Exclusive: Exploring the power of integration

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Andre Meiswinkel, COO, Advancis Software & Services GmbH discusses how the company is helping customers to increase security and save costs with cutting edge integration.

As networking and digitisation steadily continue to advance, it is important for people to work with technical systems that can be operated in a clear and intuitive way. Nowadays, the market offers a multitude of systems providing a mass of information which is hard to keep track of – whether from security management, building automation, communication technology, IoT and Data Mining.

The consolidation of data and control unification

The unification of numerous sensor data is the only logical solution: A PSIM platform consolidates information from all connected systems and prepares it for easy further processing. Not only the current status of these subsystems, e.g. CCTV, access control, fire alarm, HVAC or communication systems, is displayed in a single user interface, but complete subsystem control and central data management is enabled.

The use of a central PSIM platform reduces training costs as the operator has to work with only one system and one user interface. Furthermore, there is less data maintenance effort as changes (like modifications of workflows, changes of phone numbers, CAD plans, etc.) have to be made in only one system. The platform provides dynamic workflows (Standard Operating Procedures/SOPs) that in case of an event or emergency situation, it is easy to manage even for personnel that are less experienced and thus significantly increases security.   

Free choice of technical installations

Generally, a PSIM platform is independent of the installed technical subsystems, i.e. open and vendor-neutral. It is the customer and daily user who should be enabled to freely decide which technical systems and products they would prefer to deploy – on the one hand, with regard to cost planning, but on the other hand the customer can choose whatever system is most suitable for their internal processes and the existing technical infrastructure. Future replacements or upgrades of systems must be very easy to realise too. An open PSIM platform integrates technical subsystems via manufacturer-specific interfaces to enable unified system control. This offers the user the advantage that further subsystems from any manufacturer can be added at a later stage or to renew existing hardware at any time.

Without a PSIM, the systems installed in a building are disparate – of course they detect specific sensor states, e.g. the door of a storage room that has been left open, but this information (detection) is isolated and no other systems are involved – so what action has to follow? For many organisations the procedure to deal with such an event has to be checked in one or even several paper based manuals for the operator to understand, who is to be informed about the incident, what actions have to be taken and as an example even then they are required to go to the relevant location to close the door.

Another example would be an unauthorised access attempt which may often be quite irrelevant as e.g. in larger companies, this happens numerous times a day: An employee would like to enter via one of the doors and the access is simply refused as they are not authorised to access this location. Security operators in the control room will often not pay great attention to such an event due to the frequency as they will be overwhelmed with these. By using a PSIM platform that consolidates information from all connected subsystems and prepares it for the user, those incidents will be detected which are really critical and the single subsystems interact automatically i.e. If there is an unauthorised access attempt, the cardholder’s personal data is automatically transmitted to the control centre, the relevant video cameras located at the door are displayed on the unified user interface, etc. This enables the operator to immediately assess the situation and determine whether this is in fact the card holder or that the person attempting to access the building is an unknown person in possession of an access card, thus presumably the card holder has lost their card, or it has been stolen and an unauthorised person is attempting to enter the building or a secured area.

Control centre personnel are provided with additional tools such as SOPs that are individually adapted to the incident, floor plans and event-related video sequences enabling them to get a full picture of the situation. The WinGuard Mobile App for smartphone/tablet enables additional verification of the incident and acts like an additional sensor: Employees on site can be informed by the control centre about the situation, including the related video sequence and in return they can take pictures of the person attempting to access with their mobile device and re-transfer those to the control centre.

Advancis offers a cost-efficient PSIM platform

Advancis is a global leader in vendor-neutral PSIM with offices and certified integration partners around the world. The company, with its headquarters based close to Frankfurt in Germany, was founded in 1994 with the goal of developing a command and control platform to unify control of disparate security systems and to provide real-time incident handling for security control rooms. Advancis’ mission is to offer the most stable and innovative open PSIM solution on the international market that provides the benefits of open architecture, cost-efficiency and stability.

Advancis’ PSIM platform, WinGuard is used in numerous projects in over 70 countries and provides a truly open and scalable platform for the most diverse project requirements: WinGuard is scalable from a single workstation to an internationally cross-linked control centre and can be extended anytime by the addition of further servers and clients. Currently, over 450 interface drivers to different security, building management, communication systems are available and there are also interfaces to related systems such as ticketing, Computer Aided Dispatch systems and IoT technologies that provides lots of sensors to be integrated.

