PSIM, Near-PSIM and Models for Integrated Management

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If physical security information management platforms (PSIM) are the industry's Cadillacs for integrating platforms, correlating data, managing events and forensic follow-up, is there room in the market for a lower end model, maybe a Corolla, that does enough integration and command-and-control to suit potential enterprises of a certain size?

That's essentially the question emerging today in the marketplace, being pushed in part by a group of vendors with strengths in video management and access control. These companies see a growth path in being able to not just integrate these platforms, but to also act as their central management point. Meanwhile, some "classic" PSIM vendors also say they scale down functions and price points for less complex implementations or even offer products directly designed for the small-and medium-sized business market, all of which can scale up when needed.

Security Squared talked with many of the large classic PSIM vendors as well as the vendors positioning their products as competitive to PSIM.  Not all the companies in that second group describe their offerings as PSIM, and some even intentionally distance themselves from the term. But On-Net Security Systems Inc. (OnSSI) calls itself "video-centric PSIM," while videoNEXT, Genetec, DVTel and S2 Security say they can offer a good bit of the same functionality available from classic PSIM vendors such as Computer Networks Ltd. (CNL), Intergraph, Mer Inc., NICE Systems (via its December acquisition of Orsus), Proximex  and VidSys.

We also spoke with integrators about how they and their clients evaluate PSIM platforms. Here, the Caddy and Corolla analogy breaks down, because while an expensive car or an economy model will each get you where you're going, the differences between classic PSIM and the emergent breed of "almost-PSIM" seem more than a mere matter of style.

The Problems PSIM Solves

Classic PSIM is fairly well defined. It's about connecting other security systems, devices, sensors and even other business and IT systems into a single computer platform equipped with the intelligence to parse all the data within those other systems, correlate it, and determine when security events are merging. During the event duration, the PSIM platform can direct the responses of human operators as well as signal other systems to take actions. Afterward, the platform presents its report of the event, which can be used for forensics as well as to improve operations in future.
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PSIM Defined
To set some parameters, let's define what PSIM--whether vendors choose to call it that or not--is. PSIM must have five traits.

  • Connectivity and integration.  PSIM must seamlessly tie together management of multiple security systems, including video surveillance, access control, fire and life safety, visitor management, perimeter protection, mass notification, SCADA and even building automation;
  • Correlation and verification. It must be able to automatically connect and cross-reference events from each respective system as they happen;
  • Event visualization. It must graphically present situation information on some kind of  display that provides responders with a full picture of the nature, location of the event and the scope of the threat it presents.
  • A rules-based workflow for response. It must be able to immediately offer a step-by-step action plan, based on pre-determined rules and policies, to respond and counter the threat.
  • Post-event reporting and analysis. PSIM must provide documentation for forensic review of the situation and action taken.
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The value of PSIM classic, said integrators and consultants, is it draws more value from existing systems, identifies events sooner, helps improve security responses and operations.

A good PSIM system will be geared to the normal patterns of operation in the enterprise: frequencies of log-ins, the ebb and flow and nature of POS transactions throughout a day, and immediately identify when something deviates from that pattern and then determine if it constitutes a threat, said James McDonald, senior risk management sales consultant at MassBiz LLC, East Brookfield, Mass. "If cashier number 4,001 does something different from the other 4,000 across the country, then why is that different?"

Virginia Port Authority.jpgClassic PSIM also has the flexibility for uses outside of security. For example, at the Port of Virginia (pictured), rules require cranes to be shut down when winds exceed 40 mph. Weather sensors are tied to the NICE Systems' Situator platform installed there, so that when winds do reach that threshold, crane operators automatically receive word to stop. When gusts die down, word is given to restart. This ensures compliance while saving the time once needed to manually track weather and issue orders by voice communication, making Port operations more efficient.

Similarly, if there is a problem with equipment, such as a part in a crane fails, the Situator can detect that, order a new part and track the time it took for the order to be filled. The Port can then document how well its vendors are meeting their contracted service level agreements, said Jacob Fox, vice president situation management solutions at NICE Systems and former president-Americas at Orsus.

