NICE Systems, Orsus and the Democratization of PSIM

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NICE Systems' $22-million acquisition of Orsus marks a watershed moment in the shift toward converged security.  

The agreement, announced two weeks ago, has put physical security information management (PSIM) in the spotlight. Until recently, PSIM, while perhaps providing the best example of cross-platform security systems integration, was seen as the industry's version of a McLaren automobile--an elegant work of craft and engineering, yet custom-built and affordable only to a very few.

The NICE purchase of Orsus stands to tighten the connection between PSIM and video management, resulting in a value proposition that is likely to broaden the appeal for PSIM and PSIM-like systems. At the same time, off-the-shelf suites of hardware and software offered by companies such as On-Net Security Systems Inc. (OnSSI), place PSIM-like functions within the budgetary reach of organizations that, while large, are not blessed with the seven-figure budgets of seaports, airports, transportation systems and power plants. PSIM is not yet a Toyota, but it is becoming something of the security integrator's BMW.

PSIM and VMS

At its heart, the NICE-Orsus deal is a response to the changing role of video surveillance within large end-user organizations. With feeds from surveillance cameras now proliferating into the hundreds, if not thousands, it has become humanly impossible to monitor all video, even with the largest of video walls. PSIM addresses the growing demand for tools that can detect both alarms and behavioral anomalies, process their threat level and push that information to the correct responders.

As a technology, PSIM is designed to sit above the individual systems dedicated different security tasks - video, access control, fire and life safety, point-of-sale, building automation and others--and offer a common point for:
Connectivity and integration;
Correlation and verification;
Event Visualization;
A Rules-based Workflow for Response;
Post-event Reporting and Analysis.
Until recently, conventional wisdom saw video management as just another silo to be plugged into the higher-level PSIM system. The NICE-Orsus agreement signals that video and PSIM, when working in tandem, can support to the strategic mission of the user's business.

"Video gets seen only when something happens," said James McDonald, CEO of MassBiz, a security consulting firm. The function of surveillance is shifting from observation to verification, McDonald said. "Organizations want to use business intelligence to find behavior problems and use video to verify it." Verification priorities depend on the vertical, McDonald said. A retailer may want to watch for unusual point-of-sale transactions that may indicate theft, a bank may want to detect employee behaviors that raise compliance issues, a parking garage owner may want to verify that a claim of car damage was the fault of the owner, not an employee.

With Orsus's Situator PSIM system in the folio, a NICE Systems integrator can talk to a potential client about using video to address specific business problems and avoid selling on the basis of pure technology--be it megapixels, analytics or broadband networking--which may appear impressive yet rarely close a sale.

Page:   1   2   3  Next  »

NICE Systems' $22-million acquisition of Orsus marks a watershed moment in the shift toward converged security.  

The agreement, announced two weeks ago, has put physical security information management (PSIM) in the spotlight. Until recently, PSIM, while perhaps providing the best example of cross-platform security systems integration, was seen as the industry's version of a McLaren automobile--an elegant work of craft and engineering, yet custom-built and affordable only to a very few.

The NICE purchase of Orsus stands to tighten the connection between PSIM and video management, resulting in a value proposition that is likely to broaden the appeal for PSIM and PSIM-like systems. At the same time, off-the-shelf suites of hardware and software offered by companies such as On-Net Security Systems Inc. (OnSSI), place PSIM-like functions within the budgetary reach of organizations that, while large, are not blessed with the seven-figure budgets of seaports, airports, transportation systems and power plants. PSIM is not yet a Toyota, but it is becoming something of the security integrator's BMW.

PSIM and VMS

At its heart, the NICE-Orsus deal is a response to the changing role of video surveillance within large end-user organizations. With feeds from surveillance cameras now proliferating into the hundreds, if not thousands, it has become humanly impossible to monitor all video, even with the largest of video walls. PSIM addresses the growing demand for tools that can detect both alarms and behavioral anomalies, process their threat level and push that information to the correct responders.

