In a guest blog for Risk UK’s readers, John Davies reviews developments that have been taking place beyond the initial hype around Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) and how the integration of physical and information security is now offering benefits in the real world.
A few years ago, PSIM – the acronym for Physical Security Information Management – became a popular ‘buzzphrase’ in both the physical and logical security sectors. In its broadest sense, the term sought to describe the increasing unification between IT security and physical security systems which really became inevitable given the increased adoption of IP services throughout the business world and, indeed, society as a whole.
In the case of physical security, this phenomenon has revolutionised the approach the industry takes to its products and services. Manufacturers, specifiers and installers have had to adapt and evolve to meet the expectations of the market (and, in many cases, the wider public).
However, the security sector as a whole has moved on and the expectation of an IP connection is now simply a basic necessity rather than a defining characteristic.
Full integration between often complex and crucial systems is now the goal of security operators and providers alike. Paradoxically, while the technology is undoubtedly becoming more and more complex, the overall goal is to provide operators and installers with solutions that are actually simpler to use and install.
Bringing together all of the elements
PSIM has been highly successful in bringing together physical and logical security systems, but the expectations placed on integration have also grown significantly. The security market now demands more joined-up physical security technology.
Common integration components include:
• Access control (physical locks and doors)
• CCTV systems
• Intruder alarms
• Firefighting systems
• Building services controls (including environmental systems and lifts)
• Centralised business systems (and Schools Information Management Systems)
• HR systems
While physical and logical security were traditionally isolated from one another, so too were many of the individual physical security and management applications. The inability of these various facets to work directly together was a frustration when it was clear that the overall management of a facility could be enhanced and made considerably simpler and more efficient by doing so.
Bringing together the various elements has been made achievable by two improvements: the ability of many security and management systems to be connected to a universal Internet connection and the development of systems and software capable of administering and simplifying the operator’s task of running multiple functions from a single portal.
True security integration has only really been made possible with the advent of systems which are highly compatible with one another (often using shared/agreed standardised protocols) and offer the ability to network these previous disparate elements. The second hurdle has been to understand the popular standards and create software systems able to bring the strands together as a whole.
Continuous surveillance and control of facilities
While security systems are traditionally used to combat intruders and protect against attacks or thefts, some organisations actually face a substantial threat from what’s sometimes termed ‘insider theft’. Modern integrated security systems can be used as an effective deterrent against such threats.
Take the example of a busy warehouse. With items being moved in and out on a rapid basis, it can be easy for a worker to remove items (especially small ones) without necessarily being noticed by colleagues or human security operators. In this example, CCTV surveillance may not be enough to detect a problem in standalone mode. However, in combination with an integrated stocktaking system and monitoring of access to the facility it’s much easier to investigate unaccounted losses and to check video footage for the missing items. Equally, it can be a powerful tool to defend the honesty of staff members where there is suspicion or doubt.
Visual verification: monitoring of staff movements
With a truly integrated combination of security and business/building control systems there are fresh opportunities to use these existing investments. A good example is the administration of facilities management resources. Visual verification from CCTV and security software systems can be used to monitor the movements of authorised staff as well as intruders.
A practical application for this could be the intelligent use of environmental temperature control and lighting. An integrated security system can detect the use of designated areas within a facility and intelligently manage the use of resources – and especially outside normal working hours – to reduce any wastage in unoccupied areas.
Equally, this visual verification technology could be used to monitor human and vehicular traffic around a facility and analyse any congestion or influence planning decisions.
Emergency situations and fires
Integrated systems can also play an important role with regards to the safety of people on site. Fire alarms are far from a new technology, but when used in combination with all the other buildings control systems, the combined solution can play a vital role in safety.
In the event of a fire the alarm will probably be the first system to activate. In a modern integrated system this can alert the security team and, if required, automatically escalate the warning to the emergency services.
Proactively, it can automatically restrict access to dangerous parts of the building and consult HR records or check ID restricted access logs to see who has entered and left the facility. This provides a more accurate account for the emergency services and security teams to assess the situation.
CCTV systems can then be used to assess whether people are trapped within the facility and even to investigate dangerous areas and the spread of the emergency without putting lives at risk.
Time and attendance: shift-based business models
For organisations that run strict time-keeping and shift-based business models, security systems can be used to administer accurate time and attendance recording and secure access control records when staff enter or leave a facility as well as enforce security.
It can also measure when staff visit different parts of the facility (for example the WC or food service areas) to ascertain an accurate record of the actual working patterns.
When linked to CCTV and logical access of IT systems, the HR Department or security system operators can see exactly what’s happening.
Using legacy systems and offering the best ROI
Intelligently installed integrated physical security systems can offer an attractive return on investment. First, they allow the ‘mix and match’ purchase of systems to best suit requirements and budgets. Second, they also permit the use of existing legacy systems and the inclusion of components that are either very specific to their role or, from a financial standpoint, would be problematic to replace.
A good example is the use of CCTV cameras where the best solution may be a healthy mix of modern megapixel cameras are other legacy or specific environment systems. In the past, it would have been harder to use different specifications of camera on the same network but integrated systems are specifically designed to cater for this eventuality.
Integrated systems: greater flexibility than ever before
While PSIM has undoubtedly bridged the gap between physical and logical security, the developments that have taken place since have arguably been more helpful to security operators and installers. The connection of physical security to IP-based systems was a vital development in the security industry as a whole, but the synergy between physical systems is bringing the evolution of truly self-aware solutions even closer.
Traditionally, organisations and installers dealt with a complete solution which was mutually exclusive to other solutions and offered little in the way of upgrades and evolution options. Making any changes required serious contemplation and often involved large budgetary commitments that were usually untenable.
The combination of physical security and IP systems has also radically altered the installer market. Installation specialists increasingly have to understand both IT and physical security disciplines in order to offer the best solutions for their clients. The trade-off is that, as an industry, the security sector is able to grow and offer exactly the solutions that customers require.
Those customers now have greater control over their investments and a greater confidence that it’s a wise investment in a wider economic landscape that will help achieve sustained growth.
John Davies is managing director at security solutions specialist TDSi