The PSIM concept also parallels the security information and event management (SIEM) systems that monitor a large pool of IT security systems, such as network intrusion detection, anti-malware, anti-spam, web monitoring, and more. Almost every classic PSIM system can be integrated with SIEM solutions for easier correlation between cyber and physical activities that might be creating a security event.

Because of its ability to tie together so many kinds of systems from many different vendors--access control, video management, video analytics, building automation, life/safety, SCADA/process control, sensors, radar, sonar, mass notification--PSIM tends to be perceived as an expensive solution meant for the most complex, most sensitive security environments and in fact, many installations by vendors have been in defense installations, critical infrastructure, ports, airports, transit, etc.

At least one vendor, Intergraph, Atlanta, said it focuses exclusively on the very high end of these installations and others directly related to homeland and national security issues. "We do 'big S' security," said Robert Scott, executive director, security solutions marketing.

Many of these highest end users have funded installations with homeland security grant funds and/or have budgets large enough to support what often is a lengthy, multi-million-dollar project.

Page:   1   2   3   4  Next  »

If physical security information management platforms (PSIM) are the industry's Cadillacs for integrating platforms, correlating data, managing events and forensic follow-up, is there room in the market for a lower end model, maybe a Corolla, that does enough integration and command-and-control to suit potential enterprises of a certain size?

That's essentially the question emerging today in the marketplace, being pushed in part by a group of vendors with strengths in video management and access control. These companies see a growth path in being able to not just integrate these platforms, but to also act as their central management point. Meanwhile, some "classic" PSIM vendors also say they scale down functions and price points for less complex implementations or even offer products directly designed for the small-and medium-sized business market, all of which can scale up when needed.

Security Squared talked with many of the large classic PSIM vendors as well as the vendors positioning their products as competitive to PSIM.  Not all the companies in that second group describe their offerings as PSIM, and some even intentionally distance themselves from the term. But On-Net Security Systems Inc. (OnSSI) calls itself "video-centric PSIM," while videoNEXT, Genetec, DVTel and S2 Security say they can offer a good bit of the same functionality available from classic PSIM vendors such as Computer Networks Ltd. (CNL), Intergraph, Mer Inc., NICE Systems (via its December acquisition of Orsus), Proximex  and VidSys.

We also spoke with integrators about how they and their clients evaluate PSIM platforms. Here, the Caddy and Corolla analogy breaks down, because while an expensive car or an economy model will each get you where you're going, the differences between classic PSIM and the emergent breed of "almost-PSIM" seem more than a mere matter of style.

The Problems PSIM Solves

Classic PSIM is fairly well defined. It's about connecting other security systems, devices, sensors and even other business and IT systems into a single computer platform equipped with the intelligence to parse all the data within those other systems, correlate it, and determine when security events are merging. During the event duration, the PSIM platform can direct the responses of human operators as well as signal other systems to take actions. Afterward, the platform presents its report of the event, which can be used for forensics as well as to improve operations in future.
____________________________________________________________________________

PSIM Defined
To set some parameters, let's define what PSIM--whether vendors choose to call it that or not--is. PSIM must have five traits.

  • Connectivity and integration.  PSIM must seamlessly tie together management of multiple security systems, including video surveillance, access control, fire and life safety, visitor management, perimeter protection, mass notification, SCADA and even building automation;
  • Correlation and verification. It must be able to automatically connect and cross-reference events from each respective system as they happen;
  • Event visualization. It must graphically present situation information on some kind of  display that provides responders with a full picture of the nature, location of the event and the scope of the threat it presents.
  • A rules-based workflow for response. It must be able to immediately offer a step-by-step action plan, based on pre-determined rules and policies, to respond and counter the threat.
  • Post-event reporting and analysis. PSIM must provide documentation for forensic review of the situation and action taken.
____________________________________________________________________________

The value of PSIM classic, said integrators and consultants, is it draws more value from existing systems, identifies events sooner, helps improve security responses and operations.

A good PSIM system will be geared to the normal patterns of operation in the enterprise: frequencies of log-ins, the ebb and flow and nature of POS transactions throughout a day, and immediately identify when something deviates from that pattern and then determine if it constitutes a threat, said James McDonald, senior risk management sales consultant at MassBiz LLC, East Brookfield, Mass. "If cashier number 4,001 does something different from the other 4,000 across the country, then why is that different?"

