Expert: Understanding of PSIM at an 'inflection point'

When Physical Security Information Management software first arrived in the security industry, there was a great deal of confusion about what exactly constituted a true PSIM solution. Many thought the technology was simply a robust integration platform to help tie together a number of disparate security and life safety systems. While PSIM is obviously up to this task, the true capability of the technology lies in its ability to provide organizations with actionable intelligence to help them mitigate risk.      

Despite the benefits that can be realized through the implementation of a PSIM solution, however, there are still a number of stumbling blocks that have prevented widespread adoption of the technology. SIW recently caught up with James Chong, founder, CTO and senior vice president of strategic innovation at VidSys, to get his thoughts on where the market for PSIM is today, where it is going and the hurdles that still need to be cleared.    

SIW: Do you believe the industry now has a greater knowledge and grasp about the capabilities of PSIM?

Chong: I think, for sure, the market has matured and started to get more adoption from not just the integrators, but also the end users and I’m finding that more and more people know or have heard about PSIM. I recently led a seminar for public safety officials and critical infrastructure stakeholders in Houston and I took a quick survey before starting the presentation and I would say about 75 percent of the audience were fairly familiar with PSIM, which was definitely not the case a couple of years ago. The definition and understanding is starting to gel together. It’s similar to how the SIM (security information management) started in the IT space back in 2004-2005. In the IT security space, there has always been SIM, as well as what they call “SEM” (security event management) solutions, which today people have combined into what’s called “SIEM” (security information and event management) solutions. The trending is very similar with PSIM in that we took the SIM part of IT security and added the letter “p” in front of it to create the category of PSIM.

SIW: In your opinion, what is the biggest thing holding back PSIM adoption?

Chong: I think in the not too distant past, it really was education and knowledge of PSIM in comparison to other, more popular and well-understood categories within physical security. I think that was one of the largest barriers for adoption and growth. I think right now we’re at that inflection point where people do understand that PSIM is not the same as video management systems with some integration and it’s not the same as access control systems with some video capabilities.  And it is also not the traditional custom development software C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance). As people have started to understand the differences and value proposition of PSIM, I think that’s changing the growth projection for this category. PSIM is more accurately represented as PS+IM, where it is physical security plus information management, rather than one single capability. We are now also witnessing the PSIM software not only being used for physical security, but also for information technology, network management and building management, fire and life safety systems, and other non-security  devices.   

SIW: What potential will PSIM unleash for end users as we continue to make this push in the security industry towards the use of big data?

Chong: For the end users, it is really going to start to bring continuity of security and true convergence concepts being realized.  Physical security, in the past, as traditional physical security or integrated electronic security systems - all of those really took care of what I would call the gathering of the data and integration of the data - but now with PSIM really becoming sort of a killer app in the security industry, the parts that end users are starting to realize are not only the data gathering, not only the integration, but really compliance and policies as well as the logging and auditing, so really the entire business process and the holistic view of risk management is what the end users are starting to realize. It is much more than integrating disparate systems. That’s just one part of PSIM. What the end users are benefitting from is this can save lives, time, money and it can help reduce the risk and allow an organization – whether you’re a public safety official or a corporation –  your vulnerability management and risk management is able to be implemented because PSIM now can really help you with the compliance, policy and business process engineering.

SIW: The need for technology to get a complete security view climbed to 26 percent in VidSys’ most recent National Security Survey of senior IT and physical security professionals. What do organizations need to do internally to obtain that holistic view of security using technology?

Chong: In order to get that complete view and leverage it, you do have to fully adopt the IT infrastructure in your organization. Without really leveraging the information technology assets, getting that complete view from an integration standpoint is not possible in today’s world where security is really another IP address on the network. The other thing is they have to understand that (they’re approach) has to be more than reactive from a security policy and procedures perspective, it has got to be real-time and proactive. There is some organizational understanding and behavior that has to be part of that change process. The type of people that organizations have to bring on have to have different DNAs from those in the past, meaning it is not just about understanding the hardware or what I would say are the non IT-related elements of a physical security system, but it is now running more on the applications, software and network side. So, the skill sets and people you bring onto your staff have to be more geared towards the applications, the network, the software, and IT versus the more traditional backgrounds that we used to look at. Now there is a blending of ex-security guards, police officers and law enforcement personnel with the type of (IT-focused) people that organizations need to take advantage of and leverage this holistic view.

SIW: How do you see the split you previously predicted in the definition of PSIM becoming PS+IM evolving?

Chong: Right now it is heavier on the physical security side, but I do see that split starting to even out as we continue towards this calendar year and beyond. In many of our projects, it is not just physical security systems we’re talking about as part of the integrated view or that integrated solution, it is including the other management systems, such as the network management systems, IT management systems, IT security systems and facilities, such as building management systems and fire. Those pieces are now really becoming part of most of the PSIM solution requirements and the requirements of the market so that split is certainly evident today and is growing on a quarter-by-quarter basis.