Challenges of a PSIM project

A museum security expert, an end-customer, an integrator and a hardware manufacturer discussed the challenges of a PSIM project from their role's perspective.

Share Post:

What’s up with PSIM? A museum security expert, an end-customer, an integrator and a hardware manufacturer discussed the challenges of a PSIM project from their role’s perspective.

When there’s no alignment, things move way slower than they should and, worse, many mistakes are made. There’s no fun when the business activity is stopped, right? But forget about money.

There’s a more important cost of all the mistakes that could happen in the safety and security world. Actually, it’s the most important cost that has to be avoided: loss of human lives.

So we’ve tried to help by discussing and analysing the Challenges of a PSIM project with:

An alignment between integrators, manufacturers, consultants and end-customers can only result in PSIM projects that move smarter and faster. And that actually save lives.

Challenges of a PSIM project | May 25, 2022 at 10 AM

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [1:05]: Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us today. My name is Youri Van Der Zwalmen and I’ll be your host for today’s webinar about the challenges of a PSIM project. 

Before we kick off, you’ve probably seen in the invitation that our CEO and founder Mohamed Skhrairi was supposed to be hosting today’s event. Unfortunately, he has been sick with a serious cold for the last couple of days and so we thought it would be irresponsible of us to put him behind the screen to host today’s webinar and that’s the reason why I’ll be taking over this event. But luckily for me, I’m joined here by some real experts in the field of security management. They all have agreed to share with us today their expertise and experience in the field of PSIM projects. They will be introducing themselves later throughout the presentation. You don’t see Peter van Bockstal at the moment, but he’s also in the call. 

Moving on to today’s agenda. First of all, a short introduction about PSIM. Many definitions are being used, but just for the sake of this webinar, we’d like to align on one before we start with our first guest. And the first guest is no other than Ibrahim Bullut, a museum security expert. He’ll be sharing with us today his insights on risk assessment and the impact it might have on the return on security investments. Ibrahim will be followed by Frederik Vercuyssen of the University of Ghent, and he will be giving us an insight from an end customer’s perspective on the advantages of open systems. And then it’s Jasper Snoeck’s turn, he’s representing Alertis, a major integrator in the security business. As a PSIM seller and integrator, he raises the question of whether it is all worth it and whether the complexity is not too high in PSIM projects.  We will be closing today’s session with Peter van Bockstal of Nedap Security Management. He will talk about the empty promise of integrations and unifications in hardware from a manufacturer’s perspective. I’m glad to have all these experts on board joining us today to share their insights on these topics. 

Before I hand over the floor to our experts to introduce themselves, I want to mention that if you have any questions, please write them in English in the chat. We will either deal with them at the end of each speaker’s session or at the very end of the webinar when we have a Q&A moment. Should we run out of time, we will come back to each of you. 

PSIM – or P-SIM, depending on where you put the accent – it’s an abbreviation that stands for physical security information management. This category of software is designed to integrate multiple unconnected security applications into one solution. 

Youri Van Der Zwalmen | Addvals

And that could be hardware and/or software regardless of the manufacturer or the type or the product or the version. In fact, the big advantage of such an interconnectedness platform is really that the solution enables you to automate workflows and processes, because they have a very strong process engine within. And those workflows and processes can as well be related to security management, as to building management and this within a large variety of verticals. Think of office buildings, museums, prisons, hospitals, factories, but it could also be public spaces. All industries where complex processes, security of assets, and people come together and need in fact to be managed.

The result of such a solution is not simply that it will provide you control of all of those devices, but that it will also give the user a unified experience. So no more switching between different applications to grasp what’s going on at the certain event, and no more random response to certain situations. That is, in fact, in a nutshell, what PSIM is all about. In my opinion, there is for sure a return on investment when using such an application in real life. And our first speaker knows all about it, he’ll be introducing us into the concept of return on security investments. So Ibrahim, the floor is yours.

Ibrahim Bulut, Museum Security Expert – Preliminary risk assessment and its impact on ROSI | Challenges of a PSIM project

Ibrahim Bulut [6:42]: Thank you very much, Youri, for the introduction. First of all, I would like to thank all of the participants for being in this early morning session to see us experts, as Youri was telling us that we are, to listen to our little bit of a conversation that we would like to do regarding PSIM. So I’m going to introduce myself first. My name is Ibrahim Bullut, I’m a museum security expert and a senior security consultant with plus 10 years of experience in security. I did quite some PSIM or building management system projects in several institutions and more often within the museum sector.

When we discuss challenges of a PSIM project, first of all, there are several definitions that people give to these kinds of systems. You have a piece of metaphysical security information management system, but you also have people who would talk about security management systems or building management systems. A PSIM for me is another layer on top of all the other intrusion, fire detection systems and so on. As a security consultant, we did a whole project of a PSIM development for clients within security. 

First of all, for us it is important to do a thorough and in depth security audits or risk assessments. Why is that? If you look in the overall project process, or the process plan that needs to be developed, and take it into account when there is a security project going on within a customer’s facility or entity, risk assessment is the first and most important part to get all the information and knowledge of what are the problems, what is needed to be secured. You need to have your threats and risks and everything else be put in detail in that risk assessment. Because if you don’t know what you have to protect you against as a customer in this project regarding security, what are the next steps that you’re going to take? 