Virginia Port Authority.jpgClassic PSIM also has the flexibility for uses outside of security. For example, at the Port of Virginia (pictured), rules require cranes to be shut down when winds exceed 40 mph. Weather sensors are tied to the NICE Systems' Situator platform installed there, so that when winds do reach that threshold, crane operators automatically receive word to stop. When gusts die down, word is given to restart. This ensures compliance while saving the time once needed to manually track weather and issue orders by voice communication, making Port operations more efficient.

Similarly, if there is a problem with equipment, such as a part in a crane fails, the Situator can detect that, order a new part and track the time it took for the order to be filled. The Port can then document how well its vendors are meeting their contracted service level agreements, said Jacob Fox, vice president situation management solutions at NICE Systems and former president-Americas at Orsus.

The PSIM concept also parallels the security information and event management (SIEM) systems that monitor a large pool of IT security systems, such as network intrusion detection, anti-malware, anti-spam, web monitoring, and more. Almost every classic PSIM system can be integrated with SIEM solutions for easier correlation between cyber and physical activities that might be creating a security event.

Because of its ability to tie together so many kinds of systems from many different vendors--access control, video management, video analytics, building automation, life/safety, SCADA/process control, sensors, radar, sonar, mass notification--PSIM tends to be perceived as an expensive solution meant for the most complex, most sensitive security environments and in fact, many installations by vendors have been in defense installations, critical infrastructure, ports, airports, transit, etc.

At least one vendor, Intergraph, Atlanta, said it focuses exclusively on the very high end of these installations and others directly related to homeland and national security issues. "We do 'big S' security," said Robert Scott, executive director, security solutions marketing.

Many of these highest end users have funded installations with homeland security grant funds and/or have budgets large enough to support what often is a lengthy, multi-million-dollar project.

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"I don't have time to chase a $50,000 deal," said David Fowler, senior vice president of marketing and product development, VidSys, Marlborough, Mass.  The amount of time necessary to educate customers and integrators at that budget level is not cost effective "when I can spend the same time and close a $1 million deal," he said. VidSys did do an installation for the Davenport, Iowa, police department that consisted of less than 200 devices. But that deal, said Fowler, will become the basis for a multi-agency, multi-city implementation.

A Place for PSIM-Lite?

Once out of the high-end, a broad swath of Fortune 1000 companies and beyond is being eyed by both classic PSIM vendors as well as their emerging competitors and their solutions based on their VMS and access control platforms. These new competitors say they are offering economical, off-the-shelf software and easier implementations based on known products with a familiar interface (See table; click to enlarge).

NearPSIM.jpgPSIM is "big software," said John L. Moss, president and CEO of S2 Security Corp., Framingham, Mass., which is positioning its NetBox, originally an access control system, as an integrated security management system. PSIM today, said Moss, is akin to the large Siebel-type customer relationship management (CRM) systems popular in the 1990s.  

"Companies got what they were about, but few could afford to do it," Moss said. "The [software] benefit was offset by the continual maintenance costs." Siebel ultimately was acquired by Oracle, Moss observed, and its CRM systems were replaced by Web-based services such as Salesforce.com.

Ultimately, PSIM will go the same route, he believes. PSIM-like security integration will increasingly be configurable with standardized, off-the-shelf components. It may not be everything that constitutes high-end PSIM, but it will deliver many of the attributes at a fraction of the cost, Moss said. "You won't have to lay out millions to buy the product and hundreds of thousands to keep up the maintenance costs."

OnSSI Video Wall.JPGOf the companies looking to leverage video and off-the-shelf software, OnSSI, Pearl River, N.Y., is arguably the most aggressive. Boldly describing its Ocularis DS (video wall, pictured) as "video-enabled PSIM," Jeff Knapp, the company's vice president of marketing, positions the system as virtually equivalent to the PSIM platforms sold by Orsus, VidSys and Proximex, yet far less expensive.

