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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
February 6, 2015


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PSIM is Dead: Long Live PSIM

control room 4It doesn’t seem so long ago that PSIM (Physical Security Information Management) represented a new security paradigm in the brave new IP-connected era.

Hitherto disparate security functions could now be unified, connected, monitored and coordinated in one seamless security operation.

But the zeitgeist moves on ever swifter when it comes to technology. Major access control brand TDSi, no less, has already proclaimed PSIM –  which brings together components like access control, CCTV, intruder alarms, fire-safety systems and building services controls into one control room – to be passé – sort of.

“Whilst PSIM has undoubtedly bridged the gap between physical and logical security, the developments that have taken place since have, arguably, been more helpful to security operators and installers,” said the company in an article on its website in December.

“The connection of physical security to IP-based systems was a vital development in the security industry as a whole, but the synergy between physical systems is bringing the evolution of truly self-aware solutions even closer.”

Even the concept’s very originator seems to want to move on from its brainchild. Ellen Howe, VP of marketing and business development at VidSys, whose founder and CEO James I Chong coined the acronym after setting up the company in 2005, says “PSIM fails to capture the full scope of our rapidly-evolving integration platform.”

And that platform is “facilitating cloud-based solutions and the convergence of a common operating picture linking security systems, building management systems and IT network management tools for asset owners.

“Why? Because it is a more holistic approach to situational awareness and risk management.”

As with every other area of technology the inexorable rise of mobile, touch-screen devices is transformative.

“Mobility is more important than ever,” says Howe. “Decision makers from a single organisation or multiple entities can collaborate real-time and share time-sensitive, actionable information with incident responders and others in the decision tree via mobile devices.

Broader solutions

Dr Bob Banerjee, senior director of training and development at NICE Systems’ Security Division, also believes PSIM’s usefulness as a defining term for coordinating security technologies is waning.

Writing for SecurityInfoWatch, Bannerjee predicts that as new vendors enter the PSIM space, existing pure-PSIM players, who are sub-system agnostic, will also evolve toward broader solutions that will make PSIM a serious misnomer.

The  scope of operations within the contol room will “begin to morph into a fusion center for physical security, safety, cybersecurity, and networking operations.”

Jamie Wilson, security marketing manager EMEA at NICE Systems, agrees that PSIM’s application is increasingly moving beyond the security realm.

“Customers are now realising benefits in the operational sphere,” he says. “For example, transportation hubs are using PSIM to more effectively manage a wider range of issues and incidents.

“Fortunately, a derailment happens rarely but a failed signal or a driver not turning up for their shift happens on a more regular basis and can have a catastrophic effect throughout the network, resulting in delays and stiff financial penalties.

“So, the ability to mitigate and deal with those everyday incidents is where the full potential – and crucially the ROI – of PSIM is now beginning to be realised.

“Similarly, organisations that operate building management systems are seeing huge gains by using PSIM to integrate the likes of lighting and air-conditioning systems, bringing not only safety and security benefits but also strong operational and cost benefits.”

The expansion in PSIM’s scope will demand a parallel evolution in training and deployment of personnel. “It’s less about the tech and more about the mindset of those deploying and using PSIM,” says Wilson.

Adds Bannerjee: “Not everyone within the security space is comfortable talking about streamlining operations with a global COO, but those who are capable will become trusted advisors. We will undoubtedly see new entrants performing the role of trusted advisor, and increasingly they will have management consulting backgrounds.”

Big data

Situational awareness will continue to grow in importance, says Bannerjee. “Traditional security systems are designed to detect when something bad has happened, like when a door is forced open or someone drives through a restricted area. Those systems don’t have the full picture or complete situational awareness.

“A PSIM solution can detect early signals and anticipate potential risks through data correlation. These are the early stages of true big data, and we will begin to see increasingly smart systems capable of detecting anomalies using both structured and unstructured information, including social media feeds.”

Simplicity is now a watchword. “Paradoxically,” continues the TDSi article, “whilst the technology is undoubtedly becoming more and more complex, the overall goal is to provide operators and installers with solutions that are actually simpler to use and install.”

Standardised protocols are vital in achieving seamless, simple integration and operation. “True security integration has only really been made possible with the advent of systems which are highly compatible with one another and offer the ability to network these previous disparate elements,” says TDSi.

“The second hurdle has been to understand the popular standards and to create software systems which are able to bring the strands together as a whole.”

The trend now is very much towards customisable systems: PSIM tailored to an organisation’s unique needs.

“Intelligently installed integrated physical security systems can offer an attractive return on investment,” continues the TDSi feature. “Firstly they allow the ‘mix and match’ purchase of systems to best suit requirements and budgets.

“Secondly, they allow the use of existing legacy systems and the inclusion of components that are either very specific to their role or financially would be problematic to replace.”

Closed, proprietary systems – like that of Apple, if we look beyond the security market – are increasingly rare as customers seek flexibility. Even German surveillance brand Mobotix, which has long ploughed a lonely furrow with its proprietary system, is now embracing the H.264 standard.

“Traditionally organisations and installers dealt with a complete solution which was mutually exclusive to other solutions and offered little in the way of upgrades and evolution options,” says TDSi. “Making any changes required serious contemplation and often involved large budgetary commitments that were often untenable.”

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