While physical and logical security have traditionally been isolated from one another, it’s equally true to say that many individual physical security and management applications have been in the same boat. It’s clear that the overall operation of a facility could be enhanced, made simpler and rendered more efficient by its constituent elements working together, but how far are we down the road towards this scenario? John Davies offers his views
Of late, Physical Security Information Management – or PSIM – has been a popular phrase across both the physical and logical security sectors. In its broadest sense, the term seeks to describe the increasing unification between IT security and physical security systems which became somewhat inevitable given the burgeoning adoption of IP-based services throughout the business community and society as a whole.
In the case of physical security, this phenomenon has revolutionised the approach taken by the industry towards 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, those of the wider public.
However, the security sector as a whole has already moved on. 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 providers and end user operators alike.
Paradoxically, while the technology is undoubtedly becoming more and more complex, the overall goal remains the same: to provide operators and installers with solutions that are actually simpler to install and run.
Bringing the elements together
PSIM has been highly successful in bringing together once disparate physical and logical security systems, but the expectations now being placed on integration have grown.
Today’s security market demands more joined-up physical security technology, with common integration components including access control (physical locks and doors), CCTV systems, intruder alarms, fire-fighting systems, building services controls (including environmental solutions and lifts), centralised business systems and, indeed, HR systems.
While physical and logical security have traditionally been isolated from one another, equally many of the individual physical security and management applications have been in the same boat. The inability of these various facets to work directly together has been a frustration when it’s clear that the overall management of a facility could be enhanced and made more efficient by them being able to do just that.
Joining the various elements has been made achievable by the ability of many security and management systems to be connected to a universal Internet connection in tandem with 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 and/or agreed standardised protocols and offering the ability to network these previous disparate elements.
The second hurdle has been to understand the popular standards and create software systems capable of bringing once disparate strands together in a genuinely unified whole.
Continuous surveillance and control
Modern integrated security systems can be used as an effective deterrent against ‘The Insider Threat’.
Take, for example, a busy warehouse. With items being moved in and out on a fairly rapid basis, it can be easy for a worker to remove goods (most notably smaller ones) without their actions necessarily being noticed by colleagues or specialist security solutions operators. In this scenario, CCTV surveillance alone may not be enough to detect the problem but, in combination with an integrated stock-taking system and concerted monitoring of access to the facility, it becomes far easier to investigate unaccounted losses and check video footage for the potential whereabouts of missing items.
With a truly integrated combination of security and business/building control systems in place there are fresh opportunities to use these existing investments. A good example is the administration of FM resources. Visual verification from CCTV and security software systems might be used to monitor the movement of authorised staff and intruders.
A practical application here could be the intelligent use of temperature and lighting controls. An integrated security system can detect the use of designated areas within a facility and intelligently manage resources therein – particularly so outside of normal working hours – to reduce any wastage in unoccupied areas.
Integrated systems can play an important role with regards to the safety of people on site. Fire alarms are far from being a new technology, of course, but when used in combination with all other building control systems the combined solution may well play a vital safety role.
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 a warning to the Emergency Services.
Proactively, the alarm system 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, in turn providing a more accurate account of the situation on the ground for the Emergency Services and security teams such that they can make a considered assessment and then act.
CCTV systems may subsequently be used to assess whether or not people are trapped within the facility and to investigate dangerous areas – as well as the spread of the emergency – without placing lives at risk.
Attractive return on investment
Intelligently installed integrated physical security systems offer an attractive return on investment. First, they allow the ‘mix and match’ purchase of systems to best suit end user requirements and budgets. Second, they permit the use of existing legacy systems and the inclusion of components that are either very specific to their role or would be problematic to replace from a financial standpoint.
A good example is the use of CCTV cameras where the best solution may be a healthy mix of modern megapixel variants with legacy or specific environmental systems. In days gone by, 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.
The connection of physical security to IP-based systems was a vital development in the security industry, but the synergy between physical systems is bringing the evolution of truly ‘self-aware’ solutions even closer.
John Davies is Managing Director of TDSi