He said its Ocularis DS supports cross-platform, streamlined security management with an easy-to-use intuitive interface, sitting above applications to manage, correlate, verify event information from a wide range of components, including other NVRs and VMS systems. The system provides "integration and workflow support normally not available at software prices we're offering," said Knapp.

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OnSSI makes the value proposition the strongest element of its sale. Its PSIM system can save thousands of dollars in resource and personnel expense while boosting security awareness, Knapp said.

Referring to a major, but undisclosed, transportation customer, Knapp said the enterprise previously had 24 people in its surveillance monitoring operations. Using Ocularis DS, the customer increased the number of cameras fourfold, yet decreased monitoring to two or three people. As of last week, OnSSI was hoping to disclose details about an Ocularis DS customer at ISC West. Knapp said the company has hundreds of Ocularis DS customers in various stages of implementation.

NICE Proves a Point?

However, while several systems integrators are intrigued by the claims of "access and video-centric PSIM," they said they don't see these offerings as true PSIM because they don't have the range of connectors into other security, building and business systems.

Pier G POLB.jpg"I don't like the video based systems," said Steve Rogers, vice president, LANAIR Group, Los Angeles, Calif., which has installed PSIM at the Port of Long Beach, Calif. (pictured), and at the Port of Freeport in Texas. "To me, they miss the point, that it's more than video. They don't have all the other connections."

Several integrators skeptical of the potential breadth of video- or access-centric PSIM also noted that NICE Systems' $22-million purchase of Orsus in December is the purchase that proves their point, indicating that PSIM can't be offered on a platform initially designed for video or access. With customers such as the Virginia Port Authority, the Port of Houston and South Africa's Transnet freight rail system, Orsus had established itself internationally as a leading classic PSIM vendor. For NICE Systems, Ra'anana, Israel, the acquisition broadcast its shift toward open systems integration from its background in end-to-end provider of proprietary video systems.

Significantly, NICE Systems is the only VMS vendor with a large-scale PSIM platform with a sizable customer base. If, as some integrators suggest, users are making incremental digital and IP transitions now, with an eye toward integrating management down the line, NICE is positioned to address PSIM needs at mid- and upper levels of the market.

NICE is targeting companies that "may not need the capabilities of situation management now but may need it over time," according to Fox.

NICE Systems is well aware of the credibility the Orsus platform, rebranded as the NICE Situator, provides. Hence, Fox warns users and integrators that PSIM implementation is not easy. "It takes time and money," he said. "It's a very expensive game."

"We're talking about something more robust and complicated, with thousands and thousands of sensors," said Fox. In addition to the weather sensors and crane maintenance apps at Port of Virginia, PSIM also encompasses video, access, SCADA and radar.

In answer to speculation about whether the Orsus platform, will continue to work across all video platforms, Fox stated, "We will keep the agnostic approach. Situator will be sold as an open system with NICE or without."

Not PSIM, But Close Enough

The emerging PSIM competitors tend to say medium and smaller enterprises simply don't need such complex platforms and that their offerings are sufficient for simpler needs.

iSOC V5 4.JPGDVTel's iSOC VMS system (pictured) is "not a PSIM solution," Eli Gorovici, CEO and president, stated flatly. The product is an enterprise platform, has a rules-based engine and will handle event management and reporting. It will even replace DVRs. It can function as a video management system and, if needed, serve as a core management tool, even in installations of up to 20,000 cameras. The big difference, he said, is that iSOC will not integrate with other VMS systems, which OnSSI and NICE Systems do.  Nonetheless, Gorovici is quick to add, "we do 80 percent of what PSIM does for free. Why pay a premium?"

At the enterprise level, Gorovici believes that PSIM is an oversell. "We sell products. They sell projects," Gorovici says of classic PSIM providers. He compares it to the way cameras have begun to incorporate video analytics. Rather than try to add the processing-intensive analytics on separately, users now purchase the camera with the analytics application and processing onboard. "PSIM is the same thing. It has to be part of a solution. There's too much a premium to pay," he said. "I don't think there's enough business for it to make money."

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Like DVTel, Genetec does not market its Security Center as a PSIM, although Jimmy Palatsoukas, Genetec's senior product manager, admits that "the lines are starting to get blurry."

