The advent of IP-based technology led to enterprises implementing digital systems and devices from multiple vendors, selecting best-of-breed solutions built for specific functions that could then be put on the network and shared. This growing, installed base of security devices and systems increased organizations' staggering data problem-how do they cost-effectively bring all physical security devices and data together for effective situation management?
Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) technology emerged to address this challenge. PSIM provides a platform and applications that collect and correlate events from disparate security devices and information systems empowering personnel to identify and proactively resolve situations. With this technology, organizations are able to take a more integrated, holistic event and risk management approach to securing operations.
In order to implement a PSIM solution, organizations often turn to a systems integrator, a trusted advisor who can provide the domain experience and demonstrated skills required to deliver services and solutions that enhance the PSIM platform to best address the security pain points and challenges facing an organization. These include fragmented data sources, lack of technology integration and ineffective communication of information to first responders. Along with providing the open and interoperable software platform, the PSIM vendor provides a systems integrator with best practice capabilities for defining rules and processes to identify, analyze and prioritize situations automatically so all appropriate information is presented to an operator in an integrated display.
Together, PSIM vendors and systems integrators combine their knowledge of and expertise in physical security technologies, situation management, security policy and compliance expertise to provide organizations with a complete situation awareness and management solution to effectively manage any security, business-related or emergency situation in real time across any industry.
To ensure future efficiency, effectiveness and accountability as well as success in minimizing organizational risk, it is critical for organizations to find the right PSIM vendor and systems integrator partnership. When evaluating this type of partnership, organizations must examine solution completeness, the partner's reputation, past successes and commitment to security and safety.
Specialized PSIM deployment requirements
As a software-based solution that requires the integration of other hardware and software systems, and the customization of policies, rules and user practices, the full deployment of a PSIM solution requires a non-traditional, multi-disciplined consulting, engineering, and installation approach. PSIM deployment tasks typically include:
- Analyzing the existing systems environment to identify integration requirements
- Evaluating security operations and security systems use
- Consulting with customers to identify security policies, procedures and strategic plans
- Developing the functional software performance requirements
- Custom engineering of API software interfaces for subsystem connectivity
- Software and system environment testing and test plan development
- Identification and design of network communication enhancements
- Installation and modification of security systems and computing hardware and software
- Custom software application rules and workflow programming
- Developing and administering customized user training programs
The varied skill sets, knowledge and experience required to deliver all the elements of a PSIM project have challenged security integrators to expand and update their typical project delivery methodologies and resources. Most security integrators don't maintain in-house the full array of multi-disciplined staff required to deliver PSIM projects.
As such, most integrators must rely on a variety of subcontractors in various specializations and must heavily rely on their PSIM vendor partner to complete a PSIM project.
To ensure the best possible PSIM solution deployment, PSIM vendors should be able to demonstrate a mastery of their product and a thorough knowledge of the specific subsystems involved in a customer's environment. They should possess a thorough library of existing subsystem integrations and a demonstrated capability to quickly develop others as needed. They should be able to demonstrate previous and successful PSIM deployment experience within a similar vertical market and environment. They should have a comprehensive toolbox of tools, checklists, guidelines, templates, etc. to assist in the PSIM planning and deployment process. Finally, PSIM vendors should have an experienced team of expert sales, engineering and technical support staff to ensure high-quality deployments of their product.
Security integrators should be able to demonstrate a thorough understanding of PSIM solutions and the benefits provided to end users. They should maintain dedicated personnel in-house for PSIM deployments that have received training and certification with the PSIM products. In addition, security integrator team members should be able to demonstrate past successful PSIM project experience, have backgrounds of varying disciplines to include security management consulting, security systems engineering, network design and engineering, software development, database integration and project management. And finally, security integrators should also be able to demonstrate their ability for ongoing technical support of the PSIM solution after initial deployment.
A strong partnership team between a PSIM vendor and a systems integrator that each meet those specific criteria as described above will help to ensure a "first-time" successful PSIM solution deployment and will provide the necessary ongoing technical support required to maintain, customize and grow the solution with the end-user's organizational needs.
With the deployment of a full PSIM solution, the following key security solutions, formerly difficult, if not impossible, to attain with available security technology, can be implemented:
- Ending the practice of "rip-and-replace" and leveraging investments in existing security technology, while updating and modernizing security systems.
- Integrating disparate security systems in an enterprise environment into a single, common operating system for enhanced situational awareness.
- Achieving ROI savings through the regional or global consolidation of security control and monitoring centers.
The proper deployment of a full PSIM solution can provide significant benefits and enhancements to an organization's security and asset protection programs, such as:
- Leveraging and extending physical security investments
- Reducing operational costs
- Improving security response times, effectiveness and efficiency
- Minimizing risk
Impact of PSIM on risk management and security ROI
Ultimately, PSIM helps organizations minimize risk by proactively identifying potential situations and alerting the appropriate individuals before a costly and/or dangerous situation arises. As organizations continue to invest in technologies that they expect will manage and reduce risk for employees, visitors, customers and material assets, PSIM will continue to play a central role as the unified platform while systems integrators play a critical role in accelerating the use and integration of this platform. This, in turn, will push the industry closer to risk management strategies designed to help organizations proactively assess, prioritize and manage their risks and needs with a holistic view of the enterprise to improve operations and adjust to ever-changing threats. Evolving to a comprehensive risk management strategy will only be possible with the critical PSIM platform and a trusted security integrator in place.
Michael Webster is the manager, Global Security Center of Excellence for Johnson Controls. He is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP), board certified in Security Management, with over 27 years of progressive government, corporate and private, security management and consulting experience. He can be reached at Michael.A.Webster@JCI.com.
James Chong is the founder and chief technology officer for VidSys and presently serves as a technical visionary and innovator for emerging technology applications with a focus on physical and converged security initiatives. He can be reached at email@example.com.