Clearing up the confusion over PSIM

While there is still a lot of confusion in the security industry over what exactly Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) technology entails, it's clear that there is a demand for the integration potential that the technology holds.

In speaking with some vendors on the show floor at ASIS 2010 Tuesday, it seems that many companies have muddied the waters when it comes to educating consumers about the technology and, in some instances, have classified the integration of their own lines of products as being a PSIM solution. A true PSIM solution, according to companies that occupy the market, can integrate numerous systems and sensors from a variety of manufacturers, not just their own.

Dave Fowler, senior vice president of product development and marketing for VidSys, maker of the RiskShield PSIM platform, says that a PSIM solution should accomplish five goals including; interfacing with all devices; analyze incoming data and correlate events or alarms; collect all data and send it to a centralized location to be verified by a control center operator; provide users with the ability to resolve the situation; and gather all information related to the event for report and compliance purposes.

"The goal (of PSIM) is not just to integrate (systems), but also provide intelligence," he said.

PSIM solutions are also very cost effective, allowing a consumer to monitor and control a variety of systems and sensors from a centralized location or remotely in some cases.

The benefits of PSIM are obvious and that has led some in the industry to classify their products as being a PSIM solution, when in fact, it's merely a vertical integration of their own devices and systems.

"A year ago, (PSIM) was just coming onto the radar," Fowler said. "It went from being no one talking about PSIM, to everyone talking about PSIM."

Among some of VidSys' vertical markets are enterprise-class installations, such as university campuses and corporations, as well public sector clients including transit agencies and critical infrastructure projects.

In a recent survey of security managers, Fowler said that 70 percent of respondents wanted to focus their strategies around risk management. PSIM solutions can help them achieve this goal, according to Fowler, because it allows them to focus on that risk instead of having to worry about managing the technology.

Diane Robinette, vice president of product marketing for Proximex, which makes the Surveillint PSIM platform, says that the boom in everyone wanting to have a solution similar to PSIM has caused a lot of confusion among customers and that it will take education on the industry's part to fill them in on what the characteristics are of a true PSIM system.

"I think it will just take a little more education (from us) to help (consumers) understand what we deliver," she said.

In addition to the aforementioned points of Fowler, Robinette says that a PSIM platform should also reduce costs for end users, improve return-on-investment and consolidate operations.

Robinette added that another way the PSIM market is moving to provide more value to consumers is by going beyond just physical security to integrate with other business departments within an organization and adding communications capabilities with outside agencies, such as law enforcement and fire services. The latest version of Surveillint is taking these considerations into account, as communication outreach features have been added to the platform.

Proximex works in some of the same vertical markets as VidSys, however, Robinette said that they are also seeing a lot interest in the technology from companies in the financial sector.

Another company that has entered the PSIM market is NICE Systems, which acquired its Situator platform when the company purchased Orsus late last year.

Jacob Fox, vice president of situation management solutions for NICE Systems, said that NICE has strived to become an open company, even working with some of their biggest competitors in the video space, when it comes to the type of systems and sensors that can be integrated with Situator.

"When we say open, we mean it," said Pat Kiernan, director of marketing for NICE Systems' security division.

Kiernan added that NICE has begun integrating mapping systems into the Situator platform and that a version of the PSIM software was recently introduced to the electric utility industry to address compliance issues with standards developed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. NICE Situator for Electric Utilities not only improves the security operations of utilities, but also helps them reduce operational costs.