Understanding “Real” PSIM

Understanding “Real” PSIM

PSIM (physical security information management) software is a rapidly growing segment in the security market. Its core strengths lie in the ability to integrate disparate systems, creating an intelligencebased situation picture and supplying operators with active policy management. As the market learns more of the benefits PSIM they have the potential to go beyond security and turn into a complete site management platform.

The world market for PSIM (physical security information management) software in 2013 was estimated at US$160.3 million by IHS Research. Despite being a small segment inside the larger security market, PSIM has enjoyed rapid growth — it is estimated to continue growing at 20% and higher growth rates until at least 2018, according to IHS. Price and also end users' level of understanding of PSIM solutions are still main barriers limiting PSIM growth. In addition, the PSIM market's long-term growth is also limited by “competing products successfully being deployed in the mid-tier, a market that has historically been out of reach for the high-end PSIM software platforms due to their prohibitive price tag,” IHS commented.

What is a "Real" PSIM?
PSIM is a software platform that collects and manages information from disparate security devices and information systems into one common situation picture. These can be traditional security sensors like video cameras, access control, intrusion detection sensors, as well as “non-conventional” systems such as networks and building management systems, cyber security hacking alerts, and even weather feeds. A true PSIM solution is vendor and hardware agnostic, giving users the ability to integrate legacy systems and the flexibility and the choice to use best-of-breed technology in the future without limitations.

Being a relative newcomer to the security sector, and displaying a fast growth rate, there is confusion regarding what constitutes a “true” PSIM solution and how it differs from other command and control systems, video management software (VMS), or other security platforms, some of them offering their own integrations between different systems.

The main benefit of PSIM lies in its integration capabilities, being able to connect with existing and planned systems without being “locked-in” to any specific vendor. Usually VMS systems or access control systems use proprietary technology. In these cases, extending a system can only be done by the same vendor. Integrating with a legacy system provided by a different vendor could prove difficult, forcing replacement of existing systems.

In addition to this unique integration capability, PSIM offers another strong differentiator: PSIM is an intelligencebased solution. Collecting and correlating information from different sources means alerts are only raised on events that are important. “A true PSIM has the ability to identify unfolding events, manage them effectively, and mitigate their risk. For commercial, critical infrastructure, and homeland security markets, PSIM provides situation management and establishes the foundation for organizations' operations,” said Jamie Wilson, Security Marketing Manager for EMEA at NICE Systems.

A third important differentiator is the ability to provide active management of events, improving operational efficiency. By using adaptive workflows, the operator knows what is happening, where it is happening, and what needs to be done. Step-by-step action plans can be created to address different situations. This is vital in both making the operators job easier, but also in ensuring the company is following corporate safety and security policies every time and complying with local rules and regulations. “Without adaptive workflows, all you have is a lot of interconnected systems and you are solely reliant upon the experience of the operator to be able to coordinate the management of the incident,” added Wilson.

Adlan Hussain, VP of Marketing at CNL Software emphasized that dynamic workflows can change based on the time of the day, the threat level, and the number and types of alarms in the system. “This is what makes a PSIM solution an intelligence-based system and not a mere check list of processes to follow,” he explained.

These benefits, combined with growing connectivity, change the way corporations work. PSIM allows for a more centralized command and control, without being tied to a specific site. “In the past the security surveillance and sensors' monitoring had to be on-site at the place of the event. Today we can disconnect between the surveillance and the site. The benefit of a PSIM system is not only in connecting different sites, but thanks to the ability to display the same information in different languages we can connect a company headquarters in Europe with a site in Africa,” explained Hagai Katz, VP of Business Development for Magal Systems. “This connectivity allows the company headquarters to quickly address issues and make sure that the initial response is the correct one. A company can extend the benefit it gets from a PSIM system beyond safety and security. Other company procedures can be incorporated into the SOP, for example, making sure a proper media response is prepared by the PR function. In that sense a PSIM system also contributes to the company's risk management.”

Who should install PSIM?
From the technical point of view, PSIM solutions are intended for easy integration. It is therefore meant for cases when there are several legacy systems that need to be integrated, when there are several control layers (e.g., local and national), and when there are many sensors, or when future integrations with additional systems are needed.

PSIM is mostly needed for critical sites with high security requirements and large sites with many systems/ sensors. It is therefore mostly relevant for national infrastructure, large corporations, government buildings, mass transportation, and city protection projects. All these already have existing legacy systems and can benefit from integration. A city, for example, can integrate video footage from public space video surveillance cameras and traffic control cameras creating a unified situation picture in the control room.

