Safe Cities Need Interoperability

The integration of component parts to create a single interoperable platform is one of the great challenges for every Safe City deployment.

The most common scenario is that municipalities have multiple legacy systems from different manufacturers, each with proprietary interfaces. To interconnect these systems, cities will often employ a ‘build-once-maintain-forever’ approach that creates technical complexity and an ongoing, uncapped expense.

By Per Björkdahl
Chairman, ONVIF Steering Committee

In a world where technologies change quickly, this scenario is neither practical nor attractive, as users are severely limited by vendor lock-in and the cost of adding functionality over closed interfaces. Another approach that some end users and integrators take is to deploy products from a single manufacturer to facilitate system-wide integration. The decision to select a single vendor, by definition, stifles the addition of newer, better performing products from other vendors.

Enter Standards

ONVIF® — founded in 2008 as the Open Network Video Interface Forum — is an industry alliance that offers standardized interface specifications for IP-based video security and access control systems that are at the heart of modern Safe City solutions.

Specifically designed to overcome the challenges in multi-vendor environments, ONVIF’s common interfaces facilitate communication between equipment from different manufacturers and foster an interoperable environment where system components can be used interchangeably.

Essential for the effective integration of the wide variety of client devices used by the physical security industry, recently released ONVIF specifications include ‘Profile S’ for video streaming and ‘Profile G’ for video storage and playback. Our current release candidate, ‘Profile Q’ for automated device discovery and configuration, is scheduled for final release in July 2016.

In Safe City scenarios, much of the video ingested by security systems is used to conduct post-event forensics in which operators analyze specific incidents to collect evidence and assess future responses. Such activities often require coordination with local, county, state, and sometimes federal law enforcement agencies. Video clips must be exported to provide authorities with the evidence necessary for suspect identification or prosecution.

The challenge for authorities in multi-vendor environments is video material in multiple formats that require different playback devices. Here, ONVIF’s standardized approach for file formats and associated playback equipment increases efficiency. The ONVIF export file specification defines the formats for forensic metadata, such as incident times and locations. When combined, these specifications enable the integration of devices in multi-vendor, Safe City security system deployments that streamline post-event investigations.

Standards organizations outside the physical security industry have also identified the necessity of multi-vendor protocols for achieving effective Safe City deployments.

  • 2013: The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) initiated the Systems Evaluation Group — Smart Cities, SEG 1 — to evaluate and propose a standardization roadmap.
  • 2014: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and IEC issued the JTC 1 joint Smart Cities report.
  • 2014: IEC 62676-1, the first international standard for Video Surveillance Systems (VSS) was released in cooperation with ONVIF.
  • 2016: IEC 62676-2 and IEC 62676-3 were issued, including the incorporation of the ONVIF specification defining video transmission protocols for Web Services communication between network video clients and video transmitter devices.
  • 2016: IEC 60839-11 is scheduled for release, which will include the ONVIF specification for Electronic Access Control for Alarm and Electronic Security Systems.

ONVIF Members Deploy Safe City Solutions

In 2014, Meyertech, a British technology company and Video Management Software (VMS) developer, helped York, England deploy a Safe City solution for the city’s public spaces and transportation system. Using their ONVIF-compliant video and information management software, Meyertech integrated new equipment with legacy systems for the York Travel and Control Centre command center. The control room has been configured to monitor over 150 cameras from multiple manufacturers that are installed throughout the city. Government officials reported an immediate reduction in the rate of crime due, in part, to the Meyertech VMS platform.

Huawei, a global leader in the Safe City market, has deployed Safe City solutions in over 100 cities throughout Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific. One of many examples for the utility of ONVIF interface standards was a Shanghai project, under the auspices of a Chinese government Ministry of Public Security initiative, where the Huawei VMS was used to integrate old and new camera equipment from Sony, Dahua, Haikang, Axis, and others.

A Multi-discipline Physical Security Standard

Expect physical security to play a substantial role in the evolving Internet of Things (IoT). ONVIF envisions that all end-point devices in the universe of physical security will present an identical interface for the purpose of achieving interoperability. To this end, ONVIF is dedicated to working with its members to develop an all-encompassing, multi-variant standard that will satisfy the core elements for video surveillance, access control, and every other essential operation relevant to the functionality of Safe City command centers.

Technology experts, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), are working on a set of global IoT standards that some predict will be in place by the end of 2016. If such IoT standards are developed, we at ONVIF expect that their influence on Safe City deployments will be profound and far-reaching for safety and security worldwide.

Source : ICT Insights