Also like DVTel, Genetec makes a point of starting with core management. Its Security Center has access control and video management embedded in the platform. "Most PSIM companies don't start with both," said Palatsoukas. "We're trying to develop an off-the-shelf product. With PSIM, starting from scratch can be very expensive."

On the back end, Genetec's system will also integrate with other access and video systems, including Lenel Systems International, Software House, Hirsch Electronics and OnSSI. On the front end, it can integrate and display events from multiple security systems.

It's worth noting here that Genetec's front-end web portal in use at the Port of Long Beach was one of many systems integrated by LANAIR Group into Surveillint, the full PSIM platform offered by Proximex; Surveillint is the Port's master PSIM system.

VideoNEXT, Chantilly, Va., is also hedging. "We're not trying to be a full-blown PSIM," Gettings said. "We provide a lot of integration tools that allow third-parties--integrators or customers themselves, if they have the capability, to integrate their various systems." The key differentiator is that videoNEXT platforms are Mac-compatible. "We end up with a lot of inquiries from the segment of the market using the Apple platform," Gettings said.

SKM comes in three versions. The top-end, SKM-Altus, is a bundled platform that includes access control integrations, video wall, an iPhone mobile application with geopositioning, video intelligence and professional services. SKM Stratus is the basic platform with a number of it features, such as mobile application, available a la carte. Finally, videoNEXT offer a low-end version called SKM-Cirrus, which can be downloaded from the videoNEXT site.

"The version is scaled back doesn't support as many interfaces or systems as our higher end. It does self-discovery and self-configuration and is downloadable to Macs. Documentation is online," Gettings said.

Starting Smaller, Scaling Up

Classic PSIM vendors have hardly ceded the medium-sized market, though, and several noted that plenty of complexity exists in that market in terms of disparate systems creating event data that must be correlated and managed for more efficient, intelligent security and business operations.

For example, Nigel Elkan, vice president, business development at Knowledge Vector Inc., Durham, N.C., says the company handles "very high security situations" as well as "simpler" installations like a university's public safety/mass notification/video systems.

At the undisclosed university, the suite will integrate five different systems: a panic system, student telephone alert, 911 tied to campus police who have GPS in their cruisers, surveillance cameras and intrusion detection. "None of these work together. They're totally isolated capabilities," said Elkan. If a person hits a panic button, the responder has to figure out where the student is, which camera is nearby, which cruiser can respond. The Knowledge Vector project is bringing these all together, correlating them from a geographic perspective, so responders can pinpoint locations and dispatch cruisers already in the area.
 
Proximex, Sunnyvale, Calif., known for large-scale PSIM implementations, is targeting small and medium-sized businesses with its C100 PSIM appliance, released last fall. The $30,000 box enables access control and video management systems to be plugged in and is configurable by security managers. Further, it offers event response templates drawn from Proximex's flagship Surveillint PSIM platform that can be further customized by systems integrators.

How Does Your Solution Grow?

Vendors like DVTel and Genetec, and to some extent videoNEXT and OnSSI, too, are banking that the broader enterprise market won't require the level of connections and intelligence that have large security operations turning to the likes of CNL, Knowledge Vector, Mer, NICE, Proximex and VidSys.

At the same time, it is hard for a vendor addressing low- or medium market to scale up to a big installation with many new system connections, whereas a high end vendor can disable some features and arrive at a price point that works for medium sized company, said Josef Brikman, president, Mer Inc., Fair Lawn, N.J. Of the 50 worldwide installations of its Secure-M PSIM platform, about 15 of those are currently mainly integrations of video and access control, according to Idit Ghivoni, director of project and product management for Mer.

What's critical for customers is that they consider how their needs will grow--what kinds of new sensors they might want, what new subsystems, whether they'll be acquiring facilities or businesses with systems unlike their existing ones. "Processes change," said Matthew Kushner, president, CNL-Americas, Indianapolis. "What will it take to modify the PSIM platform to adapt?"

That's why it's important for a connection/correlation/management platform, whether it's called PSIM or something else, to have an open, flexible architecture, or else it might not accommodate such growth or technology changes. "Then you need to replace the system," Brikman said, "and a mid-sized customer cannot afford that."

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