We see these kinds of projects as a sort of House of Cards that you can build, and the solid foundation is the knowledge that you need about risks, threats, and what are you going to protect yourself against. So if that is not known, then every next step that you take within your risk assessment or your risk process or an issue in your security process is a not well founded or not well developed security strategy.

You need to know your risks. If you look within that aspect, you can see that there are several items that you need to see within security and one of the more needed items that we have in the security project – and I think our Dutch and our Belgian attendees will certainly know that – there are four physical pillars within the security. These pillars are built up within the first pillar as an organisational security measurement that you need, then you have your physical security requirements, you have your electronic parts and then you have your reaction parts.

If we look into the whole process of that reaction part, we can certainly agree that a PSIM or security management system or building management system, is needed in the reaction phase. The reaction phase is always something that is going to happen – when there is something going wrong, or an alarm coming, then this information needs to be given towards an operator in a central operating room or a SOC [security operations centre] or a control room and this operator needs to react to this kind of information.

For me, a piece of PSIM is a very important item within the whole process of that captation of alarms that are coming in sight. So, what people are more often doing is they have separate systems like intrusion detection, fire detection, access control and so on several kinds of systems, but to keep a good view of all these alarms that are coming inside, all these alarms that are going to be given throughout the whole system, as an operator, you need to understand and have a good reaction towards these alarms. If you [as a business] have all separate systems, an operator in a control room has to look at all these separate systems. That’s time consuming, they can make mistakes, and your process to decide what you have to do can be very very difficult. And you can make mistakes because so many different alarms on so many different systems need to be captured by that one or two people. 

If you have a PSIM or a security layer that is on top of these several detection security systems, it can capture all the levels and give an overview that has a good view regarding which alarms are coming up. That system can integrate all the other security systems in one layer and it will also have an impact on what we call a return on investment.

So if you look towards a management team, in a big PSIM project, they will always ask you “What is the return on investment if we invest several 100 1000s of 10,000 euros towards these kinds of systems?”. The return on security investment is very important.

If you can handle or you can solve one big security breach that you have and that you have encountered within that security management system, PSIM will have that return on investment already.

So it is very important within the whole project that you can see the whole development of the several systems, the alarms and the risks that are around these security breaches that are possible in your organisation. Those are captured within your security risk assessment, a document that is going to give you all the information you need to know about what you have to protect yourself against.

And then, within the third pillar of the security management process, people will say, “Okay, we have electronic equipment that we are building into our entity or premise. These several techniques that are being built need to give me all the information that’s captured in a PSIM. So if we see the first step, risk assessment, understanding what are the things that you’re going to protect.

So for me, these items are very, very important because you have several items that are very important for the organisation, such as the critical value, as they call it – personnel or your building or some process or your brand name. The critical value that needs to be protected will be assessed within the risk assessment. 

The next step that we’ll be taking, if you go to the pillars, after the physical security and electronics, is the reaction phase, where you have that PSIM. And there your PSIM and your security management system will have a huge impact. 

The feedback that I receive from clients is that they say that “PSIM is giving me peace of mind that I know that all the alarms that are in the underlying security systems are coming and popping up and that we can see and capture everything, at one glance on 2-3-4 screens as a security management system”.

And you can do a lot of things with PSIM – it can help you to predict some items, see the alarms easier and operators can react faster. Operators can react more thoroughly to a specific item or issue that is happening there. That can give you a return on security investment at that moment, because you know what your building is doing, you can enhance your aspect of security assessment towards these kinds of things.

Ibrahim Bulut | Museum Security Expert

You start with your risk assessment, you develop your critical values – “what do I need to protect?” – and one of the items that can help you and that will give you a return on security investment is PSIM software, even if there is just one item or one incident that happened. Also, the communication will be much easier and better. Everything will be streamlined to one specific decision model. And that decision model is, for me, also the piece that will help people to give the right reaction. 

If you look in the security aspects, you have something – I think the Dutch and the Belgian attendees will certainly understand – detection, alarming and reaction. So you have a quick detection, a quick alarm, but the reaction part does not need not only to be very quick, but also it needs to be the right decision, so the right reaction that you need to give towards an incident that’s happening. And with the right decision making process, PSIM can help you and it will streamline everything.

So with big events/incidents that are happening, a PSIM can certainly help you to give you the right reaction as a security operator in a security operating control room. For me, these items are very, very important. So that’s the wholesale return on security investment and it’s certainly something that a PSIM can bring you. 

A lot of clients say “Yeah, but why do we need an extra layer above these security components that we already have? We made an investment.” But the PSIM is really a valuable and valid security investment that you do above your security layer to communicate and to have your perfect streamlining and the process when an incident happens. So I think, Youri, the thing that I would like to tell you about my part as a security consultant, and the whole process of a security project that we do, is the information that I’ve given a return on security investment risk assessment is very important. And that’s the whole process of how we develop nice PSIM projects.

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [18:50]: Can anyone do a ROSI calculation? Is there a specific methodology?

Ibrahim Bulut [19:01]:

There are some specific methods that you can use for a risk assessment. You have the ISO 31,000 – that’s an umbrella assessment that you can do, but the ISO 31,010 will give you around 31 techniques that you can use.

