Steve Carney February 5, 2014
The security landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade with the introduction of numerous new security technologies to detect crime and deter criminal activity. With a long list of new tools, which includes everything from motion detection devices to enterprise-level access control systems, professionals now need to process vast amounts of information within seconds from many different security systems and then make important decisions about how to respond to an incident.
The integration of security systems has perhaps been one of the biggest changes to take place in the security industry. Thanks to this, security professionals now have the ability to bring together multiple systems under a single tool to simplify the management of these systems and incident response.
End users looking to integrate their security systems can pursue two very good, but different options: video management systems (VMS) or physical security information management (PSIM). The solutions are dissimilar in both deployment and end results, but they are alike in the sense that they both accomplish a certain level of integration for the end user.
While the application and installation of either a VMS or PSIM solution can be quite complex, determining whether an organization needs one or the other is relatively simple. It comes down to size, scope and usage of data that will make up that decision for the integrator and, ultimately, the end user.
Learn the Lay of the Land
First of all, it’s important to understand what the end user hopes to achieve and how personnel will interact with each solution once deployed. A few questions to get the conversation started:
- Is security staff looking to manage their physical security systems together in one place?
- Is the entire organization looking to integrate physical security, along with emergency management, building management or other subsystems?
- Who will be using the system: the security staff, or many other departments, managers and locations?
Understanding how the end user wants to interact with the system is important, because VMSs and PSIMs are not alike in this regard. A VMS is traditionally designed to manage security systems from a video perspective. A VMS can oversee a number of security functions other than video, including access control and intrusion, but the end user sees all of the integrated security under the VMS with a video-centric point of view. A classic example of this would be heavy surveillance users such as casinos, whose security personnel actively access video around the clock.
VMSs are available from third-party providers, as well as manufacturers that offer what are referred to as unified video management systems. Third-party VMS software will work with different manufacturers’ products to create a video-centric solution in one place. In these cases, the installer must make sure that the customer’s devices are compatible with the VMS. Installers must communicate to the end user that different hardware requires different licenses, and a third-party VMS would still require end users to keep up with individual hardware maintenance, updates and licenses.
Unified solutions are offered by the manufacturer to integrate its systems together under one platform. Because these solutions are tailored to work with the manufacturer’s devices, customers can experience more seamless integration and customization for specific applications. Users that are starting a new surveillance installation or have existing equipment mostly from one manufacturer would benefit from a unified VMS. A unified system means fewer licenses and individual hardware updates over a traditional VMS installation, since the unified solutions are designed to work together and can often take care of updates and license renewals together.
A PSIM’s job is to consolidate all elements of an enterprise, physical security included, in a very sophisticated software layer that resides on top of other management systems. The key element of a PSIM is its ability to integrate complex, disparate subsystems, as well as its interoperability with third-party applications beyond the normal operations of a typical VMS. In most cases, customers that choose PSIM solutions already have legacy security systems that have been previously installed or multiple systems of the same type they would like to centrally consolidate, such as access control or video systems from multiple vendors. PSIMs are also ideal choices for organizations that have many disparate systems beyond just security across many locations and need a way to integrate everything so that it works together in one place.