With today’s increasingly complex security systems, many organizations are still using technology from multiple manufacturers that often cannot communicate. Physical security information management (PSIM) software can offer a solution. It collects, correlates and integrates disparate data from this multiplicity of security systems and operational data and creates one common view on a single platform. It also applies intelligence to identify 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 for VidSys, Vienna, Va.


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


“PSIM software integrates the information from the building’s alarms and communicates the status to people who need to know,” said Dr. Bob Banerjee, senior director of training and development for 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 alarm is activated.


“PSIM software provides a workflow of who needs to do what, where, and when, in writing, that is available immediately,” Banerjee said.


Finally, it allows security staff to re-enact events and use the information to change, improve and test new procedures and be 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, Proximex, San Jose, Calif. “It lowers costs because personnel are trained on a single platform.”


In addition to connecting disparate physical security systems and mitigating security risks, PSIM also helps lower the total cost of ownership for the security system by using existing equipment.


PSIM trends


PSIM has evolved from only integrating physical security devices to also integrating security protocols with other building systems, such as building management, lighting, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and the like.


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


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


“The network management system is already monitoring whether computer servers or routers are operating, so buildings can also use PSIM to alert IT staff when physical security assets are not running properly,” Lien said.


Electrical contractors (ECs) 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,” he said.


As with any newer technology, standards development is needed to drive the market forward. With PSIM, standards are needed to simplify the integration process and better enable devices to communicate with each other. In recent years, standards bodies—including the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) and Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA)—have started to gain more traction, but adoption in physical security has been very slow, Chong said.


“The IT and telecom industries have had more success in standards development, and, 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.


Getting ahead


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


ECs can leverage expertise to enable interoperability and to consolidate customers’ multivendor and legacy systems into a single platform with cost-effective and timely custom integrations.


“The important thing for contractors to understand is that value is added when the customer uses PSIM to optimize the security system’s operation and improve incident response,” Lien said. 


Contractors that learn about 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.