A closer look at PSIM
June 2013, News
In a June 2012 report, Frost & Sullivan noted there was a PSIM (physical security information management) education gap. Basically, too few people know what PSIM is and what is can do for them. This is unfortunate because, just as people are starting to see the integration benefits of PSIM solutions, the technology is growing with PSIM now being used to incorporate standard operating procedures (SOPs) and processes of continuous enhancement as users learn from their mistakes and ensure each event is handled better than the last.
PSIM is even being used to enforce regulatory compliance as it takes on more than physical security tasks – such as queue management and overcrowding prevention. And PSIM is not only for large enterprises anymore. Even smaller companies are looking to “PSIM-Lite” solutions to help them manage their environments better.
To find out more about PSIM and its use in the real world, Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked Adlan Hussain, global head of marketing at CNL Software a few questions.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: In the interests of education, perhaps we can start with your description of what PSIM is and what benefits it delivers to clients. Is there a difference between what we call a management platform and PSIM?
Hussain: PSIM is the evolution of security management platforms, which were previously based on analogue technologies. With the shift to IP based technologies came the opportunity to aggregate legacy analogue with digital solutions, create control room solutions of some complexity at much lower cost, extract rich data from the connected systems and allowed the system to assist operators with standard operating procedures (SOPs) pre-programmed in to the PSIM solution. With advanced solutions, the addition of workflow technology provides operators with customised step by step guidance to manage situations with control of all of the information provided by the underlying systems.
The main difference between a security management platform is its SOPs are normally fixed and the company has to follow the pre-determined operation according to the platform. In PSIM, it moulds around the user requirements and can be customised. It can be compared to SAP, same system can be used for a manufacturer as well as a bank, just needs customising to apply to the client’s needs. And yes, it was once considered expensive, but now competes with mid- to high-end management platforms that do not have the same capability.
Solutions of this complexity were previously only in the domain of government and big corporates as they were bespoke systems, cost a small fortune and were expensive to maintain. With PSIM, it is a customising solution that works with all the subsystems, allowing them to be brought together in a more economical way, reducing the ongoing support costs as well.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What is the state of PSIM uptake in South Africa? Are the larger enterprises adopting the technology? What about PSIM-Lite – is it even a rumour on the continent?
Hussain: CNL Software is fortunate to have strong partners in South Africa, who have been working with us since PSIM was in an infant stage. The product of this partnership has been a number of very large deployments of IPSecurityCenter in SA, spread across a number of vertical sectors, including mining, pipeline security, critical infrastructure protection, transportation and retail security. All of these systems have been intelligent systems delivered by our partner, so none of these were 'PSIM-Lite'. [E-thele SQD Networks is a CNL partner in South Africa – Ed.]
Regarding the PSIM-Lite market, the waters are murky as many video management systems (VMS) and access control systems (ACS) companies are trying to morph their products into this category. So, when you look at a proposal, you have to ask is this a VMS, ACS or PSIM-Lite. This is creating confusion and blurs the lines between intelligent systems and connected systems.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What are the biggest misconceptions about PSIM that you have come across in the market?
Hussain: One of the biggest misconceptions is that PSIM is a simple fix it all (a so-called silver bullet) solution. If you have issues with the network or failures in the underlying systems, PSIM will not fix this. You will need to get this resolved before installing.
Similarly, if you do not have any SOPs, you will need to define and create these so they can be implemented with the PSIM. Without having the requirements specified and a target action to be taken against an alert/alarm, guiding operators will not be as effective. It is the role of a good PSIM integrator to be able to work with you to create and resolve all issues needed for a smooth PSIM deployment. If your project is truly large, then you may consider a consultant as these can often advise what is needed rather than what an installer wants to sell to you.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: PSIM solutions are expensive and complex. Do they deliver benefits and returns to companies who are prepared to spend the money? How should customers measure the ROI?
Hussain: Our experience with our customers shows that a well designed and delivered PSIM solution can offer huge benefits to an organisation. IBM in the UK was one of the first corporate users of PSIM technology in the world. Thom Williamson, manager security operations, IBM, commented on their solution, ”CNL consolidated 26 locations across our operations in the United Kingdom. We are moving from 17 command and control centres down to one. We estimate our ROI will be less than 18 months. The solution will provide the business with operational flexibility I never imagined possible.“
Well designed and delivered, PSIM is considered expensive and complex, but it ensures that complex risks, which could cost an organisation millions in damages are managed using all of the available intelligence. The challenge for security professionals is to push security to the right level and ensure it receives the necessary financial investment. It should pay for itself in operational savings.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Are you finding customers are wanting to expand their PSIM solutions to include SOPs, compliance and so forth? Is the technology up to the task?
Hussain: One of the keys to CNL Software’s success within PSIM has been our ability to integrate SOPs and compliance using workflow technology. We provide visual tools to easily create, use, save and store processes and procedure making light work of complex tasks. While other PSIM and some PSIM-Lite solutions are able to integrate and connect a number of systems, none were designed from the ground up to provide workflow technology in the same way as IPSecurityCenter. Our core clients value the fact we are customisable and match their requirements rather than act as a giant video aggregation engine.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What are some of the features that makes your PSIM or management platform stand out from the crowd?
Hussain: IPSecurityCenter PSIM has several key features that distinguish it from other PSIM platforms.
* Scalability – IPSecurityCenter is proven to scale and provides high levels of availability needed in some of the largest PSIM security projects in the world today. Several of these exceed 250 locations, with multiple buildings at each location. Some of these statistics are given below.
* Largest number of protected employees – 127 000.
* Largest number of operators – 250 including both thick and Web clients.
* Largest number of subsystems – 26 disparate subsystems.
* Largest number of locations – 255 locations.
* Largest number of alarm points – over 10 000.
* Largest number of SOPs or workflows – 52.
* Largest number of cameras – 60 000.
* Interface – IPSecurityCenter has been developed to allow a flexible graphical user interface (GUI). It is completely customisable, allowing simple controls to deliver complex tasks. For example, some projects require very simple kiosk-style controls to allow non-security personnel to view camera feeds. The role-based interface, ensures that only the appropriate tools are shown to support the specific tasks, taking the complexity out of the look-and-feel of the system. It also has the ability to host third-party content, such as intranet pages, third-party applications, etc. The availability of both thick and thin clients allows greater flexibility, allowing the perfect balance to be achieved between functionality and accessibility.
* Process Guidance and Workflow – IPSecurityCenter allows complex site-specific dynamic workflows to be created to guide operators in the event of an incident. It takes into account factors such as geographic location, time-of-day and the perceived threat level. It uses the IPSecurityCenter Response Plan Builder, giving visual design tools for updating and creating new processes allowing customer to respond to their dynamic environments.
* High Availability and Disaster Recovery – Many of our competitors chose to use third-party products to provide their HA/DR strategy. We implemented Microsoft’s recommended approach, using MS Clusters, SQL server and in this way can offer the clients a truly scalable solution, including load balancing and no requirement to stop servers on update. With many of our systems deployed in mission critical locations, the very idea of having to reboot a server on update is not acceptable.
* Federation – Increasingly we are seeing safe city, police, government and critical national infrastructure projects where it is essential to link systems and view/manage all the alarm data from any site and view any camera from any control room. Through advanced use of our own technology, we can create a single system of tens, if not hundreds of control rooms all linked together, providing a single protective shield over the Enterprise.
* Web/Mobile Clients – Our web and mobile client are exactly the same, meaning that learning one allows the operator to use any of the popular browsers/mobile platforms available.