What is very important for me as a security consultant are participative risk workshops. Even somebody who’s working as a security director or a CSO in a company, he or she doesn’t have all the knowledge, so you need to get all the people that are important and put them around the table. So 6-7 people need to discuss an objective item, otherwise it’s very subjective and it will be only the vision of the security director, but you need to capture all the visions of everybody.

Ibrahim Bulut | Museum Security Expert

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [20:13]: Okay, okay. Thanks for the clarification, Ibrahim. So, moving on to our next speaker, Friedrich Vercuyssen of the University of Ghent, he’ll be giving us an insight from an end customer’s perspective on the advantages of open systems. So, Frederick, the floor is yours.

Frederik Vercruyssen @ Ghent University – The advantages of open platforms | Challenges of a PSIM project

Frederik Vercruyssen [20:37]: Good morning, everyone. My name is Frederick Vercuyssen, I work for the University of Ghent. I have worked with a PSIM system since the beginning or maybe the end of the 90s. Maybe a short introduction of who we are: at University of Ghent we have a rather big real estate portfolio. Today, we have about 200 buildings connected to our current PSIM system. In 1998, we had a security room or mostly security control room, which consisted of a bunch of telephones and one computer. The computer was there for sending emails, reading the newspaper and making reports. The telephone’s main objective was collecting alarms. At the end of the 90s, we decided we should have a graphic layer on top of our connected systems. At the end of 1998, we started with our first PSIM system, which was a closed black box, and we started connecting some buildings.

The advantage of a closed system is that you can put all the responsibility with your integrator, your software supplier – he’s the only responsible when you have a small organisation, so this can be a favourite of yours. But our organisation tended to be growing and growing each year, so we ran into some issues – you can call them disadvantages or issues.

The first issue was that we were fully dependent on our external partner. When we would like to add another system, we always had to pass by our external partner, and there was a rather big delay of connecting alarm points to our system. We also had to work with the standard look and feel of the programme, which means we had to adapt our internal procedures to the way our software supplier told us it would be good for us. When you’re in a small organisation, you can easily change the procedure, but within a large organisation with a lot of connected buildings, this was hard and very frustrating for the people working in our control room.

Years passed by and we added more and more systems to our PSIM system and we were running into some of the limitations of the standard programme. So we started talking about customization. Customization means money and difficulties when you want to change a version. Every customization we did in the past, we always had to redo and redevelop the customization for the new version. Adding buildings, a lot of points and systems always meant we had to stop or we had to go to our supplier asking him or her “Would you please mind adding 500,000 extra points to our system?”, which meant that when we had a new building up and running, three, four or five, six months later we were still connecting testing points to our system. And the years between 2002 and 2010-12, it changed from close to open system, we ran into several issues, missed alarms. And we had no idea what the reason or what caused the alarms to be missed because we could not log in and look into the black box. We knew there were connected systems – for example, five panels, intrusion detection, access control, temperature, essential temperature sensors -, they all provided us with a lot of data, which was worked by the PSIM system, but from time to time we missed one.

Frederik Vercruyssen [25:44]: So we had to do some testing. But when you have 20,000, or more connected points, you can do a test for about 10% and when you have an issue, it’s always the one of the other 90% you haven’t tested. So in 2012-2013, after we had some major incidents of missed alarms with a little more consequences, often a door which was open and should be closed, we decided we should take a look at another system. 

We started a public tender in 2013, which we finalised about the beginning of 2016, and we made the choice for an open system. We knew it had some “disadvantages”. Now, the responsibility was no longer with the software supplier, but it was more of a partnership between the University and the software supply, which meant we needed stricter procedures for changes on the system – because most of the changes on the system were done by me and my colleagues at university -, but we liked to have a system which is reliable. So, we made procedures when we add a system, like a checklist with some points that should certainly be done (checked). And we added control procedures every two or three months about the most critical system, such as connected alarm voice.

When you have the system more or less built in a partnership between the customer and the supplier, the customer must want to invest in people who are maintaining the system at the customer’s site, which gives you the opportunity to acquire more inside knowledge about the system.

Frederik Vercruyssen [28:21]: The advantages of an open system. You’re in control. It’s not as in the past, the software supplier is in control, but you are in control, you decide how the system should and must work. You can adapt the system to your own or try to adapt to your own internal procedures. When you’re a small company, you might have little internal procedures, but when you’re a large company with a lot of internal customers, you might have a lot of internal procedures. In the past we had to change or adapt our way of working to the software. Now we are changing the software to our procedures which tends to be more acceptable for our internal customers. 

You’re also less dependent on your partner. When you decide to change partners, you have the knowledge how your system is built, because you have a lot of in-house knowledge of how the system and the box works. As we have a large real estate portfolio, buildings are connected-disconnected, systems are connected-disconnected, not on a daily basis, but probably on a weekly or two-three days basis. So in the past, we also always had to pass what to ask to the supplier, “Would you please mind changing layout? Would you please mind disconnecting-connecting an intrusion panel and an alarm panel?”. Now we can do this all by ourselves and we can be much closer to reality as before.

