What Makes PSIM PSIM?

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Where physical security information management (PSIM) differs from integrated management is in its scope. Trouble is, there is no defined line that marks where high-end centralized management ends and PSIM begins. The best that can be said is that PSIM is a form of integrated management, but not all forms of integrated management are PSIM.

PSIM integrators, along with vendors like Proximex, VidSys and NICE Systems, say the higher degree of customization and connections is what defines PSIM. But other vendors such as On-Net Surveillance Systems Inc. (OnSSI) and DVTel would dispute that, saying PSIM functionality can be created with off-the-shelf software.

Adding to the mix is the simple fact that different users have different needs. A clear market for high-end PSIM exists in ports, transportation, and urban public safety. Generally, the standard requirement is a need for an umbrella security system that runs across a number of independent agencies in which video is an important, but not far-from-exclusive component.

For example, as part of an emergency response plan, a city may want to link municipal police, fire, mass transit, school districts and other first responders, not only within city agencies, but across state and even federal departments--state police, the Transportation Safety Administration, Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security. In addition, there may be interest in bringing in security organizations in the private sector--power plants, chemical plants, universities, tourist attractions and other high profile targets.  

"We create an open platform so that we can bring anything into our system and allow us to do correlations so our end-user is more aware of what's happening within their environment," said Larry Lien, vice president of product management for Proximex.

Jeff Knapp, vice president of marketing at OnSSI, provides a similar definition. PSIM takes inputs from various different sources, he said, "and correlates it within the workflow processes and protocols of an end-user organization so it can automatically distribute and disseminate these consolidated, fused events to a designated recipient."

But Lien's and Knapp's comments imply a number of prerequisites for PSIM. The workflow processes to which Knapp refers must be in place--or at least on paper--before an effective system can be designed. PSIM systems move information to specific responders. In order to set that up, the organization must know who those responders are. Government agencies and the private sector are still working toward creation of the processes, one reason that PSIM systems can take as long as a year to integrate.

Yet the concept of integrated management is compelling enough that vendors see an opportunity to market PSIM or PSIM-like security integration to enterprises. That's why PSIM has evolved into a catchword and for users and integrators that, at the end of the day, the term itself may not matter much. There is no "good" or "bad" PSIM, Rather, users must approach PSIM the way an airline evaluates jets. A regional carrier isn't going to need the fleet of 777s that a trans-Pacific airline will.

Some vendors, such as DVTel, say they can deliver the functionality of PSIM to users who can benefit from more extensive integration, but not nearly as much as a major city would need. "The real value of PSIM is aggregation of DVRs/NVRs into a unified view," argued Igal Divr, president of DVTel's product group, adding that DVTel's iSOC video management system can deliver "80 percent of what's required [for PSIM] at a lower cost."

Page:   1   2   3   4  Next  »

Where physical security information management (PSIM) differs from integrated management is in its scope. Trouble is, there is no defined line that marks where high-end centralized management ends and PSIM begins. The best that can be said is that PSIM is a form of integrated management, but not all forms of integrated management are PSIM.

PSIM integrators, along with vendors like Proximex, VidSys and NICE Systems, say the higher degree of customization and connections is what defines PSIM. But other vendors such as On-Net Surveillance Systems Inc. (OnSSI) and DVTel would dispute that, saying PSIM functionality can be created with off-the-shelf software.

Adding to the mix is the simple fact that different users have different needs. A clear market for high-end PSIM exists in ports, transportation, and urban public safety. Generally, the standard requirement is a need for an umbrella security system that runs across a number of independent agencies in which video is an important, but not far-from-exclusive component.

For example, as part of an emergency response plan, a city may want to link municipal police, fire, mass transit, school districts and other first responders, not only within city agencies, but across state and even federal departments--state police, the Transportation Safety Administration, Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security. In addition, there may be interest in bringing in security organizations in the private sector--power plants, chemical plants, universities, tourist attractions and other high profile targets.  

"We create an open platform so that we can bring anything into our system and allow us to do correlations so our end-user is more aware of what's happening within their environment," said Larry Lien, vice president of product management for Proximex.

Jeff Knapp, vice president of marketing at OnSSI, provides a similar definition. PSIM takes inputs from various different sources, he said, "and correlates it within the workflow processes and protocols of an end-user organization so it can automatically distribute and disseminate these consolidated, fused events to a designated recipient."

But Lien's and Knapp's comments imply a number of prerequisites for PSIM. The workflow processes to which Knapp refers must be in place--or at least on paper--before an effective system can be designed. PSIM systems move information to specific responders. In order to set that up, the organization must know who those responders are. Government agencies and the private sector are still working toward creation of the processes, one reason that PSIM systems can take as long as a year to integrate.

Yet the concept of integrated management is compelling enough that vendors see an opportunity to market PSIM or PSIM-like security integration to enterprises. That's why PSIM has evolved into a catchword and for users and integrators that, at the end of the day, the term itself may not matter much. There is no "good" or "bad" PSIM, Rather, users must approach PSIM the way an airline evaluates jets. A regional carrier isn't going to need the fleet of 777s that a trans-Pacific airline will.

Some vendors, such as DVTel, say they can deliver the functionality of PSIM to users who can benefit from more extensive integration, but not nearly as much as a major city would need. "The real value of PSIM is aggregation of DVRs/NVRs into a unified view," argued Igal Divr, president of DVTel's product group, adding that DVTel's iSOC video management system can deliver "80 percent of what's required [for PSIM] at a lower cost."