Obstacles Facing Adoption
Though the benefits of PSIM seem natural and logical, there are still many barriers to its adoption. Some are due to lack of buy-in by different stakeholders that refuse to give up control of their systems and information; some are the result of past failures.

One of the biggest challenges faced by PSIM vendors is the availability of IT savvy channel partners. “Limitations to growth are predominantly around the current education levels within end users, consultants, and integrators,” explained Hussain,” We are working hard to increase education levels within each of these groups, and have created programs to address some of these challenges.”

Growing Connectivity and Greater Industry Cooperation
“With everything today moving at light speeds towards connectivity via the network and the Internet, PSIM is also migrating and expanding towards the ‘Internet of Things' via the information management aspects of PSIM,” said James Chong, Founder and CTO of Vidsys. “The open architecture and browserbased PSIM technology is enabling the software platform to rapidly and literally connect with almost any IP-based device, application, and system using open standards and protocols such as XML, SOAP, HTTP, SMTP, and others.”

Recent updates in PSIM software functions and features include integration with mobile devices, allowing ground forces to share and receive information through smartphones and tablets. In addition, there is an industry move towards greater connectivity with other business systems such as HR systems, internal directories, visitor management systems, building automation systems, RFID, intelligent transportation, and more. These will create opportunities for other benefits to be realized from PSIMs beyond safety and security.

“I think people are realizing that PSIMs can provide a lot more than just physical security,” said Michael Mesaros, Group Product Manager at Proximex, a Tyco Security Products brand. “We're being asked by customers to integrate with all kinds of systems — elevators, building management systems, luggage conveyors, and even environmental controls in airport jet ways. There is a combination of market forces at work and PSIMs must be capable of leveraging this data for more and more systems as it becomes available.” He pointed out that Proximex has worked to make their PSIM easier to integrate with — for example, by implementing APIs based on REST (representational state transfer), a standard integration in the enterprise IT world. “Following these standards opens up a lot of avenues for customers to integrate social and web solutions.”

toward greater connectivity and easier integration. CNL has created a PSIM driver development community, which allows other development houses, product vendors, and security integrators to create drivers to connect systems to CNL's PSIM platform. This allows fast production of drivers, and allows product vendors to create their own drivers if they are not able to share their SDK or APIs. In the past five years, CNL has also been running a technological partner program.

Another initiative to foster interoperability between manufacturers and establish industry standards is the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) led by companies such as Cisco, Tyco, Hikvision, and Kastle Systems. PSIA's mission is to develop specifications for physical security technology that will enable plug-and-play interoperability across the security ecosystem. This will make the integration of different systems under a PSIM solution quicker and easier.

Integrating Predictive Capabilities
PSIMs can go beyond event management and post-event investigation. The ability to integrate with media broadcasts, open source intelligence systems, and other information analytics gives PSIM a predictive capability, as well as a strategic advantage in predicting and preparing for incidents.

Earlier this year, Vidsys and HP Autonomy announced a collaboration to develop a solution that combines VidSys' PSIM with HP's advanced information analytics platform. “Social and broadcast media play an increasingly significant role in helping anticipate and mitigate potential security incidents around the world. The nature and profile of threats are constantly changing and this new generation of adversary often leaves a different digital footprint, creating potential gaps in traditional threat detection approaches,” said Chong. “The combination of a vast array of information, including social media chatter, video surveillance footage, emails, case files, criminal records, and physical location data help identify potential threats and take actions to neutralize the danger.”

PSIM to Offer Holistic Management
The benefits of PSIM, especially its ability to incorporate non-security systems, hold within them the promise of expanding beyond physical security and delivering comprehensive information management. A good example is seaport management, explained Katz. A PSIM system can make sure that an incoming truck is cleared quickly using LPR sensors for the truck and a biometric sensor for the driver. The containers can be recorded and stored according to their final destination and video surveillance can make sure the goods are not damaged. Since everything is audited by the system, the port can accurately bill the clients according to how long the cargo was stored before it was loaded on the ship. Usages like this, according to Katz, show how “PSIM allows combining these different work flows into one single story.”

All in all, the data gathered from security systems, combined with other systems can turn a PSIM solution into a comprehensive site control platform; thus demonstrating that PSIMs are not for security alone. In the future, PSIMs will allow for a more holistic management approach, combining safety, security, and management.

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