Frederik Vercruyssen [30:29]: In the past, we had a delay of about three to six months before a building or a system could be connected. Today, before we take a building in use, or we move people into a building, we connect the building. An open system makes it a lot easier to connect other systems. We did the development ourselves, for connecting our access control system. We have two versions of it today, when we decide to add, for example, extra temperature sensors, co2 metres – which is something we have a lot today in our classrooms -, or when we decide to add a new system. When the system is kinda less open, or the supplier is willing to give you the communication protocol, you can use an existing driver or you can ask the supplier of the software – “Could you please help me and you can do it?” and you can do all the development and connection yourself. 

In the past, we were a little blocked / captured in a box with our old system. The system was custom developed by a software developer and they were the only ones who could do the maintenance on the system. Today we have a system which is open, we have a number of integrators working with the system. So if our current integrator should decide he would no longer work with us or should decide he would no longer work with our current system, there are a lot of options to go to another supplier to another integrator or to another party for support. 

So, when we did the change of the system back in 2016, we had a lot of doubts. Should we change everything from the old system to the new system? Should we take a part of the responsibility? Should we invest in extra people for acquiring more in-house knowledge? Today, after years of working with our current and open system, the answer is absolutely yes. I should advise everyone to take a system you can control and don’t take the system that controls you. Thank you.

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [33:36]: Thank you, Frederick, it seems that you’re convinced and that you’re happy. 

Frederik Vercruyssen [33:46]:

I’m a happy customer and I’m convinced every day that the open system was the only good choice to make for a company with a real estate portfolio like ours.

Frederik Vercruyssen | Ghent University

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [34:00]: Thank you. There are some questions, but just to safeguard the time, I will keep them just at the end for you, Frederick. So, in the meantime, we can move on to our next speaker, which is Jasper Snoeck of Alertis. Jasper is, within Alertis, the Customer Innovation Manager. They sell PSM and they also integrate PSIM and he will be talking today about whether it’s all worth it, whether it’s not too complex to sell and integrate PSIM. Jasper, the floor is yours.

Jasper Snoeck, Customer Innovation Manager @ Alertis – Challenges of an integrator with a PSIM solution in his portfolio | Challenges of a PSIM project

Jasper Snoeck [34:45]: Thank you, Youri. I hope everybody can hear me. Okay. Hi, everyone. As Youri said, I’m a Customer innovation Manager at Alertis, where I’ve worked for more than 10 years. I have a background in building automation. Although I started as a project manager, I am now actually assisting our current project managers and clients in more or less the bigger picture, integrating their security needs in a more convenient way to act because we are not only a box mover, we want to provide a solution to our customer. We have been a safety and security installer for more than 30 years, with the focus on high end solutions for fire detection, intrusion detection, access control, CCTV and gas detection systems. We have four offices across borders, we currently have a headcount of 110 people, 70 technicians and 17 project managers. In these more than 30 years, we have more than 20,000 panels now in service with our customers. 

We are an independent integrator, this is a choice that we made, and actually a challenging choice for an integrator. We search in the market for the best in class products. This means that for our customers there’s no vendor blocking. We will have to do our best for our customers. Otherwise, they can go to anybody else who does the same panels. So for us, it’s a very important part to provide the best service to customers. 

We have all those different types of panels, but they are from different brands and they all have their own software and they are more or less integrated in their own soft. 

So we get this question a lot: “Can we have one system that integrates everything so that we don’t have to go to one software for creating an access control system, and then go to that system to change something on this fire  panel?”

And then the story about PSIM is getting up very quickly and they see these very nice visuals. This is almost always something that they are really keen and really liking. But of course, you will always have to cope with some whistles and bells that you have in the software from specific factors. 

For example, access control – you can do a lot of things with user groups, access areas or others, and if you want to integrate this in your piece of software, it is possible that you will have to do some customization to your specific integration. 

Well, there’s also a challenge for us, that sometimes when we have a new system that you want to integrate, we have to create a gateway. This can be very costly with some PSIMs, so we really have to choose wisely what brands we want to work with. For the hardware part, it’s a very important thing to think about, and also for the pieces of software that we want to work with. So a PSIM that has a lot of integrations already is for us the better choice than having a PSIM that we have to customise and make the integrations ourselves.

Jasper Snoeck [38:44]: Then also another challenge that we have: where do we stop?

Youri said we are a security installer. The question rises very fast with our customer: “How can we integrate KNX or a domotic system as well? And maybe we want our HVAC system to be visible on our PSIM platform because this really has some similarities with the normal building management system”. And then, yeah, we have to draw a line. We cannot do everything and maybe we are not not familiar with their system. So then we will have to work with external consultants, for example, to make these integrations.

Jasper Snoeck [39:31]: And other challenges that we face is: what if there is more than one security installer? There are customers that are not only working with us. Sometimes there is already somebody who is doing the CCTV system and we are doing the rest, for example. Sometimes it’s 50/50, and then we will have to discuss with that other company (that most of the time it’s a competitor of ours) to integrate with our system. 

And then, of course, nowadays very actual is finding the right technical skill people to implement this. I’m glad to say that our 70 technicians are very well skilled. But to be able to install a piece of software and the complete integration, you will need to have a higher level of skills than normal, not just someone who has little understanding about some little programming or configuration. 

So with all those challenges in mind, it’s very important for us to focus on the added value for the customer. And we try to be as standardised as possible, because if we have to do every installation on a customised level, this is almost unmaintainable for us, and also for the customer sometimes. 