As a technology, PSIM is designed to sit above the individual systems dedicated different security tasks - video, access control, fire and life safety, point-of-sale, building automation and others--and offer a common point for:
Connectivity and integration;
Correlation and verification;
Event Visualization;
A Rules-based Workflow for Response;
Post-event Reporting and Analysis.
Until recently, conventional wisdom saw video management as just another silo to be plugged into the higher-level PSIM system. The NICE-Orsus agreement signals that video and PSIM, when working in tandem, can support to the strategic mission of the user's business.

"Video gets seen only when something happens," said James McDonald, CEO of MassBiz, a security consulting firm. The function of surveillance is shifting from observation to verification, McDonald said. "Organizations want to use business intelligence to find behavior problems and use video to verify it." Verification priorities depend on the vertical, McDonald said. A retailer may want to watch for unusual point-of-sale transactions that may indicate theft, a bank may want to detect employee behaviors that raise compliance issues, a parking garage owner may want to verify that a claim of car damage was the fault of the owner, not an employee.

With Orsus's Situator PSIM system in the folio, a NICE Systems integrator can talk to a potential client about using video to address specific business problems and avoid selling on the basis of pure technology--be it megapixels, analytics or broadband networking--which may appear impressive yet rarely close a sale.

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"It's a reflection on the fact that NICE, one of the leaders in video management, saw that video is not enough and that you've got to add situation management to it to make the solutions more effective for the organizations that are dealing with these kinds of emergency situations," said Dave Fowler, senior vice president marketing and business development at PSIM vendor VidSys. Fowler commented on the deal in a Security Squared podcast last week.

"This is a sign that VMS vendors are recognizing the difference between VMS integration and PSIM-based integration. Up to quite recently some VMS providers saw PSIM as a competing technology," said Matthew Kushner, President, Americas, for Computer Networks Ltd. (CNL), a U.K.-based PSIM company, in a email response. "There are clear differences; PSIM creates business value by leveling proprietary physical security systems and bringing security operations in line with other business systems. This in turn allows physical security to interact with other business systems and take its place within corporate governance.  This is functionality that VMS integration simply cannot provide."

"Nice is now a business solutions provider, while its competitors remain security solutions providers," noted Steve Hunt, security consultant and president of Hunt Business Intelligence, on his Security Dreamer blog. "So what?  The implications are huge. Now, discussions that begin with security, segue easily into discussions about business information--business intelligence."

Price Pressure

As noted in Security Squared's initial report on the acquisition, together NICE Systems and Orsus now present a solution similar to OnSSI, which announced the addition of PSIM-like components to its Ocularis VMS system at the ASIS conference in September. For OnSSI, the NICE deal represents a validation of the VMS-PSIM link. "In a sense, it's already clearly established," said Jeff Knapp, vice president of marketing for OnSSI ."The video element is extremely important to the whole PSIM implementation. Because of the video element, whether there is an access control alarm or a radiation detection message, you can see what's going on. This is central to our strategy."

A key difference from PSIM vendors such as Orsus, VidSys, CNL and Proximex, is that OnSSI uses off-the-shelf software, which Knapp claims delivers "PSIM at a VMS price." There's no question that OnSSI's solution fuels a debate over what constitutes "real" PSIM, and may be putting pressure on pricing. On the other hand, PSIM vendors, like other suppliers with a stake in best-of-breed security integration, welcome any development that shifts the marketing discussion toward business solutions.

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"We've already seen [growing PSIM interest] before the acquisition," said Larry Lien, vice president of product management at Proximex. Proximex introduced a $30,000 PSIM appliance for mid-sized operations at ASIS, and Lien says PSIM's perception as a high-end solution is increasingly inaccurate. PSIM is reaching price points for some new verticals, such as retailing, municipal and military, although those price points can vary, he said. There exists a huge market in corporate America at the mid-level that have same types of business intelligence needs as the largest installations, he added.

CNL's Kushner agrees. "The main four vendors of PSIM software are all several revisions into their software," he said. "With each revision comes enhanced capabilities and improved efficiency, consequently we are solving bigger business problems at a lower cost. Today, deployments of PSIM can be found in education, corporate enterprise, maritime and airports, critical nation infrastructure, law enforcement, homeland defense, and a growing list of other sectors."

