OUR access control industry is pretty comfortable with High Level Interfaces (HLIs) these days. In fact, no respectable access control system would not have a suite of HLIs available to interface to other systems. 
The most important and the most common HLIs we’ve been dealing with for more than 20 years now are interfaces to lifts, CCTV, building management systems (BMS) and more recently, intercoms. In a commercial high rise building these interfaces will probably suffice where an integrated system is required. PSIM will be of more use in larger buildings where there is in house security monitoring and guards. 
However, when you move to larger more diverse security installations with on site monitoring and guards like a port authority; prison, university campus, airport or mine site; the security control room is likely to have a much larger array of systems to monitor and control. From one central point the security department will be monitoring all the usual security sub systems as well as taking phone calls, answering intercoms and communicating with mobile patrols and staff over the two way radios.
Both access control systems (ACS) and video management systems (VMS) do part of what a PSIM solution does but not everything. To be completely affective and improve efficiency a PSIM must not only integrate the physical security but also link it to manpower management software.
This means combining several technologies including the physical such as the ACS, VMS, BMS, fire, radio, intercom and phones but importantly connecting these to a system that logs all physical events and can pull related events together and present them as one scenario to the operator by linking an alarm, a relevant camera view or views as well as bringing up a report page so that the operator can add his comments and response. 
It also must automatically pull up the recommended Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and present it to the operator. The system must then go on to allow easy and rapid reporting and analysis of historical events to help identify patterns and trends that have occurred over time. 

“To be completely affective and improve efficiency a PSIM must not only integrate the physical security but also link it to manpower management software”

Management of operators and mobile guards must also be handled within the system. This involves creating diaries and programs of future activities, reports on response times and staff performance and gives the ability to cross-reference or link records, search on any information in the security database, and presenting your findings in a variety of ways. Automatic dispatching of guards to respond to an event is a great time saving feature especially in an emergency when the control room is under pressure during a crisis. 
PSIM should also enable requests for service to be thoroughly documented—from initiation, to deployment, to response. Routine activities should be escalated into incidents for further follow-up. Operators should be able to search text fields across the whole database and consolidate related incident and investigation data into case records for comprehensive tracking, analysis and reporting. This will bring clarity to complex investigations and scenarios by mapping relationships between seemingly disparate data. 
Existing security control rooms have probably acquired a range of sub systems over time to cope with the demands of monitoring a large site but because they were installed at different times by different integrators they probably have little or no connection with each other. 
The security operators have to do the co-ordinating themselves so it is not unusual to see a control room set up for peak loads where there are staff monitoring cameras, responding to alarms, writing reports, taking phone calls, despatching guards and answering intercoms all at once. At times like this the operators have to make snap decisions and need four pairs of hands to work all the systems. 
This challenging time is then followed by a lull when things go quiet and little is happening, allowing time to catch up. These peaks and troughs can be smoothed out by a PSIM as it will automate a lot of actions even if they come in rapid fire as they will in an emergency. In an emergency dozens, even hundreds, of alarms occur over a short period. With a PSIM the pressure is taken off the operators leaving them to concentrate on the overview of what is happening and manage the most appropriate response.    
This is where PSIM comes in. The aim is to put in an overlay graphical user interface (GUI) with all the sub systems interfaced to it so that there is only one GUI workstation for the operator to use. This is the main differentiator between an integrated access control system or video management system and a PSIM. A PSIM does not just integrate it provides intelligence as well.
This has many advantages over a control room that has grown just like topsy with operators having to jump from one keyboard to another and look for information on various monitor screens.
Some of the advantages are:
* All the sub system present on the same maps and screens in the same format 
* Consistent GUI operation for Security Control room operators no matter which sub system is being viewed.
* Operators only need one keyboard, mouse and headset
* Every field device be it a reed switch, movement detector, card reader, camera, thermostat, temperature alarm, fire alarm, emergency call point, lift phone, two way radio, iPhone, iPad, iPod all able to be linked or interrelated by programming.
The interrelationships between all devices and events are programmed into the (PSIM) Overlay by way of scenarios or related Inputs and outputs. An input can be from a device or an event and can trigger an output or create an event. The aim is to make the whole system event-driven thereby minimizing the control room operator’s involvement in routine tasks leaving him free to be proactive and ready to respond to the exceptional events.
Some good examples of these scenarios that can be automated would be say, a vice chancellor drives onto a campus and badges their card on the weekend, the air conditioning and lights in their office turns on, the lift is called to the ground floor, and the relevant cameras come up on the monitors in the security control room to check the VC gets to the office safely.
Or a student calls from an emergency call point, the nearest camera comes up on the video monitor in the security office, if after dark, additional lighting comes on, and the message is relayed to the nearest security patrol as a text or even a video. At the same time, a door or gate can be locked or unlocked depending on the time of day or other circumstance.
A high temperature alarm is triggered in a computer room. An alarm is reported to all appropriate personnel via mobile phone or hand held device as well as the security control room. On call IT personnel go directly to the location and take action.
There is a fire alarm from a particular building the alarm reports to the brigade as well as security. Air conditioning is shut down, an SMS text message is sent to the radio(s) of the guard(s) nearest that building and a page is broadcast to all occupants to evacuate.
To be effective PSIM should integrate all of the technologies and security operations. To know what is required, the designers of a PSIM needs to immerse themselves in the procedures carried out day-to-day in the security control room so that every facet of the operation is incorporated in the design.
According to a November 2010 Frost & Sullivan report on the topic the worldwide physical security information management (PSIM) market is expected to have grown from $US80 million in 2009 to $544 million in 2015, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37.6 per cent – so watch this space.
*Roger Pearce is an independent security consultant with over 30 years experience in the electronic security industry. Over 15 years of which have been as an independent consultant advising clients on a range of security technology applications. He can be contacted at [email protected] or www.sydneysecurityconsultants.com.au

“The designers of a PSIM needs to immerse themselves in the procedures carried out day-to-day in the security control room so that every facet of the operation is incorporated in the design”