There is no universal definition for physical security information management (PSIM), as it is not an “out-of-the-box” product. Most PSIM platforms are customer-specific to address defined business risks. One reason limiting the uptake of PSIM is the perception that it should integrate with any product and is plug-and-play, said Debjit Das, VP of Marketing, Verint Systems. However, PSIM does not just integrate different subsystems. It also analyzes and assesses the data from disparate systems, making intuitive decisions and communicating with operators to form the proper response.
A PSIM project is a long-term process, involving consultation and customization. It is dynamic software which requires ongoing evaluation. To succeed, an interdisciplinary team must set objectives for the organization as a whole. “It's important to note that PSIM deployments need to be considered as iterative implementations that have to be adjusted over time,” said Al Liebl, VP of Professional Services, Proximex (a Tyco International company).
Obstacles to Software Integration
One way to integrate systems into PSIM is through APIs and SDKs, as they allow a developer to support more functionality for each system. However, this approach takes time and significant maintenance is often required when subsystems change. “In an access control system, there may be two-way communication, whereas in fire and intrusion, there's one-way communication,” said Debjit Das, VP of Marketing, Verint Systems. “On our side, we have developed interfaces to integrate with several types of subsystems. But integrating with specific vendor systems requires resources and effort.”
An obstacle to integration is that not all vendors provide APIs for third-party PSIM applications to access system data. “This is changing now that vendors have found that not providing APIs is greatly limiting their ability to continue to sell technology and has put them at risk for replacement,” said James Chong, CTO of VidSys. “As an integrator, you are sometimes required to become an intermediary between a PSIM vendor and subsystem manufacturer to get what your customer wants,” said Joe Duchscherer, Technical Director for AJAR-tec.
In terms of standardization, integration challenges for single facilities and multisite projects are similar, said Randy Montelius, VP of Engineering, Communications Engineering Company. “Bringing disparate systems together into a unified, integrated security management platform can be difficult if the standards aren't the same. To overcome this, we carefully select established manufacturers that offer some level of integration or that can provide SDKs that allow you to write custom integration between platforms. Often, these disparate systems offer acceptable service locally, but it can be difficult to tie them together in a single system.” Standardization remains one of the biggest challenges for PSIM integration. “We have not come across a standard protocol or API that we can plug into and say it all works, despite all the ONVIF and PSIA effort out there,” Das said.
A solid network infrastructure is crucial for PSIM performance. Integrating disparate technologies to a common platform requires connectivity. “Often, that connectivity does not exist prior to a PSIM deployment. That means before we even begin an implementation, we often must build the infrastructure required to operate the PSIM system,” said Jeremy Brecher, VP of Security Technology and Integration, Diebold Security. “This can be a significant barrier for the end user.”
Video requires extensive bandwidth on a network compared to access control, intrusion and fire detection “The bandwidth requirement of video is high only for those operators who are viewing it, rather than the total numbers of cameras,” said Bob Banerjee, Senior Director of Training and Development for Security, Nice Systems. A system installed within a single facility would be unlikely to experience transmission challenges over a local network.
Bandwidth and transmission are issues when there are multiple sites or citywide PSIM deployments, encompassing subsystems with varying bandwidth speeds and reliability, said Patrick Lim, Director of Sales and Marketing, Ademco Far East (an Ademco Security Group company). “With remote sites, bandwidth may not be under the customer's control. Unstable or extremely slow transmission poses big problems for PSIM integration.”
“Sending video between sites is probably the biggest challenge in this area. Bandwidth constraints of the WAN and potential latency issues can make for a poor user experience,” said Randy Montelius, VP of Engineering, Communications Engineering Company. “Most companies have a smaller pipe between sites than within their facilities. This can make retrieving video from remote locations a slow process. To work around it, systems may be designed so that the video is stored locally on the network to where it's most likely to be viewed. This keeps it from having to cross the WAN. As video compression technologies continue to improve, this is becoming less of an issue. “
“Creating this bandwidth, as well as determining how video will be recorded, transmitted and stored requires careful planning and they present common challenges,” Brecher said. “In many urban deployments in which we have been involved, for example, the existing infrastructure simply can't support a PSIM system. In these cases, the dedicated wireless networks and backhaul infrastructure that are used to support PSIM are often built for the sole purpose of enabling the system.”
“Network time protocol (NTP) services are critical for PSIM deployments, especially when information from a variety of subsystems needs to be correlated,” Liebl said. “Many organizations have not deployed NTP services on their security networks, which leads to problems when video systems and other security systems don't maintain the same time; without the same time data, different subsystems cannot be successfully correlated.”
Throughout multiple sites and organizations, administration and access rights are based on an established hierarchy. To ensure the right information reaches the right person, PSIM software usually has enablers such as user groups, hierarchies and rules that users can put in to trigger emails or text messages — rules for routing information to different agencies at different levels to groups within the agencies, Das said.
PSIM software deals with vast amounts of system data. However, PSIM does not record original video. “We integrate with VMS, NVR and DVR manufacturers and they are the main recording engine,” said Adlan Hussain, Marketing Manager at CNL Software. PSIM deployments should not experience storage challenges if the underlying subsystems have been properly configured and the PSIM solution references the source data. In single facilities, video could be stored directly to the storage area network (SAN). “Video storage isn't much of a challenge today,” Montelius said. “Even in a distributed system, video can be stored locally and periodically archived to a centralized SAN some wherein the enterprise. This could be scheduled for after-hours so it wouldn't infringe upon other data traffic during the day.”
“Storage is an area that no longer presents significant challenges,” Brecher said. “With so many storage options — from storing on-site to leveraging the cloud and even partnering with a third party for remote storage — end users have access to affordable solutions that will fit their specific needs.”
A less commonly addressed issue is internal and external communications. “The traditional platform often depends on a POTS telephony system or at most analog intercom systems,” Lim said. “With IP telephony, IP intercoms and IP PA systems, together with SIP standards for digital phones, we can have unified communications into PSIM too.”
PSIM platforms are dynamic and thus require ongoing maintenance to meet changing needs in security operation. “There are software subscriptions to support and maintain. There are patches to manage,” Brecher said. “You have to maintain not only the top-tier PSIM system, but also each and every security system that's connected to the PSIM system. These elements of the PSIM operation require not only staffing, but also budget. That's why the management and ongoing maintenance of these systems are often underestimated by end users and can be a deterrent to embracing PSIM.”