So we really try to focus in the conversations with clients on the fact that these are the building blocks that we already have for them, try to use these and then when we have some updates or when you’re adding some functions that are just for one customer, we ‘re just able to do that because most of the time we will have a maintenance contract on those types. 

Some unique selling points: the advantage of workflows and procedures, because it’s more than just nice visuals. If that would have been the case, they will never be thousands of euros. The advantages of workflows and procedures is especially the fact that it can send notifications to operators and let them know what to do depending on the kind of situation. Imagine having a fire alarm – I hope it doesn’t happen a lot, but if it happens – maybe the training was already a year ago, it’s not on top of their mind to know what all the procedures are. And fast localization is a very quick help to go forward. 

For example, in very big manufacturing plants, they had the A0 printouts, a very big plan with all the fire detectors or intrusion detectors on there. Trying to find which detector is now an alarm is very hard, especially if you’re not that familiar with the plant, and it’s very hard to find it. What we see now more and more is that they want a screen, so when there is an event they want to highlight a specific area, sometimes even with touchscreens so that they can go in and see what the problem is and be more precise in auditing.

Another thing is logging of actions across all the platforms. The fact that we are an independent security installer and we have all the different software’s, all the different panels, they all have their own login. Having them integrated into one system is also much easier if there’s an intrusion event and in the same moment, there was also an unauthorised access, for example, because then you will see that together on the platform. 

When you don’t have a PSIM platform, you will have to check on every system and supervise individually.

Something that I really put my finger on is that it’s a misunderstanding that you only always need to have an operator that is constantly looking at the screen. You can have a service desk with a screen that’ll make a sound when there’s something’s going on. You can check whatever there is and then you can continue with your procedure. So you can make it work for you, instead of the other way around. 

There is an integration of software between all these different systems. For example, when there is a fire event or an unauthorised access event, you can turn the PTZ camera in that specific area. This is something you would have to make gateways on a lower level, if you don’t have PSIM. So what we do then is make the expectations very clear to our customers. What we have in mind and what the customer has in mind is always a little bit different. They think they will be able to do everything, but we have a very specific thing in our head of what’s going to be possible and we try to write it down very clearly. It’s very important that we have a very good wireframe in front of the whole project, similar to the case that Ibrahim mentioned.

What is also very important to say is that the customer needs to be engaged. He knows he needs the best, we can not be that type of company that has a complete understanding of what is the necessity of that specific customer. And that’s actually what Frederik understands very well. It’s an open system, you have to do the integration, but there has to be somebody at the customer site who is also very aware about how the system works.

Just to conclude, that’s why we like to work with a PSIM software that has well defined building blocks: we can use those building blocks and just put them in and we have a very fast installation of the PSIM software. Nobody wants this to be a project of two or three months with a lot of bug fixing. If it’s necessary, then we can build around those building blocks and create some customization – because there’s always some -. Also, a very good thing about those defined building blocks is that for newer technicians or inexperienced technicians, it’s easier to step into the holes. That’s in general something that is challenging for us, but we have some nice solutions for customers.

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [47:29]

Okay, Jasper, thank you for sharing your insights and experiences. I’ve remembered: try to standardise and have a clear definition of the scope of the project. And, of course, the customer needs to be engaged if you want this project to be a success. We have some questions, but again, I’ll keep them for the end of the session. So my next speaker is Peter, who is working for Nedap. Peter, the floor is yours.

Peter van Bockstal, Regional Sales Manager Belux and Southern Europe @ Nedap Security Management – Staying focused as a manufacturer | Challenges of a PSIM project

Peter Van Bockstal [48:16]: Good afternoon, everyone. Before I kick off, a little introduction about myself and about the company I work for. I’m a child of the early 80s, I studied electronics and at Nedap is my job, but actually my main focus is my family. I’m married, I have two daughters, one of whom is a year old, and the other is three years old. If there is some time left, I love gardening, cycling and cooking, and eating of course. Now, I’ve been in the security industry since 2004 and, through the years, I’ve had various roles, from technical to commercial. Next week, I’ll be working for 10 years for Nedap Security Management, where I held various roles, sales oriented. I was responsible for partner management for a while and I did client management for the past two and a half years, responsible for sales in Belux as well as in southern Europe.

Nedap is a Dutch company, founded in 1929, and Nedap Security Management is a division of Nedap. It’s a software manufacturer, but also produces some hardware controllers and beta readers to support this software. Nedap Security Management has been active in access control for 43 years, so we have quite some experience in electronic access control. I think we can state that we are Europe’s number one in higher access control. Amongst our customers, we have large organisations, multinationals in industry, but also a lot of banks and European institutions. Our system is installed, integrated and supported by a large network of channel partners, and one of those channel partners, expert channel partners, is Alertis.

That’d be said, at Nedap we sincerely believe in the best of breed, this means focusing on what you’re good at. For us, this definitely is access control, local management and intrusion detection. And we do this with our platform AEOS, which has been out there in the market for more than 20 years. AEOS is a powerful identity and authorization engine for the physical world, and has a lot of functionality, flexibility, and of course, top notch IT security measures on board. 

