With today’s increasingly complex security systems, it is surprising that many organizations still use technology from multiple manufacturers that cannot communicate with each other. Physical security information management (PSIM) software can offer a solution. It collects, correlates and integrates disparate data from security systems and operational data and creates a common view on a single platform. It also identifies situations and presents step-by-step instructions for situation management, tracking and resolution. 


“PSIM is a software platform that converts meaningless data into meaningful and actionable information, in real-time,” said James Chong, founder, CTO and senior vice president of strategic innovation of VidSys, Vienna, Va.


Used in a security command center to manage incidents, PSIM first provides situational awareness, enabling security staff to know what is transpiring in the building and immediate surroundings. 


“PSIM software integrates the information from the building’s alarms and communicates the status,” said Bob Banerjee, senior director of training and development, NICE Systems Inc., Rutherford, N.J.


Then, PSIM provides situational management, enabling security staff to follow predetermined standard operating procedures when any event occurs or an alarm is activated. 


It provides a workflow that is available immediately, Banerjee said.


Finally, PSIM enables continuous improvement in managing incidents and allows security staff to re-enact events and use the information to change, improve and test new procedures and to become better prepared in the future. 


“All together, PSIM synthesizes data from the building’s video, access control, intrusion, fire system and other security devices; applies logic to the data; displays the information in a common user interface in a centralized security operating center; and creates a more automated security environment,” said Larry Lien, vice president of product management for Proximex, San Jose, Calif.


In addition to connecting disparate physical security systems in a single environment and mitigating security risks, PSIM also helps lower the total cost of ownership for the security system by allowing the use of existing equipment.


“PSIM also lowers security staff costs because personnel are trained on a single platform,” Lien said.


PSIM is already evolving to integrate security protocols with other building systems, such as building management; lighting; heating, ventilating and air conditioning; and the like. 


“The goal is to improve response time to events,” Lien said. 


PSIM is also being increasingly integrated with the building’s network management system to better monitor the health of physical security assets and to optimize their operation. 


“Buildings can also use PSIM to alert IT staff when physical security assets are not running properly,” Lien said.


Electrical contractors need to know about two broad categories of PSIM customers, Banerjee said. Some customers are looking for project-specific, high-end PSIM solutions, and others want some visibility but not the complete integration that PSIM offers. 


“What the electrical contractor needs to realize is that, to fill this market requirement for simpler systems, PSIM providers are trying to make solutions more affordable and to develop more out-of-the-box integration offerings while video and access control system manufacturers are trying to offer more incident response functionality,” 
Banerjee said.


As with any newer technology, standards development is necessary to drive the market forward. In the case of PSIM, standards are needed to simplify the integration process and better enable devices to communicate. While standards bodies, such as Open Network Video Interface Forum and Physical Security Interoperability Alliance, have gained traction, the adoption in physical security has been very slow, Chong said. 


“As IT becomes more prevalent in physical security, the standards development in that market should continue to increase over the next several years,” Chong said.


The PSIM market is expected to grow to $544 million in 2015, according to the Frost & Sullivan Analysis Worldwide PSIM Market Report, with a compound annual growth rate of 37.6 percent. 


“Installers and integrators are critical to the adoption and success of PSIM,” Chong said, adding that contractors are in a position to leverage their expertise to enable interoperability and to consolidate customers’ multivendor and legacy systems into a single platform with cost-effective and timely custom integrations.


“Value is added when the customer uses PSIM to optimize the security system’s operation and improve incident response,” Lien said. 


Contractors who are better educated on PSIM’s full capabilities can work with both the end-user and software provider to determine the security system’s design and its integration, add value to their offerings, and grow with this technology.