Video Supplement: Enhancing and Expanding the Security Ecosystem

If consumers had to use software development kits (SDK) to connect HD televisions to cable boxes; design application programming interfaces (API) so their smart phone could send a photo to an inkjet printer; and write unique scripts to visit websites, it’s a good bet these devices and systems would be much more expensive, much less common and not as incredibly feature-filled as they are today.

But home electronic, computing, and mobile devices are reasonably affordable, ubiquitous, and powerful because each follows at least one common standard, such as “jpeg” for graphics, so a simple wireless printer can routinely accept and print a smart phone-snapped photo that also can be displayed on a big screen TV.

That same ubiquity, affordability and power is what we at the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) have been creating in the security industry. Our goal has been plug-and-play compatibility for the ecosystem of security products, and, increasingly, beyond our industry’s applications to complementary systems and technology.  

Here’s an overview of where the PSIA is today on the path to security industry plug-and-play.


Specifications designed for an ecosystem, not just devices

We now have seven specifications that focus on enabling security systems to share information and intelligence instead of simply connecting devices. The PSIA specifications encompass five functional areas: video, video analytics, video recording and storage, access control and intrusion detection.

We have been able to take our broad, systems-level approach to specifications because our members span a range of security industry domains as compared to just one or two vertical niches. Our Working Group members include Assa Abloy, Cisco Systems, HID, HikVision, Honeywell, Ingersoll Rand, Inovonics, IQinVision, Lenel, Kastle Systems, Milestone Systems, NICE Systems, ObjectVideo, OnSSI, Proximex, SCCG, Tyco International, UTC, Verint, and VidSys.

Building Profiles: This month, our Profiles Working Group, led by Kastle Systems, will be releasing our first in a series of Profiles, which will help manufacturers to more quickly adopt PSIA specifications. The Profiles identify the data elements within our broad specifications that apply to particular security functions, akin to having a library of books from which you would select only the specific books you needed to provide the knowledge for a given topic.

Instead of implementing all the data elements in the PSIA’s broad Area Control Specification, an access control system vendor can comply with the Access Control Profile criteria. Similarly, an intrusion detection sensor manufacturer can adopt the Intrusion Profile. Each of these Profiles is drawn from the more comprehensive Area Control Specification.

Further, we have introduced test tools which enable manufacturers to validate their Profile adoption and ensure their products will interoperate with other PSIA-compliant products and systems. We expect to release more Profiles in 2013.

Building automation: During our interoperability demonstration at ASIS 2012, a building automation system and an enterprise management system exchanged data using the PSIA’s Area Control Specification. In addition, our Area Control Working Group is meeting with building automation, HVAC, and elevator systems vendors to decide what types of information and intelligence to exchange among these systems and expand our Area Control Specification accordingly.

Wireless: Several of our members are working to incorporate PSIA specifications into mobile devices, including tablets based on the iOS and Android platforms. This functionality would enable users to put PSIA-compliant control software, which would serve as a host, on their tablets.

Backwards compatibility: Anyone with a Windows-based computer knows the frustration of a system or software update that renders an older printer or other peripheral inoperative. The goal of the PSIA is to ensure our specification upgrades and new releases are backward-compatible with previous versions.

We accomplish this in two ways: First, our working group membership is broadly based, representing many diverse perspectives that shape our specifications to reflect industry needs, not those of one or two large vendors. Those same members rigorously test each of our specifications before publishing them, so our specification upgrades are just that: enhancements, not rewrites. That makes it easier for us to ensure an IP camera compliant with our original IP Media Device (IPMD) Specification will also be compliant with Version 2.0 and any other updates. The same is true for our other specifications. The backward-compatibility of our specifications is another way the PSIA helps end-users to protect their security equipment investments.


Meeting the industry’s needs

In short, during the last four years, the PSIA has created specifications that reflect what a wide variety of end-users, consultants, integrators and manufacturers have determined they need for powerful security solutions that are also cost effective to design, install, operate and maintain. We look forward to another solid year of growth and innovation as PSIA specifications make it possible for true plug-and-play interoperability across the security ecosystem.



David Bunzel is Executive Director of the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance ( He is also the founder and managing director of Santa Clara Consulting Group (SCCG), a market research and consulting firm.