Some questions

Still, some questions remain. First, industry consultants such as John Honovich pointed to the relatively low $22 million purchase price and suggested it reflected the soft market PSIM systems and a reality check on a degree of hype that has surrounded the concept.

McDonald, on the other hand, believes NICE snagged a shrewd deal that eventually will be seen as bargain. Orsus competitors for the most part declined to comment on the purchase price, although OnSSI's Knapp said it was "not a reflection of factors or condition at the high-end" of the market.   

From a more practical standpoint, if a PSIM vendor is folded into a VMS vendor, its interoperability message risks getting murky. In our earlier article, Chris Wooten, president of NICE Systems' Security Division, said Orsus's Situator "connects the dots" among other security systems, offering NICE a way of integrating its own VMS system into other IP video systems or analog legacy gear that users cannot afford to change out. The Situator also will be sold separately, leveraging the library of 150 interfaces Orsus has developed for other security systems, Wooten said. Can a PSIM sold by a VMS vendor be truly open? Orsus's competitors, now in NICE's crosshairs, weren't afraid to pose the question.

"Acquisition by a VMS vendor goes against the basic principles of a true PSIM platform," states Kushner. "As soon as they are acquired by a vendor, they lose their open nature; competing vendors won't want to work with them any longer. For us at least, we see vendor independence as a key strength."

"The advantage of PSIM is its neutrality. Customers can bring together best-of-breed. The premise is open systems,"said Proximex's Lien. "Acquisition rules neutrality out."

McDonald, while conceding that NICE's greatest challenge will be to avoid the temptation to lock the Situator to its VMS, was a bit more even-handed, saying if NICE did so, it would undermine its own attempt to capitalize on the shift in customer priorities in the video surveillance market. "NICE's vision is in connecting everything together." he said. "[Orsus] will help create this platform in a scalable way that will drive [open platform] technology down to the lowest level."


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5 Comments

John,
I don't disagree. I wrote about this trend after ASIS and also made it the subject of a video report. At the time, I thought using the term "PSIM-Lite" was a bit flip, but it indeed be apt to describe what these systems are evolving toward.

If OnSSI is a PSIM, then so to is Genetec and Milestone. All 3 of these system's technically capabilities are roughly similar. I think Genetec is 'more' of a PSIM than OnSSI - because of SecurityCenter.

OnSSI, Genetec and Milestone all target similar markets as NICE - large corporations, public safety, etc.

John,
Thanks for commenting.
Perhaps it would have been better to say that NICE was positioning itself against OnSSI. However, I think the debate about what constitutes "real" PSIM is a distraction. The larger point is that VMS vendors like NICE and OnSSI are looking at the addition of intelligence as a differentiator. OnSSI labels Ocularis PSIM, but they have never declared, at least to me, that it is functionally equivalent to the systems from the higher-end PSIM vendors. My counter-question would be, given the segment OnSSI is targeting, does it have to be?
As for your second comment, I was not taking a shot at megapixel or any other latter-generation camera or network technology. I was criticizing the tendency, not isolated to security, of some technology integrators and resellers to sell the proverbial sizzle instead of the the steak. Avigilon and Mobotix are doing well because they are proving effective at communicating a business case through their channels.

"Avoid selling on the basis of pure technology--be it megapixels, analytics or broadband networking--which may appear impressive yet rarely close a sale."

Megapixel is the fastest growing segment in the marketplace. Companies like Avigilon and Mobotix have rapidly grown their companies based on managing megapixel video.

The PSIM companies wish they could grow at the rate that megapixel is.

"NICE Systems and Orsus now present a solution similar to OnSSI"

NICE + Orsus is a far more powerful (and more expensive) solution than OnSSI.

Orsus has a real PSIM. OnSSI is 'PSIM' in name only. Ask OnSSI: (1) How many DVR/VMS systems do they support? (2) How many access control systems do they support? (3) How many intrusion systems do they support? The answer is very very few and far smaller than what Orsus provides.

From an architecture/position standpoint, I think OnSSI and NICE are fairly similar. However, NICE + Orsus is far more sophisticated and powerful than OnSSI's Ocularis.

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