In addition, development of new interfaces is possible, providing customers with a freedom of choice with regard to their technical systems. WinGuard is developed exclusively in Germany at the company’s headquarters.

Current and future challenges

What are the challenges PSIM manufacturers like Advancis are facing? First of all, a large number of systems have to be integrated in a PSIM platform which involves high effort and lots of resources for the development of new interface drivers. In addition, subsystem manufacturers are constantly improving and extending their functional scope so the interface drivers have to be constantly kept up to date and the full functional scope of each subsystem has to be transferred into our PSIM platform WinGuard.

Besides the high effort of interface development, the PSIM platform itself has to offer a broad range of functions and steadily increase them further. This is, on the one hand, due to the fact that subsystem innovations are continuously rising and on the other hand, that the application possibilities are extensive (e.g. Smart Building, Parking Management, Industrial Sites). 

Due to the fact that WinGuard is used in lots of different verticals and the amalgamation of markets, lots of new technologies such as preventive measures against COVID-19, BIM or IoT have to be considered too. Finally, the sheer volume of sensors (which are represented as datapoints in WinGuard) is steadily rising.

It becomes more and more challenging to offer customers an easy-to-use software solution that can fully integrate any technical system and consider individual needs.

Partnerships and openness are the key

To better face the development and maintenance effort for interfaces and to transfer the added value of upgraded subsystems into WinGuard, we launched our Technology Partner Programme in mid-2019: through closer collaboration with subsystem manufacturers, we improve the integration quality. The detailed information exchange enables both of us as affiliated companies to offer end customers joint solutions as well as a higher service quality. We also ensure that interface drivers are always kept up to date as we are informed about software update cycles in due time.

In the future, we would like to focus even more on the openness of our PSIM platform. Our goal is to offer a totally flexible platform to process and prepare data. We constantly enhance WinGuard’s functionality to address new and existing challenges in the management of incidents, prioritisation of events, intelligent automation, data security and data analysis. The more functions the subsystems connected to WinGuard cover, the more they have to be intelligently integrated in the PSIM platform too so that the user receives well-prepared data depending on the incident, for example, think of creating intelligent graphics for the display of value comparisons or the integration of communication mechanisms to inform exactly those team members that are currently available on site to handle an incident.

Our intention is to establish a comprehensive Advancis ecosystem to ensure that all the needs customers have will be optimally answered. This ecosystem will consist of strategic alliances with subsystem manufacturers to support us in improving the development and maintenance of interfaces, development partners to realise unique and project-specific requirements and partnerships with app developers. Furthermore, we will host a store/marketplace, i.e. an extensive download platform for our customers with regard to additional functionalities, interfaces and applications.

For us as the manufacturer of WinGuard it is, of course, important to continue to develop both interfaces and functionalities ourselves, but we would like to offer our integration partners and users the possibility to become more independent of our own development cycles in case they would like to realise very specific project requirements so that they can provide exactly the functional scope that is required for a project, even if it is very unique. This is why the current WinGuard version is already supporting 3rd party developments of interface drivers. To complement this, the upcoming version that will be released by the end of 2021 will enable 3rd party developments of features and functionalities.

Meeting individual customer requirements

In the last ten years, Advancis has expanded its international business and presence. There are local representations in the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, in the UAE, the UK and in Sweden. Today, around 50% of the company sales come from outside the German-speaking countries (DACH region). According to a B2B sales model, international WinGuard Channel Partners certified by Advancis market and distribute the open PSIM platform WinGuard around the world, execute related projects at customer sites and render any necessary additional software-related services, e.g. individual adaptations by customising, installation and training.

Together with our WinGuard integrators and system partners, we deploy multiple projects across different verticals. As WinGuard is a flexible platform which is scalable from small up to large-sized multi-site projects and can be extended anytime, we provide a solution that can be used wherever the highest security has to be ensured. For example, we have now been in the UK for almost two years with our office located in Leeds. Several integrators have completed our training programme and are now certified Advancis system partners enabling them to install and support WinGuard on their projects such as in the healthcare sector, local authorities, banking and finance and critical national infrastructure.

An open PSIM platform is a software solution making the mass of available data in a control centre controllable and relevant to the situation in hand.

For more information, visit www.advancis.net.

integration
Andre Meiswinkel

This article was published in the April 2021 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital copy on the link here

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