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But that's what makes the remaining 20 percent that is so critical. All video management systems offer a basic level of integrated management and response, just as many come with a basic set of video analytics--e.g., license plate recognition, motion detection, and bag-left-behind. More sophisticated analytics require additional packages, either at the server or camera. It's the same with integrated management.

Video management systems have interfaces to other physical security systems, particularly access control and fire alarms, but generally there is a limit. And most video management software, even if IP-based, do not seamlessly integrate with competing software without a higher level platform mediating between the two. And, to be fair, not every VMS manufacturer positions its product as a PSIM equivalent.

How does user or integrator make an informed judgment? The best way is examine how the  management interface manages four operations: Correlation, Outputs, Communication and Escalation.

Here is the baseline model:

1. An event triggers alarm and ticket;
2. The PSIM or integrated management system correlates the alarm with video, analytics, access control and other physical security systems and databases.
3. The system provides outputs, that is, instructions or options to the user as to how to respond.
4. The operator executes the instructions, sometimes by transmitting and communicating the correlated information gathered by the system to a colleague, partner or agency.
5. If necessary, the system will escalate the information to additional agencies if the nature of the event or threat changes.
6. The system automatically documents the event and response for later audit and forensics.
Correlation

How many sources of information are correlated and processed?
How much of the correlation is automatic? How much involves operator input?


PSIM systems can draw from multiple video surveillance systems, not simply the user's, but from other organizations. Similarly, they can correlate access control, analytics, license plate recognition, alarms, sensors, GPS, Google Maps, Google Earth and other web-based information.

This is where customization enters. The top-end PSIM vendors have reached a point where their platforms systems can interface with most physical security systems. After that, it comes down wants what the user wants. The good news is that typically, interfaces and connectors are one-and-done. If a vendor has built one for a previous customer, it's now part of a library. But the first time's the trick. Because of cost, vendors are shy about developing interfaces unless and integrator could bring them a signed contract, said James McDonald, senior risk management sales consultant MassBiz LLC Consulting, Springfield, Mass.-based systems integrator. At the same time, users don't want to be the first one for whom a translator is developed, "The hardest thing in getting started is that no one wants to be the guinea pig," McDonald said.

This accounts for why PSIM vendors tend to have strengths in particular verticals. For example, NICE Systems has a number of large seaport and airport contracts. VidSys has a strong transportation play. CNL has made a name in infrastructure protection and defense. PSIM vendors, in McDonald's opinion, are differentiating themselves by their vertical expertise and by what security systens they support. That's why it's important that prior to going in, users inventory the systems they have so they can find the vendor that supports them all. That's McDonald's MO: He isolates what a user wants to do, identifies the three to four PSIM vendors in a position to respond, then brings them and, in his words, "lets them fight over it."

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Outputs

Does the system menu present operator with pre-programmed instructions or options to respond? How extensive are the options?

Once the event is correlated and reported, the interface should provide the user with a menu of functions to resolve the ticket. These can range from operations the user can do him- or herself, such as validate an access card, to forwarding the information to another team member.

The output instructions, which derive from internal policies, replace the heavy binders that one lined the shelves in security rooms. After correlating alarms around an event, PSIM systems have the intelligence to find the right policy outputs, but that also depends on how well the outputs and procedures are pre-scripted. Most vendors have a library of policies, but usually there will be some standardization required at the user end. The larger and more integrated the operation, the more customization. Once again, it is best if users and their integrators do this work at the outset.

Communication

How will the system alert security agencies?

This goes hand-in-hand with outputs. The user should be able to push information, images and instructions out to the right colleagues and partners who are in a position to immediately respond to a situation. All communications and networking technologies should be employed--email, phone, wireless and handheld devices. Depending on the scope of the system, communications may extend to outside agencies, such as police, fire and emergency medical services. Mass notification systems, such as phone, text, email and digital signage should also be brought in if necessary.

Escalation

How wide a reach does the system have?

Escalation extends from the communications function, but adds a degree of intelligence to the networking aspect. Can the system alert not only internal supervisors of a situation, but automatically alert other agencies should a situation change? For example, surveillance and analytics may alert a corporate security to someone loitering in a parking garage. Then the suspect breaks into a car, jumpstarts it, and steals it. When the thief runs the exit gate, the access control system triggers an alarm, but instead of issuing a new ticket, the PSIM system correlates the alarm with the proceeding events, and automatically notifies the police.

It doesn't have to stop there. Escalation can extend to numerous agencies and multiple levels. Once again the issue is scope and planning and the level of sophistication the user wants?

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Wild cards

Most PSIM systems are limited when it comes to integrating IT security. PSIM systems do draw information from Active Directory and other databases, and they bridge to IT counterparts, known as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), but they do not truly manage IT security in tandem with physical security.

A combined PSIM-SIEM system is something of a holy grail, and it remains to be seen if such a platform can emerge. Proximex, whose founders came out of SIEM vendor NetIQ, is one of those attempting it. "Based on our background, coming from the IT industry," said Lien, "we've taken a lot of that expertise into the physical security market so that we can start to correlate different types of [event management] information from IT."

The other element is interoperability, a common thread to the PSIM functions discussed. The scope of their interoperability could prove a major advantage to PSIM platforms. Certainly standards under development by the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) and the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) will help. For now, PSIM can, or should, deliver security integration without requiring a change-out of individual security systems, another reason there is so much interest in the concept. As McDonald observed, "Users will tell an integrator: make it work with my Pelco VMS, my Lenel Access System, my Tyco fire alarms, and so on."




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