Will PSIM Eventually Control the Universe?

Looking at which trends have potential and those which don't

Right now, the world of PSIM is largely confined to connecting multiple security subsystems under a single command center. At a single glance, security operators can simultaneously monitor surveillance cameras, access control systems, burglar alarms and perimeter protection sensors. But there's growing demand for broadening that umbrella to include everything from audio communications (intercoms and paging systems) to power supplies (UPS devices and generators) and building management (lighting controls, elevator operation, even HVAC systems).

Is a universal PSIM really achievable-or is it merely wishful thinking? More importantly, would such a system bombard users with so much information that they'd be too overwhelmed to act? In this article, I'll tell you about some of the trends I see developing in the PSIM arena and share why some have real potential and why some will likely fall by the wayside.

Embedding policies and procedures

A lot of people mistakenly think that all they have to do is upload their policies and procedures into their PSIM and they're off and running. But as I've learned, that approach can prove disastrous. I once had a multi-facility customer who decided to hook up their access control to their PSIM. They started slowly with just one component of access control-door forced open (DFA). But in the first 20 minutes of operation, they received 1,500 DFA alarms. It was humanly impossible for their four-person security team to respond to such volume.

The PSIM gave them visibility into their access control systems that they never had before. But it also highlighted some serious flaws in their policies and procedures: too many events were considered DFA incidents and all DFA events triggered the same high-priority alarm.

So an important trend I see coming down the road is a variety of assessment and simulation tools that will help users evaluate how they handle incidents and truly understand the implications of specific procedures before they get programmed into their PSIM.

Adding a visual dimension

Blockbuster movies like "Minority Report" and network TV crime shows like "CSI" have created unrealistic expectations among security operators hoping to adopt the latest and greatest interactive technology. Touchscreens and 3D displays look cool in the quick-cut, fictionalized world of Hollywood. However, they really don't align well with how humans process information in the real-world.

First, it goes against human physiology. Holding your arms up in the air in front of your body and moving images around on a large display wall would exhaust anyone in a matter of minutes, let alone a typical eight-hour shift. Second, it goes against human psychology. In high-stress situations such as an incident alert, people tend to assume tunnel vision. Their ability to react to multiple stimuli greatly decreases.
Another important trend I see coming down the road is a simplification of how information is presented. PSIM integrators will focus more on how to help customers minimize the amount of information they need to successfully resolve an incident rather than adding complex, flashy information interfaces.

Deciding where to base the PSIM display code

Right now I see a lot of tension between two camps: the browser-based PSIM and the client-based PSIM. I think what will ultimately shake out will be a hybrid of the two approaches.

Here's why: Browser-based PSIMs are great for integrators who service a single vertical. There's a lot of commonality about how businesses in the same sector handle their security operations. Offering one version of the system should provide all the functionality necessary with little, if any, need to modify code (a more complex and costly task than tweaking client-based software).

Client-based PSIMs are better for integrators who service multiple vertical markets because they need the flexibility to adapt the PSIM to the unique operating needs of each industry. Client-installed software is easier and less expensive to modify on the fly- everything from font type and size to color palette and even where specific pieces of information will appear on the display.

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