The Evolution of a Standard

Part II: A Broadening Vision

In this four part series, ONVIF Steering Committee Chair Per Björkdahl discusses how ONVIF the organization was founded and how its standards have evolved over the last nine years. Read Part I of this series.

Introducing the Profile Concept

Less than a year after ONVIF was founded, ONVIF members began to develop the profile concept to address the variance in supported features between manufacturers. The advantage of the profile approach was that a number of features and implementation specifics could be defined under one umbrella and with greater specificity. The idea was that if manufacturers developed products in accordance with the profile, their products would work together regardless of the manufacturer of the VMS or camera. ONVIF’s first profile, Profile S, was released in 2011 following two years in development. If a product is Profile S conformant, it will always be conformant, regardless of when it is manufactured.

Bluetooth experienced a similar chain of events when it introduced an updated version of its specification for headsets in 2005. Bluetooth’s new version of the specification for headsets didn’t initially support an older version of the specification and, as a result, conformant devices couldn’t always communicate. Because of this, Bluetooth introduced ‘Headset Profile,’ designed to work regardless of when the device was manufactured. Once HSP was defined, it wasn’t to be changed. A new profile with a new name was created when future changes were needed, which is the same profile approach that ONVIF employs.

Changing the specifications of a product can be a long process, but development of a new profile can happen rather quickly and lets ONVIF and other standards adapt as market and member demands change. Adaptability is paramount to maintaining real world, usable standards and is an integral part of maintaining relevant standards across industries.

An example of this can be illustrated with ONVIF’s Profile S and an ONVIF profile that is currently in development. Profile S was released in 2012 to include support for PTZ, audio and metadata streaming, and relay outputs on devices; it also encompassed configuration, requests and control of streaming video data over an IP network by a client. Profile S bridged the gap between conformant clients and devices on a basic level.

In the four years since Profile S’s release, video technology has changed. To address new developments in video technology, ONVIF is currently developing a new video profile (Profile T) that will encompass H.265, the newest video compression standard. Once the new video profile is released, Profile S will most likely lose significance over time — both profiles will be in circulation, as not all products in use will necessarily employ H.265 compression standards. Profile S conformant devices and clients, therefore, will always be Profile S conformant, independent of the new video profile.

Other Changes to ONVIF

Open Network Video Interface Forum, abbreviated as ONVIF, was the initial name for the ONVIF organization. Two years after its founding, however, ONVIF extended its scope to include access control, keeping ONVIF as a name, rather than an abbreviation. Because of the framework established on ONVIF’s formation, the group’s scope for standards can include any discipline within the physical security industry and is no longer solely focused on video. ONVIF has continued to use the profile concept to develop and release four additional profiles: Profile G for video storage, Profiles C and A for access control, and Profile Q for easy installation.

Like ONVIF, other standards organizations have also extended their scope of work over time. What is today IEEE and its standards body began in the 1880s as an organization for electrical engineers, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), whose mission was to standardize electricity. AIEE’s scope for standards quickly grew to encompass other industries and after its merger with the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE), it is now considered one of the biggest and most influential technology standards in the world, encompassing energy, telecommunications, IT, robotics, transportation and many other disciplines.

ONVIF is an open industry forum that provides and promotes standardized interfaces for effective interoperability of IP-based physical security products. Stay tuned for parts two through four of this four-part series, which will be posted shortly. For more information on ONVIF, visit

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