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Exclusive: The next generation of command centres

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Tom Bradley and Simon Morgan of SureView Systems explain how delivering a PSIM as a hosted-service is transforming command centre operations.

In order to keep up with the constantly changing risk-landscape faced by their organisations, security leaders are demanding their incident response systems be more open, agile, resilient, feature-rich and capable of delivering immediate results. To address these goals, people often turn to a PSIM (Physical Security Information Management) to bring all their systems into a single operational platform—ensuring coordinated response across their organisation.

At the same time, they want to achieve these benefits today—without the typically protracted installation projects and IT delays. That’s why many are now looking to software that is delivered as a service (SaaS), eliminating the IT complexity of traditional systems and delivering the scalability and resilience they require. By delivering through the Cloud it provides organisations with expanded possibilities for integration, not only with traditional physical security systems (such as video, access control, alarms etc), but also with business-risk and intelligence services and back-office platforms. With a single interface for response, security teams can simplify operations, saving time, money and improving service.

Original PSIMs can’t keep up

The first generation of PSIMs addressed traditional physical security problems, particularly securing large, single-use locations, such as an airport or stadium. These original systems were often highly customised and tailored to meet the unique requirements of these locations. They were, however, not designed to ‘fit’ an organisational footprint that was constantly growing and changing, often across multiple locations and regions. Indeed, those organisations that have tried to adapt these first generation PSIMs have sometimes struggled to deliver the resilience and agility today’s security executives expect. This is where the Next-Gen PSIMs come in.

SureView Operations: The Next-Gen PSIM delivered as a service

SureView Systems, with its UK headquarters in Swansea, is a 20-year-old company that designs open-response platforms specifically for the security industry. SureView supports a global customer base of leading technology companies, critical infrastructure, enterprise, government and public service organisations. They recently launched SureView Operations (Ops). It’s unique in that it’s the very first PSIM to be delivered as a SaaS, which enables organisations to get started quickly and with minimal risk. Ops also addresses many of the operational requirements that have become important to organisations today, particularly those around integrating emerging technologies, scale and increasing complexity. These upgrades define it as a Next-Gen.

SureView Ops is sold using a subscription-based pricing model (starting at only £125 per user, per month) rather than as a capital project and since there is no hardware to procure or manage, deployments can be made quickly and developed to scale over time as the benefits are proven—no long term commitments are made up front. Many organisations can convert to Ops and pay the same or less than they currently pay in maintenance alone for their existing platform.

Four other ways command centre leaders leverage Next-Gen PSIMs

  1. Scale their operation to respond positively to growth
  2. To improve sharing and collaboration and consequently, improve response-time and outcomes
  3. Mobility—connecting command operators with field staff
  4. Breaking the cycle of obsolescence—as the speed of technological developments accelerates no one wants to be left behind

Scaling

Operational scaling – Doing more with less

Scaling is a term that is often associated with IT infrastructure, but there is another critical aspect of scaling: operational scaling. Put simply this is the ability for a team to take on more work without impacting the service they provide. In today’s environment, the modern security command centre is responsible for more alarms from more locations than ever before. They serve as a triage department for all manner of diverse issues, not just alarms triggered by cameras, doors and IoT devices but also business risk systems, social media watch lists, travel advisories, network systems and, more recently, the operational demands created by COVID-19.

Command centre leaders have just three options to respond to these challenges:

  1. Continue with the status quo and presume that service levels will degrade over time
  2. Add more people and accept this comes with increased cost and complexity
  3. Do it differently

This is where the design of the response interface is critical. It should make operational tasks simpler and clearer, vastly improving the speed and quality of response.

Tom Bradley, Technical Director at SureView in Swansea said: “We designed our interface to show operators only the information relevant to the event, filtering out the “noise” and focusing on the critical data. The litmus test we use at SureView is to test the interface through the lens of an operator on their first day on the job. They have no institutional knowledge, nor do they know where anything is located or who is responsible for what. If they can respond quickly—finding the floorplans, cameras, guards, assets near to the originating event, then we are close to achieving our goal.”

Standardising response across teams and regions can have profound impacts, it provides leadership with a set of metrics that can be used to measure performance and set KPIs.

“We worked with a global technology firm to improve operational efficiency during a period of rapid growth. As alarms increased 6x, response time decreased by 92% – all without increasing operational costs or the need for additional manpower,” said Bradley.

