Last week, Milestone announced of a Universal Driver for IP cameras. After reading the press release and John Honovich's analysis. I conclude that we already have a similar solution and other alternatives but we never really wrote a nice press release about it.
Genetec and Milestone are facing the same challenges with IP camera support. New cameras are released every month and none of them have the same Network Protocol/API. There's no standard network protocol and I think it will take at least 2 years before PSIA or ONVIF start improving our life of VMS Vendor.
Meanwhile, we will have to spend a lot of energy supporting new vendors with their models. Even when all cameras will support PSIA/ONVIF natively, Genetec and Milestone will still have to support and maintain proprietary protocol for all major manufacturers because PSIA/ONVIF will always be 1 or 2 years late on the latest and greatest features. End users will not accept waiting 1 year to start using the last feature of my new IP camera.
Don't get me wrong, PSIA/ONVIF is the best thing that can happen to the IP Video Surveillance Industry because it's impossible to implement/test/maintain a driver for every IP camera model that exist. Even with 50 developers just working on this, you have no idea how much integration requests we receive every week, on top of widely distributed manufacturers, there are many localized camera/encoder vendors that are doing good in specifics vertical market.
Solutions offered by Omnicast
Since Omnicast 4.1 we offer a module called the generic extension, it could have been called "Universal Extension". In fact, this is a module that can receive video from any cameras that support JPEG, Motion JPEG, MPEG-4 and H.264. Any cameras supported by the generic extension can support recording, live viewing, software motion detection alerts and PTZ.
Supporting a new camera in the generic extension doesn't require us to change a single line of code. We just fill an XML file and send it to the integrator/end-user, no need to wait for the next release or driver pack. The only time we have to ship a DLL with it, it's when the IP PTZ driver isn't already supported by Omnicast.
In fact, it is so simple to add a new camera that we could release the documentation of the XML format to System Integrators; they could easily add support for new cameras without Genetec's helps. If some of you are interested, let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) we should be able to make this happen.
On top of the Generic Extension, Omnicast 4.3 and 4.4 offers a new way of integrating cameras in Omnicast. Camera manufacturers can implement the Genetec protocol and have their cameras supported in Omnicast very easily. We started working on this protocol before behind involve with PSIA/ONVIF and we currently have around 10 manufacturers already supporting it.
The protocol is very easy to implement, it requires supporting a few CGI commands and standard RFCs to stream videos. The manufacturer has the choice to implement each of these options individually: Hardware Motion Alerts, Serial Port (PTZ or Keyboard), Input/output, Alarm, IP PTZ. With the Genetec Protocol, we offer development tools to validate your implementation and we are putting in place a certification program. If you want to join our partner program and get access to the Genetec Protocol:
The Genetec Protocol is not only there for camera manufacturer but also System Integrators, its flexible enough that a company created a bridge for 2 legacies DVR. The DVRs are discovered as IP encoders by Omnicast, they only used the public ActiveX SDK provided by the DVR manufacturers.
On top of the Genetec Protocol and Generic extension initiatives, we create a new architecture to release camera drivers independently from our product cycle. And of course we have a dedicated team of engineers just working on support new cameras.
But I personally believe that a true open platform is a platform that allows end-users, system integrators, camera manufacturers to extend themselves the platform, that why we developed our own protocol that offers an immediate solution before PSIA/ONVIF.