On top of that, we also have a graphical interface, you can add maps into our system and you can put interactive symbols, such as representing doors, cameras, barriers, intrusion sensors, so you can see the states of all these alarm points and also control them remotely (open a door, inhibit an intrusion sensor etc.). However, this is quite limited to our system components. And it’s limited in functionality and scale. 

Now, as said, we believe in the best of breed. For what we don’t like to do or what we don’t want to do, we have collaborations with technology partners. Together with them, we form a team of community managers, managers, experts, developers and testers, and we provide solutions, a whole ecosystem around our AEOS platform. 

We have quite a large number of technology partners and they bring solutions for video, for biometrics, wireless locks, and, of course, also for PSIM. Prysm is a technology partner of ours. We have quite a strong collaboration with these market leaders in the security industry and what this actually brings to our clients is that they can freely choose for a combination of solutions that best fit their needs. This freedom of choice, actually, is what best of breed means for our end customers. 

Peter Van Bockstal [54:04]: Now, a market observation is that some customers claim that they can bring one unified solution to the market. You see, for example, video manufacturers brought their portfolio and also started with access control. You see American companies that pop up from the ground and they immediately claim that they can do everything from access control to intrusion and video. Now, this is often a false promise.

Firstly, you cannot be the best at everything. You can mostly be the best and one, but not in all disciplines. And you see many of those new systems are even at the highest average at every security discipline. And yeah, imagine having all your eggs in one basket. This is not always the best idea. Imagine the basket breaks. These types of systems implicate a vendor locker, so you’re really tightened. You don’t have the freedom of choice anymore. Imagine you don’t like the video aspect of such a solution, or the access control aspect and that you want to go for another solution. These types of solutions are, most of the time, quite close. So you cannot integrate these types of solutions into the system that you’ve chosen before. In those unified systems, there is also often some basic map functionality. But again, this is also really limited, it’s really not even a mini, but let’s say micro PSIM.

Peter van Bockstal [55:57]

We often recommend going for real PSIM. We have very big customers and our floor plans are definitely not powerful enough for very large installations. So for big and complex installations, we definitely tell our customers to go for a full blown PSIM. And, of course, this enables them to scale up really well, because good PSIM are really built to add a lot of access control points quite easily, so you can scale up quite fast. Also, big companies, they ask a lot of complexity. A good PSIM has a strong alarm and event handling and when combined with a workflow feature, one guard can pass on alarms to another guard when he is busy handling a very important one. 

Another challenge can be when you have different systems from different manufacturers and you want to unify them. Imagine you have locations all over the globe, you have three video systems, you want all video streams unified in the same system, so a PSIM comes in handy to have everything combined, especially if you want to keep these three video systems all over the globe. Or this can also be a transitional phase, and then a PSIM comes in really handy as well. So imagine having the three VMS – one is outdated, one you don’t like because it doesn’t have enough functionality, and then the third one you like. You want to transition all cameras, all locations to one system, but you cannot do this overnight, so then a PSIM software comes in handy. Bit by bit, you can make this transition. This also applies for access control. So unification of all this data into one platform, and having the ability to have everything in one reporting engine is really helpful.

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [58:41]: Thank you very much for sharing your experience. What I’ve remembered: you can’t be good at everything and watch out for vendor locking.

Q & A

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [58:55]: Moving on to the questions. Let me start with you, Jasper. Can we state that the sales process is more like a consultative selling process and at the same time you deliver a solution to the client? So the relationship between you and the potential client is also stronger from the beginning?

Jasper Snoeck [59:29]: Yeah, that’s actually completely right. We don’t really have salespeople, they are almost always project managers who have to do the sales themselves. But what we’re really focusing on is that the customer has to trust us, we need to gain their trust, so we try to be a good consultant to them. We are not selling PSIM software, that’s not what we are doing. We really want to show them that there is an added value to it. So we have these systems, they sometimes also have systems from other integrators, but this has an added value, and we try to make sure that it feels like this is what they need, not like something that we want to sell to them. We want to have a happy customer, because afterwards we will also have to do the service on those ecosystems.

Left: Youri Van Der Zwalmen / Addvals. Right: Jasper Snoeck / Alertis

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [1:00:29]: Okay, so it is about a really long term relationship, because the purpose is that the client sees you more as a partner instead of somebody that solely sells a solution.

Jasper Snoeck [1:00:37]: This is the thing that we really feel as a company ourselves as well. We see that our customers are coming to us not with the idea that there’s another salesman coming over. Now, sometimes we’re even too honest to our customers, but I think they really appreciate that. 

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [1:00:54]: Thank you. Question for Peter: are there ways or recommendations on how a manufacturer and a PSIM provider can improve the partnership between themselves?

Peter van Bockstal [1:01:11]: Yeah, for sure. Actually, we put more and more focus on technology partnerships and how we do this is that we have a separate technology partner team. One of my colleagues is here, actually. Ruben Brinkman, together with his colleagues from the technology partner team, is responsible for good integrations. Integrations are quite important and they have to be tested all the time, just to make sure that all versions are aligned.

We also put a lot of emphasis on the level of commercial collaboration and that’s where community managers come in. The community managers make the bridge between our technology partners and our channel partners, like Alertis. So it’s really a unified way of collaborating. And these three parties can bring a full, well functioning solution to the customer with the necessary advice included. 

