PSIM update from ISC West

On Tuesday, as vendors were wiring cameras and access control readers in their ISC booths, I caught up with Dave Fowler, senior vice president of marketing and product development for VidSys. We had a chance to talk about some of the trends happening in physical security information management (PSIM). In brief, PSIM is a means of aggregating a variety of physical security information sources (sensors, access control, cameras, alerts, etc.) into a system that does more than any of these individual systems could do alone.

To explain what PSIM is, I gratefully quote industry analyst Steve Hunt from his “SecurityDreamer’s Travel Guide to ISC West 2009”:

“Physical security information management, PSIM, is one of the most talked about and sometimes controversial topics in the security industry today. It is software designed to aggregate, normalize, correlate, apply policy to and display diverse data as information to simplify and improve physical security incident detection and response. Basically, it is a better, more flexible and much more useful way of managing security events and the information needed to respond to incidents than traditional command center solutions.”

Steve Hunt also sorted out some numbers on the potential market growth for PSIM, and he concluded that the PSIM market could potentially earn $3 billion to $4 billion annually by 2012. If you want the numbers more clearly explained and straight from the horse's mouth, talk to Steve by tracking him down on his blog

So, that’s what PSIM is and what the growth could be. Now, with respect to the fact that your time is limited and that Day 2 of the show starts in 10 hours, I’ve condensed down some of the trends that Dave and I discussed and some that I’m recognizing from the show floor:

  • PSIM is starting to stick. Dave said that as more and more companies (many of them are competitors to VidSys) have developed PSIM solutions, the end-user community is understanding the value of PSIM. (It doesn’t hurt also that SecurityDreamer’s Steve Hunt made PSIM a focus of his “Travel Guide to ISC West 2009”).
  • PSIM isn’t the same as 1-to-1 alarming. It’s more about linking events and cross-correlating data to raise the overall security alerts. “You get a chemical detection notification, a fire alarm and an access control event,” said Fowler. “Is that three separate events, or is it actually a chemical fire that folks are escaping the building from?” PSIM offers the promise of linking what might be siloed events.
  • Mid-tier integrators are not picking up on the PSIM trend yet. At VidSys, Fowler said he’s seen the effort put forth by large systems integrators, but the mid-tier firms still have a lot to gain by getting trained on how to deploy PSIM technologies to their customers. He thinks that one of the hesitations is that some integrators may be nervous about going to a software-only approach to security (software-only is, of course, the VidSys model and the common model to the industry, as used in others like Orsus). In the meantime, the large systems integrators and the IT VARs are grabbing these projects when they appear.
  • Companies are faced with issues of consolidation and with many global companies having a multitude of local security operations centers. The trend is to consolidate these centers, and PSIM solutions allow companies and government organizations to tie the data sets together and close some centers, while piping that data to another security command center. PSIM vendors like VidSys are finding that they can show ROI by leveraging that ability to help a company consolidate duplicated operations.
  • Video is key to PSIM. Most of the PSIM vendors have video surveillance as the key component of their PSIM system. That means they can validate alerts by looking at live video, or quickly use video investigate an event from a minute ago, or even use the video to get situational awareness as they organize a security response to an incident like a fire alarm, break-in, forced door, etc.
  • Video by itself is not PSIM. I, personally, saw a couple vendors claiming they had a PSIM solution when all they had was a really nice way to manage video. If they aren’t capable of pulling in much, much more than video and access control and intrusion alarm events, I have to question whether it’s really PSIM. Conversely, the data sources don’t matter to a good PSIM solution; a good PSIM solution can pull in almost any sensor or security information and incident data to which you have access. So you could make it solely based on video, access and alarms – but you’d be leaving a lot of value on the table!
  • The big buyers of these systems seem to be cities and major national and global companies. That makes sense, since these systems provide police and the security departments a quick window into their overall status – something that would be especially difficult if you were trying to manage hundreds of different systems on an individual basis.