Issue 71: Making sense of metadata
Tim Compston investigates the revolution that is now underway in the deployment of powerful metadata capabilities for video surveillance and the impact that this is having on the way that CCTV footage is stored and retrieved. » Read more
Issue 71: Opening new doors
By any measure these are exciting times for the world of access control as a new generation of systems and approaches opens up the potential to revolutionise the way they can be managed, and interacted with. Tim Compston reports. » Read more
Issue 71: Intelligent access
Lee Abraham looks at the many benefits to universities and colleges of integrating access control with other campus-wide systems. » Read more
Issue 71: At Your Service
As the threat to goods and cargo security increases, Robert Goodhouse explains how Security Scanning as a Service is helping ports and authorities ensure they are complying with security regulations and procedures. » Read more
Improving situational awareness
Security operators risk being overwhelmed by alerts and alarms from a growing number of integrated devices. However, physical security information management or PSIM software solutions can help them respond more effectively
In an IP-world where alarms might be triggered by an ever-growing list of networked hardware devices, including analytics-empowered CCTV cameras, smart fence-and-fabric detection systems, access control, safety systems and building facilities – a major challenge for today’s security teams is how to handle all those alerts.
How do you ensure that among the streams of data coming in from multiple systems actionable alarms situations are not missed and distractions don’t occur when vital tasks need attention? The new generation of PSIM solutions are designed to address this problem, among others, and is the latest step along the path towards ever-greater integration.
In a sense this is the most important step of all, because it aims to integrate the human part of the system properly with the technology. The hardware at last talks to the software, and it all hangs together on a common network – now PSIM aims to streamline and filter all the data, allowing human operators to make sense of it all and see at-aglance the parts that really matter. This latter objective is summed up in the phrase, which is very popular in PSIM circles: ‘improved situational awareness’.
So why do security planners need to get to grips with PSIM? For one thing, the benefits of using these solutions include reduced costs. There is obvious potential for greater efficiency in monitoring operations as automation is introduced to tasks such as the detection and resolution of false alarms. There is a reduced need for operators to manually review and correlate data from multiple systems.
In some cases, where larger organisations are concerned, the need for multiple control centres could be removed. For mid-size and smaller enterprises, security teams that are helped by PSIM will be able to be deployed more efficiently.
These cost and efficiency benefits are highlighted by VidSys, a PSIM provider, who opened an office in Bahrain last year and has numerous partners in the Middle East. VidSys PSIM software is now being sold and implemented in public and private organisations throughout the region.
The VidSys PSIM solution provides an openplatform that enables the integration and organisation of any number and type of security devices or systems – including, of course, legacy devices – and provides a common set of services for analysing and managing the incoming information. The solution also includes multi-vendor video management and situation awareness and management applications, VidShield and RiskShield respectively as well as a suite of mobile capabilities.
CNL Software is also expanding its presence in the region, having recently set up new offices in the Middle East, to meet what it says is growing demand for its particular PSIM solution, which is called IPSecurityCenter. The company’s marketing manager, Adlan Hussain, highlights recent, flagship PSIM projects in the oil sector and says there is particular interest in Saudi Arabia.
"There are a number of ‘safe city’ and campus protection programs that require PSIM software to help collect, aggregate and distribute intelligence to help reduce costs, improve security and ensure compliance to common sets of standards", says Mr Hussain.
CNL is also supporting increasing demand from police forces, governments and corporate enterprise within the GCC region. "Following events in the region last year, ‘safe city’ projects are starting to emerge as governments look to ensure the safety and security of cities across the region. PSIM has proven to be the most cost effective method of creating command and control centres to integrate and manage city wide visual, data and resource intelligence", adds Mr Hussain.
"This is in addition to strong demand for PSIM solutions from a wide range of critical national infrastructure projects, including telecommunications, mining, petrochemical and transportation hubs".
The VidSys and CNL solutions are designed to centralise all security systems and so allow better overall situational awareness by preventing operators from becoming overwhelmed by excessive data. Operators only see what they need to see.
So is there a risk that, as ‘filtering’ reduces the role of human operators – the intuition and experience of a seasoned security professional – these systems will be too inflexible, or risk missing important alerts?
Well, for a start, human operators can be brilliant, but they can also make bad mistakes. If PSIM systems are designed and set up properly, say their designers, then it’s the potential for mistakes that is reduced, not the capacity for great decision-making. PSIM software should give operators the relevant situation information, in a user-friendly way,that better allows them to make the appropriate decisions.
One way PSIM does this is by ‘event correlation’ – by automatically linking events by location or time, to spot patterns (for example, noticing several attempts to use an unauthorised entry card). Another way it does it is with ‘geospatial mapping’, which presents security staff with 2D or 3D maps of the areas being monitored and the current status of devices in those areas.
Finally, PSIM allows planners to steer the response to situations that develop by defining standard operating procedures and building-in step-by-step instructions to guide the operators. These instructions will, of course, be based on the organisation’s policies. They can be programmed to change, depending on other factors, so PSIM also allows flexibility. For example, with IPSecurityCenter, various workflow tools allow threat or risk levels to be increased and decreased to reflect changing situations and security priorities.
So, far from being hampered by the technology, PSIM advocates say that by having data aggregated and analysed security managers can act more quickly on security escalations, plan according to trends and deliver more responsive security operations. For managers who are accountable for the systems they control, this may offer a welcome safety-net, as it reduces the potential for human error and provides the reassurance that the system is designed to be consistent, compliant and auditable.
Key features of PSIM systems include integration of hardware and software from different sources in a way that is transparent to the operator; a single view of events and incidents; process-driven event management (via graphical workflow tools, response plans and customised alarm stack design); and the ready availability of analysis, status and management information (using built-in report designers).
So the use of PSIM integration can ensure better control of events, improved situational awareness and greater focus on what really matters. And one final, important point, highlighted by advocates of PSIM. All that smart management reporting, greater operational efficiency and reduced costs will earn security managers useful credit with their bosses too!