in physical access control

Most forward-thinking participants in the market already acknowledge the need to develop standardised open interfaces for network security systems which can be used by all competing market participants on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and thus promote competition.  The driving ambition is to make it even easier for end users, system integrators, consultants and manufacturers to take advantage of the possibilities offered by network solutions and to bring benefits to the whole industry.  An open standard for the interface of all network products would enable installers to integrate products from different manufacturers into a single system.  The standard will also help software vendors to ensure that their products support various brands of network products.  For product manufacturers, an open standard ensures interoperability with other manufacturers.  In this environment, systems could be updated or upgraded with products from a choice of different competing manufacturers which comply with the open standard.

Open Network Video Interface Forum paves road to broader product integration

Within the network video market, many of the benefits of open standards are already being experienced. ONVIF (Open Network Video Interface Forum), currently the largest body in terms of membership and market penetration, is a global forum, membership of which is open to manufacturers, software developers, consultants, systems integrators, end-users and other interest groups that wish to participate.

The ONVIF specification for video currently defines a common protocol how network video devices exchange information such as live video, audio, metadata and control information. Conformant network video transmitters, e.g. security cameras or encoders, and receivers from different participating ONVIF manufacturers are able to communicate with each other by requesting and sending live view video streams. The specification also ensures that conformant devices are automatically discovered and connected to network applications such as video management systems. 

The technology used by the ONVIF specification, Web Services is equally suitable for other applications/devices such as access control - and at the end of March 2010, ONVIF announced that the scope of standardisation was being extended to cover physical access control. In future, access control devices from manufacturers that comply with the ONVIF standards will not only interoperate effortlessly and seamlessly with each other, but also with ONVIF-conformant video surveillance products and systems - without the need to make any specific set-up adjustments during commissioning.

In future, access control devices from manufacturers that comply with the ONVIF standards will not only interoperate effortlessly and seamlessly with each other, but also with ONVIF-conformant video surveillance products and systems
 In future, access control devices from manufacturers with the ONVIF standards will also with ONVIF-conformant video systems
The benefits of open standards in physical access control

Due to the ONVIF collaboration, it will be possible in future to ensure interoperability between all network products of participating manufacturers, regardless of brand.  The focus on video enabled the forum to work efficiently to have everything in place - core specification, test specification, test tool and conformance process to achieve real interoperability of participants’ products in a relatively short time-frame.  Having such elements in place should make it easier for companies to develop other fully interoperable devices such as those used in access control.  This, in turn, will allow end-users, integrators, consultants and manufacturers to take advantage of the possibilities offered, resulting in more cost-effective and flexible security solutions, expanded market opportunities and reduced risk.

End users will benefit from increased flexibility to choose products from different manufacturers to create the most suitable, practical, effective and cost-efficient access control solution. On the other hand, manufacturers will benefit with the possibility to enter new security areas by having the ability to interface with systems and solutions from various integrators. Similarly, integrators get greater flexibility with the ability to offer customer-specific solutions, rather than those based around the products of a single manufacturer.

Integration of access control with video surveillance systems

The possibility of integrating access control and video surveillance systems is currently restricted to the use of products from either a single manufacturer or those products from manufacturers with specific integration possibilities.  The development of an ONVIF standard for access control products will significantly reduce the complexity of integration complexity of various field devices provided by different suppliers.  This will certainly result in both time and cost savings for manufacturers (in the development of new products and systems), installers and end-users and integration risks and problems will, of course, be minimized.

ONVIF standard gains wider adoption

By October 2010, six months after the initial announcement that ONVIF, already the leading standardization initiative for network video products, was extending its scope to include the physical access control systems, ten leading companies had already undertaken to contribute to the working group.

...there is much greater awareness amongst customers about the total cost of ownership of the security systems of their buildings 

The scope of standardization in physical access control

The establishing of open standards within video is already helping to drive the migration from analogue to digital solutions, bringing the benefits of network video available to everyone along with interoperability, flexibility, quality and future-proofing. 

By expanding the ONVIF scope to include access control, the forum is taking a further step in facilitating the integration of IP-based security and safety devices using a global open standard.  Standardization within access control has started with the definition of main application/use cases, establishing the basic technical architecture and the creation of interfaces for basic functions with the emphasis on system expandability. Main nodes in the drafted architecture are the Identification Point (e.g. a credential reader), the door infrastructure and an Authentication and Authorization Engine. The first drafts are now available.

Siemens - Michael Lutzeler
Michael Lützeler,

Innovation Manager

Siemens Building Technologies

 


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