PSIM technology for transport management systems

Integrated control room technology using Physical Security Information Management technology can help traffic run more smoothly in complex urban environments.

PSIM in use for Traffic Management

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As surveillance based security systems have become more capable of performing more complex functions with the increased use of IP technology as a platform, so the control and operation of such systems has also become more demanding. Video Management Systems were developed to facilitate this demand for integration and improved manageability and continue to be the main platform on which most IP surveillance systems are built.

However, complex environments like major ports and docks, rail terminals and airports require a significant leap in technology to be able to effectively manage all of the different sensor inputs from smoke alarms, intruder detection systems, door status sensors and dozens of other devices that are attached to the security network, both analogue and digital.

It was in such environments that the technology of PSIM (Physical Security Information Management) was developed. PSIM goes a step beyond VMS and combines data from surveillance and other inputs to create a holistic overview of a security environment along with the intelligence to provide control room operators with decision paths based on alarm conditions or combinations of events. Some of the workflow can even be automated, further reducing the dependence on human intervention.

PSIM for Traffic Management

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) are also benefitting from such advances in technology and provide the kind of challenges that PSIM is designed to meet. Traffic cameras, video analytics, roadside sensors, vehicle classification, traffic counting and other inputs provide the information on scores of factors that determine traffic conditions and which in combination determine how those conditions should be managed, much of which is deterministic and can be defined with rules engines.

It is in this environment that PSIM excels so to find out more about the technology, TrafficSafe went to the Transport Security Expo event in London in November and met James Whybrow from PSIM specialist company VidSys.

It’s tempting to think that such systems that manage operations of the complexity involved in ITS must surely themselves be extremely difficult to configure and master, a notion we put to James.

The first point we noticed in the way the system was presented was the single interface. Despite pulling together the inputs of many diverse systems including cameras from different manufacturers, VMS and other software, everything is presented within one console. This not only makes the operation straight forward, but also enhances auditability so it is easy to trace past events, who dealt with them and what process was followed…. all within one console.

James also showed us the way the system handles workflow. During configuration, alarm conditions or combinations of alarms are given a workflow or set of steps that the control room operator should follow for that event. This workflow is developed using a decision tree style process that’s intuitive and familiar to most people. Once this has been defined, it is entered into the PSIM to provide alerts to the operators for what steps they must follow.

An example workflow might be a break-down in a toll plaza with a vehicle blocking one of the toll booths. The alarm could be triggered either by the toll booth operator raising an alarm or in an automatic lane through analytics (stationary vehicle plus prolonged absence of a transaction).

Once the alarm is triggered, the control room operator would be presented with the appropriate workflow which would be prioritized so that, for example, the lane would be closed, toll plaza signals would direct traffic to adjacent booths, approaching traffic would be presented with reduced speed limits and variable message signs would warn of congestion. Once the priorities have been handled, the operator would be instructed to call the toll operator to contact the driver and possibly despatch a recovery vehicle.

The workflow also covers incident recovery so that once the vehicle is in motion, the obstruction cleared and the lane available, speed restrictions and lane signalling can be restored to normal and the incident can be closed and stored in the PSIM for auditing.

Flexibility to handle the unpredictable

It isn’t possible to be able to predict every possible combination of alarm conditions or situations that can occur on the road although all the main ones should be associated with a workflow. For those conditions that don’t have a workflow associated with them, the operator can create one as necessary and store it within the system for subsequent review and adjustment if necessary.

Alarms are not only raised based on sensor inputs or video analytics, but can also result from a phone call reporting an incident. By their nature, phone call reports are not as deterministic as sensor inputs. Recognising this, VidSys has made it easy for control room operators to define a workflow based on the information received whilst making use of other workflows that might become appropriate as the call or incident develops.

An example is a pedestrian in the roadway. Most UK drivers are aware of the frustration of driving along a largely empty rural motorway with variable message signs warning of a pedestrian on the road and restricting the speed to 50mph only to find that the restrictions drop without a hazard ever having been encountered. Such frustrations arise due to the lack of responsiveness in the workflow to handle pedestrians in the road. Improvements in this case depend on availability of patrols, position of surveillance cameras and speed of communications between police, the highways agency and the control centre. Having good workflow and a good understanding of the resources available improves reaction times and reduces frustration levels.

The role of PSIM in the development of ITS

Huge levels of flexibility are built in to PSIM software and it’s ideally suited to the future of ITS deployments. Intelligent Transport Systems rely on intelligent infrastructure and PSIM is able to provide the interface to this infrastructure, accepting input from it or providing signals and instructions to it.

With the ability for workflows to be automated in appropriate circumstances, it is easy to predict the development of traffic management systems and driver information systems that are directly coupled to road and traffic conditions.

Having such diversity in the types of inputs it can receive, the PSIM system can react to such parameters as congestion levels, surface temperatures, visibility levels, lane occupancy, vehicle classification or indeed anything that can be detected, measured or analysed.

Such futuristic views are no pipe-dream either, real world implementations have already been commissioned and have the flexibility and scalability to be able to expand to cope with future ITS developments. One such implementation is New York’s JTMC (Joint Transportation Management Center) which has the VidSys PSIM software at its heart.

Jonathan Newell

Studied Engineering at Loughborough University and now involved in broadcast and technical journalism. Jonathan is based in London and Almaty.

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