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [1:02:21]: Interesting. Thank you, Peter. Ibrahim, as a security consultant, is there a kind of ideal process that you can recommend for potential clients that they go through to make the decision?

Ibrahim Bulut [1:02:43]: I don’t think there exists an ideal process because every project, every customer, every sector is different. And so it really depends on what the client would like to do.

What I always like to bear in mind is that we have one mouth and two ears, so listen very, very well to your customer, and hear and understand what his or her specific demands are.

And then, like I said, first of all, go through the risk assessment, see what is the status, what is the solid base, what is the baseline, and build upon that baseline, because, to be very honest, we live in difficult times where everything is changing. And we have seen in the last two, three years, that we need to be very agile and mobile. You have to have pieces that are quite easy and accessible to change in every dynamic environment. So agility and mobility are very important because it’s not only the operator in the SOC, but it’s also now about the people. In the last two-three years people have been so very mobile, they work from home, so you need to have that access also from home. So this means mobility, mapping to get the right data, having the right decision making process.

If you’re asking me: is there one unique identified process for a PSIM project?  No. It’s good listening, understanding and seeing and being able to be a little bit future proof.

And then I’m talking about security as a service or software as a service platform, cloud based abilities and so on. There is no one specific answer that I can give to you, Youri, my apologies.

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [1:04:47]: No problem if you don’t have a straightforward answer, you already helped us. A question to all of you:

What opportunities are out there for PSIM for further innovation?

Ibrahim Bulut [1:05:08]: Maybe I can answer that already. It’s artificial intelligence. I think that artificial intelligence will be the next step. Jasper was talking about it, I think Peter was also talking about capturing data. How are we getting that data? What is coming in? How are we going to capture that big data and big data analysis? So, I think, real time camera surveillance, artificial intelligence, instead of CCTV, we are talking about IoT and sensors. And I also think what is very, very important, what we see in the past when we have old PSIM, that’s really difficult. Now at the moment we have IT security that is also a very important item. So I think these kinds of things in the future will certainly be challenges for us. And I think also for the PSIM projects.

Jasper Snoeck [1:06:15]: If I can add to that, actually it was already said: the software as a service is for us a very important part. Because updating management software systems is very costly, if you have to go every three-six six months. This is not always always working. Sometimes we have some discussions with IT as well, having a system in a cloud-based solution or as a service, updates are automatically done and they are just there from the moment that you deploy them. That’s a way of working that we now are using for some systems that we use internally and it works just very well.

People are even glad when they see something changed. It’s the same with the apps on our phone. So also a very important part of the future, having proprietary software to be installed on all different PCs – if we can go away from that in the future or in the near future. This is something that will be very interesting.

Peter van Bockstal [1:07:25]: That’s also something else, Youri. What we detected in the market is also a large demand for more and more workflow applications. So there are already some workflow boards in most of the PSIMs I’m aware of, but to even enlarge this, I think an authorization manager would also be a very good addition to the portfolio.

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [1:07:55]: We have another question coming in.

“What about centralised system management? e.g.: I need to change a node’s name – can I do this from a PSIM system where the node’s name also changes automatically in the subsystem it originally resides on? Or are changes still needed to be decentralised?”

Kristof | Event Attendee

Ibrahim Bulut [1:08:25]: I think that’s an answer Jasper can give.

Jasper Snoeck [1:08:30]: That’s something that we also work on. We want to be very clear: when we are working with a PSIM software, you want to have one place where you can do everything. We are really working on the fact that if you change the name of the PSIM, it also has to change in the underlying panel, for example, fire panel, but also the other way around. 

For example, we have DVT plans or AutoCAD plans and yes, they change. That’s how it is. And we don’t want to put a new built design plan in AutoCAD and then take it over on the PSIM. This is a very hard cross reference. So if we can do things automatically, like for example, DBG imports that are automatically synced with the PSIM software at object level even, this is the best way of working. 

And also the question we had here, about the other way around when we do an adaptation in the PSIM. It also has to be done in the system as otherwise there’s no added value. So this is actually what you want in a PSIM, it’s the added value. One system where you can do everything that you have to do on a regular basis.

Ibrahim Bulut [1:09:56]: Maybe I can add something else. We are also working with architects on design, build finance, maintain projects, and what we also see as the advantages of BIM 360, and we can have the 3D layers integrated in the whole thing. But, I think, the question is protocol based. That’s what Frederick was telling about open vendor neutral systems that need to be integrated. Because there you can have the two way communication, every protocol needs to be like BACnet, OPC, Modbus.

As Jasper was saying, when one person is changing in one system, the whole layers are coming down, and everything has to be changed in one item. I think that’s also that aspect of mobility. And it’s also what Peter was talking about, I think, that graphical alarm handler that you guys have within that system. You have to see and get all the information. We need to give to operators the mobility and the mapping. Everything needs to be there and it needs to be real time information. When there is an incident happening, all the information is coming that you can change as the one. So I think a PSIM that is open vendor neutral that can integrate these BIM 360 aspects and all the integrations, like Jasper was saying, about AutoCAD layers to protocols. That’s a very important item, and I think there are systems on the market that are available and are able to do these kinds of things.

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [1:11:49]: Yeah. And there’s somebody from the audience who asks:

“Do you see any possibility to introduce blockchain technology to “PSIM world” to move forward to a more decentralised approach?”

