Before you select your security systems, educate yourself on the transformation occurring in the physical security market. This $120 billion industry is undergoing powerful changes, largely driven by technology innovation, and includes software solutions that comprise the Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) market. PSIM is a new (but growing) market, and these software solutions solve the problems that chief security officers (CSOs), security directors, and end-users struggle with on a daily basis: mitigating risk, complying with policies, providing security-breach information in time to respond, and portraying adequate visibility into the security environment, to name a few.
Even if your organization isn't ready to implement a PSIM solution today, it's easy to prepare your security infrastructure for the inevitable. In addition to using traditional evaluation criteria, you should consider following "behind-the-scenes" requirements. Newer security systems are based on Internet Protocol (IP) and other new technologies, making it easier to support the sophisticated analysis and decision-making required by security organizations today.
The security system should:
Be based on industry standards, such as XML and Web services, and offer high performance and scalability. Include the IT team in the discussion - they will guide you in terms of the specific requirements that your organization can support.
Deploy across firewalls, operate via a secure data link, and support authentication and encryption. These requirements may seem unnecessary, but not all security systems have caught up with the times.
Allow another system to capture configuration and description information, as well as send commands on the individual security sensors (e.g. movement of PTZ [pan-tilt-zoom] cameras, locking and unlocking doors, etc.) in an automated way. With the advent of PSIM, being able to conduct these types of activities using automation - software sending commands instead of an operator at a proprietary console - will be necessary.
The security-system vendor should:
Supply its application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kit (SDK), as well as comprehensive documentation, for reasonable fees. Also, look for simple licensing mechanisms.
Present access to a compatibility-testing lab to help your organization work out incompatibilities between the various vendor systems, as well as the different generations of systems you have in place.
Offer adequate technical support that aligns with the needs of your organization (e.g. business-hours only, 24/7, etc.).
Provide a developer network. Developer networks are necessary and commonplace for IT vendors. This network will help your IT department and systems integrator by giving them access to the information and tools necessary to successfully install the new security system into your security infrastructure.
Partner with your organization - not just want to sell to it. Vendors should understand the evolving industry trend of PSIM, advise on business issues, and support the realities of deploying across global enterprises.
By adding these behind-the-scenes requirements to your security system evaluation criteria, you have taken a step forward in preparing your organization for PSIM - and you haven't spent a dime.
Jack Smith, CEO at Sunnyvale, CA-based Proximex Corp., was formerly chief technology officer and cofounder of Hotmail, and came out of retirement in 2007 to lead Proximex. He can be reached at (firstname.lastname@example.org).