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Standard definition of standards?

I’m curious what you think constitutes a standard in the physical security world.  Consider this: a video solution that records onto off the shelf PC hardware, plugs into any network connection, communicates using TCP/IP, and is viewed with a browser – but utilizes a proprietary, non-H.264, compression method.  Does it qualify as a standards-based solution? 

What should standards apply to?  I wonder…  Please comment or drop me a note.

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Categories: Trends
  1. John Honovich
    November 3, 2007 at 7:51 am

    Hi Steve,
    Remember the Seinfold episode when Kramer repaints a four lane highway to create a two lane comfort cruise? Kramer thinks this is brilliant but it creates chaos and havoc on the road.
    This demonstrates the importance of standards. Standards ensure interoperability by allowing suppliers and customers to have definitive specifications. Both suppliers and customers know that if they follow these specifications, they can safely develop and use their product anywhere.
    To me, then, standards in the physical security industry are about creating interoperability between products.
    From a community or national security standpoint, I would suggest that the most important form of interoperability in the video surveillance world is amongst DVRs/NVRs.
    If you are the police and an emergency compels viewing someone’s video system, can you do it easily and immediately?
    If you are a commercial organization and you want or have systems from different vendors, how easy is it for you to view or retrieve video from any or all of them at the same time from the same interface?
    Today, I think it is clear that these things are possible to do but very hard because suppliers do not support standards (or even necessarily have one to use).
    Then, specifically to your original question, I don’t think the choice of networking protocols (TCP/IP) or codecs are significant issues in interoperability. Basically everyone uses TCP/IP so it’s not a practical concern. With codecs, as long as the codecs are made freely available, it’s not difficult to integrate.
    The most important standard that is needed to promote interoperability is a application based API, that is to say a consistent interface that is supported by all the major video surveillance companies so that third parties/end-users to easily access and use video from any system.
    Today, almost every vendor has a different way for a developer to programatically request video or analytics. Some use REST, some use SOAP, some use text over raw TCP/IP, etc. They all have slightly different methods to call for the same basic tasks. All of this results in lots more of work and challenges to support interoperability.
    This is, by the way, my major concern with PSIM. PSIM vendors depend on different APIs from almost every subsystem. Having to learn the nuances of each vendor’s API makes the process expensive and prone to errors. As a result, it also makes it more difficult to support a broad range of sub-systems.
    Worse yet, if the subsystem (for instance, a DVR supplier), decides to change their API and the PISM vendor can’t or won’t update their software, the customer is screwed. I lived through this in a past life. Such things happen all to often when you don’t have standards.
    Because we don’t use standards for application interoperability today, sometimes we get the benefits of Kramer’s luxurious comfort lane but perhaps more frequently we get the chaos and inconvenience.
    Best,
    John

  2. November 6, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Hi again Steve,
    A quick thought. It’s a question of inputs and outputs.
    Or “put” another way, whether you make use of standards or whether you allow others to use your solution interchangeable among a variety of devices/programs sitting on either “side” of your “machine”. I don’t think the answer is specific to physical access control.
    Your description involves something that makes USE of standards. This is a very important category of devices, software, etc. Based on the I/O approach it’s not standard both ways; standard inputs, non-standard output.
    The platform itself is a nested case, if something runs on a standard operating system; de facto it uses standard inputs and outputs.
    This is a very interesting area and it often depends on the business model and the solution being deployed. The product/solution will pass the proprietary input/output boundary if its benefits are sufficient to a customer to justify its specification. It should be left to the customer to decide. It’s valid to claim that it’s a standards based solution. The product itself does not comprise a standard unless the customer licenses the technology and an industry adopts it.
    Standards allow industry to develop solutions that give a customer options. Windows, Linux operating systems, JPEG, MPEG and other image standards, x.509 digital certificates, ISO 7816 and 14443 smart card protocols, FIPS-201 as a more encompassing credential standard, being good examples.
    At the end someone builds a machine it either takes standards in or puts standards out or both. Establish the question being asked or else you can get an answer that means different things.

  3. November 13, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Wow, guys. Thank you for your thoughtful posts.

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