Sharing and Collaboration

Inviting others to the response interface puts everyone on the same page

It’s not always practical for responses to be managed by a single operator. Often events require specialist skills and teams to share the responsibility for resolution—a medical alert is a good example: Security, Facilities Management and Health and Safety among others, may all have a part to play in resolution.

Ops has a simple way for an operator to invite a colleague from a different team or group into an event to help manage response. Its collaboration feature enables this to be done seamlessly across a group of colleagues, with every action recorded in a complete event audit trail. Importantly, events may subsequently be passed to dispatch or case management teams for further investigation and remediation if follow-on, compliance, or incident management is necessary.

SureView’s Chief Product Officer, Simon Morgan stated: “Sharing a common response interface is increasingly seen as a key operational component by organisations of all sizes. At one global organisation they told us that since deploying their Next-Gen PSIM they routinely collaborate on over 200 events per day, every day—radically decreasing event durations and improving security outcomes.”

Mobility

Connecting remote teams to improve coordination and speed-up response

The natural extension of sharing and collaboration is using the latest mobile technology to connect and empower teams—coordinating field teams, providing real-time updates and operational support no matter where they are.

Command centres are not just a remote collection of people in a dark room, responding to security events. They’re a team, made up of managers, supervisors, operators, guards and officers, investigators, lobby attendants, etc. Some of these people are, indeed, in a dark room, but increasingly many of them also spend large parts of their day in the field.

This is where SureView Ops’ Mobility and Field Operations interface plays a crucial role. The response might be coordinated centrally through the command centre—with the operator taking the lead directing field staff via the mobile app—or, if a service request comes in, it can be accepted and executed by a nearby field officer straight from their phone. The platform provides real-time location and status information about field staff and critical assets delivering the situational awareness everyone needs. The opportunities to spread the load, reduce the noise, automate processes and improve response are greatly increased with the adoption of mobile tools. This networked approach will transform how security operations are structured and managed.

“Putting mobile response tools in the hands of our field officers connects them to the command centre in ways that are transformational—the whole team can see the operation, working together to quickly respond to events. It’s a real force multiplier,” explained Scott Phemister, Head of Security & Business Continuity at AAA (America’s largest motor-vehicle insurance company)

Breaking the cycle of obsolescence

Delivering a dynamic set of open features at high velocity

The First-Gen PSIMs were often built to support a project, not a long-term lifecycle where change and development was constant. They were also developed in a period before the broad adoption of many of the latest Cloud technologies.

Morgan added: “Just in the last 12-months we have integrated our platform with multiple shooter detection systems; these new platforms use innovative technology to provide precise locations for gunshots. Although this specific technology is being used primarily in law enforcement and very large public spaces and campuses, it demonstrates that technology is moving fast and it is impossible to predict what’s next.”

What is true is that organisations are adopting Cloud services across their entire organisation at an accelerating rate, whether it’s Slack, Zoom, Salesforce, Service Now, Trello, Microsoft Teams, Gsuite, the list is almost endless. By adopting the Next- Gen PSIM delivered from the Cloud, security teams are beginning to embrace a set of technologies and standards that are in line with emerging AI technology to identify threats and improve response and to easily connect with other business systems.

Morgan continued: “No one can precisely anticipate all the demands of future security leaders, but to keep pace with our customers we’ve recommitted to our core mission of delivering an open platform, one that is vendor independent, providing customers with the flexibility to buy the best-of-breed devices and systems without compromising response or performance.

“We expanded our application APIs—upgrading the technology and functionality—so that our partners and customers would find these easier to use and have even more ways to share data with our platform. The more open the software is, the more adaptable it will be to future changes and accommodating new technologies and products.”

When asked what steps an organisation can take if they’re interested in learning more about SureView Ops, Morgan said: What we have learned is that no two organisations are alike, everyone has different goals, different systems they work with and different challenges. If Ops looks like it has potential for your operation we would love to learn more about your organisation, share some of our case studies (many of whom will take private reference calls) and discuss how we might work with you to develop a plan to achieve immediate results in your centre.

“You can also register for our next webinar, One problem, one team, one approach. How technology leaders unified their security operations in response to the challenges of complexity and growth. We will be sitting down with industry leaders from tech, media and finance to discuss the challenges they face and how they have unified previously siloed groups to deliver a more efficient and agile operation.”

You can learn more at www.sureviewsystems.com

This article was originally published in the June edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital copy, visit: https://digital.securityjournaluk.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=&edid=c1f7d3d1-1e78-412a-a61c-f9089a040a2d