Siemens’ PACS grants access to interoperability

Uses PSIA’s PLAI spec to ensure safe, reliable data share
 - 
Tuesday, May 19, 2020

MUNICH, Germany—As one of the eight Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) partner companies to participate in the Virtual PLAI Experience, Siemens is excited to demonstrate how their SiPass integrated physical access control system (PACS) can safely and reliably share identity data in a multi-PACS environment. 

“The goal of the Virtual PLAI Experience is to show that PLAI does function as described and to demonstrate how these disparate systems can share the same data, without separate integrations to each other directly,” a team of Siemens professionals — Matthew Bell, global product manager for SiPass integrated; Mark Farus, product portfolio manager, Siemens Industry U.S.; and Katherine Vondrak, product marketing manager, Siemens — told Security Systems News.

Siemens has been a PSIA board member for a number of years and actively participates in the PLAI workgroup, testing and providing demonstrations of the PLAI specification (spec).

A complete, physical security ecosystem

For manufacturers and integrators, inaccurate data creates issues that compound over time and transforms data cleanup into a slow, difficult process.

“Accurate data is key for the proper operation of an access control system,” Bell, Farus and Vondrak said, “and accurate data should not be the responsibility of the security personnel that is administering a PACS system; this responsibility should be with the department that owns employee data, such as IT or HR.” 

As for end users, they want a specific place for employee data in which they can be confident the information is always accurate and up-to-date. 

“There should be no doubts on whether data is correct in a security system when there is a critical event and accurate data is needed, such as in a disaster or mustering situation,” said the team. 

In addition to accurate data, the right parts, pieces and systems for the exact situation at a customer’s site is key in deploying a complete physical security system. 

“You wouldn’t want to try and force the wrong platform onto a site just because they have it installed in other sites, because needs differ,” explained Bell, Farus and Vondrak. “PLAI allows you to use proper system(s) and product(s) as site criteria demands, and still allows the same trusted data to populate various systems.” 

Relying on a single, trusted source helps create a seamless, physical security solution, enabling security professionals to centrally manage access through one source authority, save money by supporting interoperability and improve security operations with standardized integrations with a common API, all while saving time as the need for custom interfaces in negated. 

PLAI allows consistent, accurate data share, and solves issues

The modular structure and scalability of SiPass integrated provides a high level of security without compromising convenience and ease of access for system users, offering the possibility to use it as a security management station (SMS) that integrates access control, intrusion detection and video surveillance into a single system. 

“Our own Siemens SiPass integrated platform has a current PLAI compliant adapter,” Bell, Farus and Vondrak said. “The spec allows for a consistent and accurate way to share cardholder data across various products and platforms, without the need to develop and maintain a custom integration to each product and platform. The goal is to allow our customers the flexibility to keep their disparate access control-related platforms and to share data across those platforms without the need for costly integrations.” 

The Siemens team explained how the PLAI spec also solves three issues in safely sharing identity data in a multi-PACS environment: 

1.  “Flat file” transfer: the PACS import/export data to a network drive is in a common file format, such as a .CSV file. “This way of data sharing can have conflicts in what data is accurate and who owns the data, as well as changes in one system could break the process and world require possible changes to be made to all systems,” Bell, Farus and Vondrak explained. “This method is not real-time and updates are scheduled, so at any time, the various systems could be out of sync.” 

2.  Integration between various PACS, using SDKs/APIs: one PACS would need to be chosen as the authoritative source and the reliance on data accuracy would be on the admin personnel of that PACS. The team indicated that this is a costlier means of sharing data, now only for initial integration but also for maintaining integrations.

3.  All PACS have individual integration to an authoritative source: each integration would determine how to handle conflicts in data and determine the frequency of data updates. “With this form of data sharing, you could still have PACS that are not in sync with each other,” said Bell, Farus and Vondrak.  

At the heart of SiPass integrated are Advanced Central Controllers (ACS) that are able to make autonomous, real-time access control decisions and then share this information with other controllers in the network, including presence monitoring, global anti-passback control, peer-to-peer controller-based automation and global distribution of unique cardholder information. Cardholders can have thousands of different access privileges assigned in addition to up to five cards or virtual credentials that work on globally available card readers.

Bell, Farus and Vondrak concluded with the following “food for thought” for all involved in the security industry.

“These are challenging times in the security world. As the pace of technology changes, so too do our opportunities to create a smarter, safer world for our customers. Consider the ways in which technologies have reshaped how we do business. We want to ensure we deliver solutions to our customers that help them make better security decisions. Educating and providing the ability of PLAI expands our expertise in providing the best identity and access control security solutions to our customers in creating security solutions that lead to smart building environments.”