Honeywell launches Open Technology Alliance

New group of manufacturers to collaborate on interoperability
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Thursday, February 4, 2010

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Honeywell has announced a new Open Technology Alliance, which is described in a press release as “a group of global security manufacturers that will collaborate to increase interoperability between third-party IP systems.” As part of the group’s launch, Honeywell announced it will work with other manufacturers to integrate their IP cameras into Honeywell’s Maxpro video management system, as well as make its other devices more compatible with other vendors’ software platforms.

Other members of this Open Technology Alliance include Milestone, OnSSI, Heitel and IproNet Sistemas S.A.

However, Don Roberts, strategic corporate accounts for Honeywell Security Group, said this is more just making formal what the company has been doing informally for years. “This is something we’ve been doing quietly for years, just to drive some value to our end users,” he said. “Honeywell has been integrating with other products for quite some time.” The formal announcement of the Open Technology Alliance, he said, will help “to get some legs for the program, get some resources dedicated to it internally, and so we can formalize the process for those people we wish to work with on an ongoing basis.”

As part of the initiative Honeywell will be offering software development kits “to enable its growing portfolio of IP cameras to integrate with other third-party video management systems.”

Integrators welcomed the announcement, even if they retained skepticism until more evidence of this easier integration comes about. “I think releasing SDKs and expanding interoperability is definitely a good thing,” said Jeff Novick, director of technology at Peace of Mind Technologies in New York City. “In a lot of ways they’ve been a closed company regarding product releases—it’s always been Honeywell island in many ways. But they make a good product in a lot of areas. I’ve always liked their products and I’ve worked with many of them. It will be a good value to the industry if they follow through and make it more functional to work with other vendors.”

Ethan Ace, director of sales and engineering, Communications Systems in Pennsylvania, agreed with Novick. He said his company installs a lot of Fusion DVRs, for example. “As an analog DVR, they worked fine,” he said. “It wasn’t until [customers] started asking for IP cameras that we started running into problems, and my understanding is that the enterprise NVR, and the new ProWatch line, are much, much easier to integrate.” With this new Alliance announcement, “if it all goes according to plan,” Ace said, “it would make us very happy, and I’m not telling you anything we haven’t told all the way up to the vice president level. They know what they have to do, and they’ve just been slow to do it. Existing customers are now asking for tougher requirements that their current products don’t support. They’re a big ship. It can be slow to turn ... But if they do follow through, if they do support those products, our search for competitive products would be over.”

And Roberts said Honeywell will be participating in larger efforts to make sure interoperability is commonplace in the IP video world. “We are very active in PSIA and ONVIF standards efforts,” he said. “We have engineering resources dedicated to that right now ... I won’t throw out dates, but we’ll have ONVIF and PSIA appliances released in 2010 and we’ll be driving our video management system to those standards as well. This whole situation we’re in right now, where everyone is having to share SDKs, we think some of this will only be a short-term thing until the industry catches up with the standards. We’d like to get back to the old analog days where everyone’s cameras would work with anyone’s system.”

Further, he said Honeywell is committing to fully featured SDKs, so that VMS manufacturers can unlock its cameras’ full capabilities. “We don’t edit that,” he said. “It’s full content. Sometimes we’re more concerned that the open VMS systems don’t take advantage of all the features that are released in those SDKs, so I’m looking forward to industry standards where all of those features are unlocked on both sides. We don’t restrict any part of the SDK, it’s purely open, and anyone can get support with our engineering team when VMS companies are working on it.”

This is music to the ears of Novick and Ace. “I would say there were some Honeywell products that we’ve deliberately not worked with in some applications because we knew that it wasn’t supported by the VMS application at the time. I knew that Honeywell was not on the list of supported devices and I’d avoid them. I’d take someone that was on the supported list.” But he doesn’t want to be installing products based on who works with whom.

“My goal is to always compete on features,” Novick said.

Ace talked about a middle school project his company is working on now, where they spec’d in the Fusion DVR some three years ago, and since then the school district has acquired more money and wants to put IP cameras at its ball fields and parking lots. “Honeywell’s support for handling that request is not the best,” Ace said. “That’s a prime example of the things that aggravate us. If they support third party devices better and keep pricing competitive, there’s less reason to go elsewhere.”