Giovanni | Event Attendee

Ibrahim Bulut [1:12:09]: To be very honest, I think blockchain is a very important one, because then you can see the history and all the data. I think that’s a process and procedure level, you can certainly integrate, it needs a lot of big data. I think there are possibilities. But how would we integrate? I noticed Horizon 2020 from the European Union is investing in these kinds of items. And I see a lot of blockchain possibilities. I think that will be a future aspect. Can we integrate it? That’s a question more to the vendors if we can do that. And can we capture all that data? I think, yes, but you, Jasper, or Alertis, already has these kinds of systems for capturing all this big data in a big pool, so I think that you maybe can interact a little bit more. I would assume that blockchain will certainly be something that you can add, if you can do it in the right, correct way. Why not?

Jasper Snoeck [1:13:09]: This is actually a very big question that we have a lot about the security needs for systems. We already have systems or IoT platforms in place where we are using the Azure Cloud Platform. But yeah, we use the security of Azure as well, so you’re not really working on our own blockchain technology to do specific stuff. So we really are a big company, but we are also small. We are also a little bit dependent on what the bigger services like the cloud services provide to us.

And I think that the same goes for some other developers as well. You cannot invent everything yourself, so you will have to use building blocks that are already there. And it has to be maintainable also in the future and then you have to question how far do you have to go? That’s also a question. At least at this moment, but maybe if you want to be future proofed, like Ibrahim said, you have to think in advance. Because when we have the new supercomputers that are coming out, quantum computers, blockchain will maybe be hacked. I don’t know what is going to happen in the future. So yeah, it’s a big question. But it’s always very fluid.

Ibrahim Bulut [1:15:09]:  Now, what I see in the past when we had PSIM projects, it was more often people sitting at a table at an OT (operational) level and what I see now, and that’s also the question a little bit that that Yuri was asking, I see a lot of IT people, IT people who are very, very good at IT security, but they have no knowledge about the physical security or the things that are going on the floor itself. So what we see now on a big project – that’s sometimes a difficult way of working, but we can certainly solve – is that OT and IT levels stick together. We have to communicate as an integrator or security consultant, or as a client, we have to deal also with these parts.

And I think that blockchain is also a very important aspect within IT and that needs to be integrated. So I think what we will need in the future is the stakeholders that we need at the table for a PSIM project, not only the end customer. So the people who are doing the subsystems, the internal IT, the operational level. I think five, six parties coming together will be a challenge for the future. Our systems are capable of doing that [e.g. blockchain], but we need the right people at the right moment at the table.

Jasper Snoeck [1:16:37]: I had a meeting not a long time ago, like this, with the IT people and the end customer and I was more or less like a moderator to make sure that they don’t fight with each other at the table. So we still have some work to do there.

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [1:16:56]: We have a question about pricing.

“What’s the budget scale we’re looking at for a PSIM? Subscription wise? One-time only + update subscription? Per node? Per service?”

Kristof | Event Attendee

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [1:17:10]: What I can share is that the price of a PSIM project it is based on the number of points, number of cameras, readers, audio, architecture type, whether it’s multi user or whether it’s federation. And also, of course, the options, whether you take a GIS site optic video overlay. I won’t go too deep into this because we can elaborate a long time about pricing. I suggest that we answer this question directly also to the person who asks. Is there anything else you experts would like to share or mention?

Ibrahim Bulut [1:17:59]: What I would add, Youri, is that

When you’re starting these kinds of PSIM projects, don’t go very, very quickly in a decision of “okay, we need it”. You need to go throughout the whole project to see what are your specific needs, and keep your mind towards what you would like to have and try to make the first internal decision yourself. What is the information that I need?

And what I see a lot with within PSIM projects is that people forget the operator or the person who needs to operate or to work with that PSIM. What if that person is not feeling comfortable with the graphical user interface? See that you talk with correct stakeholders within your group. Ask yourself: What are my possibilities? What do I need? And I think if you do that, and you have the right people around you in a participative workshop, that will help you to think about what are your needs for the future. And do not forget also to make a proof of concept before you integrate everything.

Ibrahim Bulut | Museum Security Expert

Jasper Snoeck [1:19:43]: Just want to add: don’t forget that this is a product that is scalable. You can start with one system and expand in the near future.

A PSIM project can be overwhelming, it can be a big elephant, but we can put it into little pieces and start with the fundamental ones. And then adding things based on your user experience will give you extra ideas to expand or to add functionality. So don’t be overwhelmed by what it could be. Start small, especially if you are not really sure about what it is.

Jasper Snoeck | Customer Innovation Manager @ Alertis

Ibrahim Bulut [1:20:19]: Scalability also helps you to have a project cost-based so that you can see your return on security investment or the investment that you need to do. Scalability and working in phases are also very important because you can see what are the possibilities now and in the future.

Youri Van Der Zwalmen [1:20:39]: There are no other questions, so I’d like to thank you all for your presence and for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us today. I hope we get to see you back in the near future for other webinars. And I would also like to thank the audience. 46 people attended today, which is a success. Thank you all and see you next time!

What other challenges of a PSIM project can you think of? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re thirsty for more information, check out:

Stay Connected

More Updates