Increasing adoption of situational awareness systems in critical infrastructure

Increasing adoption of situational awareness systems in critical infrastructure

Situational awareness has become a leading consideration in the protection of critical infrastructures, particularly for sites that want to conduct higher risk management and decrease the damage caused by potential threats. According to a market research report by MarketsandMarkets, the global security market for situational awareness systems — ranging from access control; physical security information management (PSIM) software; human-machine interface (HMI); video systems; and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) defense systems — is expected to generate revenue of US$168.3 billion by 2020, growing at an estimated CAGR of 10.1 percent from 2013 to 2020. Every critical site demands a different level of integration, mostly dependent on the possible challenges and threats.

Ranging from natural conditions to social demonstrations, critical infrastructures need to be prepared for whatever may jeopardize the security of their sites. Critical infrastructures often cover a vast area and contain hazardous substances, making them an even bigger challenge to protect. If a critical site is not properly secured, any attack could possibly lead to hazardous consequences. In order to be able to instantly respond to a threatening incident, the solution has to allow operators to deploy every subsystem in the site through the same centralized management platform. More importantly, the centralized management platform should be able to communicate with both new and legacy systems. To answer the unique requirements of the critical infrastructure sector, many situational awareness systems, particularly PSIM solutions, have been strongly promoted in this market.

ADOPTION OF PSIM
During the last few years, adoption of PSIM solutions has dramatically increased in the critical infrastructure sector. As an emerging segment, the PSIM market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 25.8 percent from 2013 to 2019, due to the decreasing prices and increasing awareness among end users, according to Transparency Market Research. “It can be said that by pure volume, PSIM software may still be in the innovation phase of adoption, which is around 2.5 percent of all available customers; on the other hand, there are some indicators that suggest that PSIM software adopting has moved into an early adoption phase, which is around 13.5 percent of customers,” said Joshua Phillips, Director of Marketing of Enterprise and Critical Infrastructure of Video Intelligence Solutions at Verint Systems.

PSIM solutions are being increasingly used in government applications, such as law enforcement agencies, the military, ports, airports, transit systems, civilian agencies, and corporations with critical infrastructure assets. For instance, the city of Baltimore, U.S., has used PSIM to link assets and creat interoperability between around 50 agencies for large-scale public events. While, the new World Trade Center complex in New York City, U.S., has decided to use PSIM software as part of the ground-up solution for security and building management systems, according to Darren Chalmers-Stevens, VP of EMEA at VidSys.

PSIM: TOTAL INTEGRATION PLATFORM
PSIM solutions seem to be the answer to the demand of centralized management systems, offering efficient threat-response procedures. PSIM software provides organizations with a seamless interface, integrating security systems, building management, and on-site facilities and subsystems that enable operators to deploy every device when required. Furthermore, PSIM software is able to integrate systems — such as perimeter, intrusion/motion detection, video surveillance, access control, fire alarm, mass notification systems, audio, gas detection, radio communication, Internet, IT, and building automation — both legacy and new, making them interoperable on the same interface and workable with supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.

Pre-Programmed Course of Responses
In addition to enhancing centralized management, PSIM software can proactively protect critical sites from potential threats and minimize damage with a series of coordinated and predetermined responses. “A PSIM solution allows organizations responsible for critical infrastructure protection (CIP) to take a proactive approach to security by implementing measures supported by resilient business processes for identifying, investigating, responding to, and recovering from a range of security threats,” stated Keith Bloodworth, CEO of CNL Software. “The pre-programmed response is done by tailoring the solution to manage the standard operating procedures as dictated by the plant or facility and by building an effective network of communications with external systems, and in an emergency, this may prevent a disaster turning into a tragedy with massive impact.” Once the system is aware of danger or an abnormal event around the site, the PSIM software will send out notifications to related individuals, and suggest a series of tailored operating procedures.

As an open software platform, PSIM software is able to integrate analog and IP-based devices and systems, aggregate information from all facilities, communicate among integrated systems, and then provide real-time alarm and event verification, as well as prioritize emergency response, which can ease labor intensive operations and increase efficiency, as Chalmers-Stevens explained. For instance, if an alarm is triggered by a sensor or motion detector somewhere on the site, corresponding live surveillance images from around the location will then be automatically presented to an operator in the security center. In the mean time, the geospatial location will be sent to the PSIM system, which then identifies the incident site on a map and responds to the threat accordingly. Since the threat-response procedures are all pre-programmed, any operator on that shift would know exactly how to deal with the problem.

REMINDERS BEFORE CHOOSING PSIM SOFTWARE FOR CIP
PSIM software is used for situation management; however, it has become harder to satisfy end users' requirements from various verticals, as this software is mostly focused on security and overlooks specific demands from different sectors. For example, “In areas subject to flooding and landslides, the cost-benefit of the pluviometer [rain gauge] integration far outweighs the value many PSIM solutions provide by integrating to the standard players in the security area,” Phillips pointed out. “The critical infrastructure customer finds it more affordable to replace one or more of the existing video systems than to wait for a PSIM provider to adapt to their environment.”

Despite the fact that PSIM software can provide critical infrastructures with a totally integrated platform, there are still some challenges that PSIM vendors have to contend with. One problem is reaching a consensus on total integration between all the departments in an organization, especially the IT and security teams. Since different departments have different security concerns, some might be nervous about sharing access to a database and servers on a centralized platform for example, according to Chalmers-Stevens.

In addition, critical infrastructure is a competitive sector in the security market, especially since required solutions and security management platforms can be provided by not only PSIM companies but many other VMS companies as well. A PSIM solution can be far above most end users' budgets — critical infrastructures usually have a higher budget for hardware, but software products are not always given the same consideration, according to Bloodworth. In order to deploy similar integration and management systems, end users must sometimes make compromises, opting for other affordable solutions and products that offer them acceptable and alike functionality.

FINAL WORDS
Even though past obstacles remain as issue, PSIM software manufacturers continue to pay attention to the education of end users in critical infrastructures every year. PSIM software, as an example here, demonstrates how important it is for critical infrastructures to improve their total security via situational awareness systems and the benefits they can get from the systems. It could be expected that, in addition to PSIM solutions, the adoption of situational awareness systems will peak significantly in the coming years.

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