Airport PSIM / VMS RFP Examined

Author: John Honovich, Published on Nov 23, 2010

Airports security and surveillance systems are some of the most complex and expensive projects anywhere.

In this report, we examine a recently released RFP for the San Francisco Airport. The Airport seeks to deploy a PSIM system to integrate their various subsystems as well as a new VMS and megapixel cameras to expand the Airport's coverage.

This is a fascinating example showcasing the challenges in building and integrating a system with this level of complexity. With numerous proprietary systems and some bankrupt suppliers, making this all work together as 'one' is an extremely difficult task. We find it ironic that privacy advocates worry about big brother when the more practical problem is simply making all this work together.

That noted, we think the SFO RFP is a relatively high quality document. The issue is less in the design than the fundamental issues that systems of this complexity face.

Inside we dig into the details of the RFP, providing analysis and guidance on key issues and design choices.

More RFPs Reviewed

This is part of our ongoing series of RFP reviews. For more, read our RFP Reviews Volume 1 and our City Wide Surveillance RFP review.

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  • *** ***** ******* ********: "********* ** *** ********** ******* *** subsystems ***** ** ******** *** ******* **** **** *** *********** lag **** ********** ** ******** ** ******** *** *** *******"
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  • Key **** - ****** ***********: With so many different systems that need to be integrated (from Pelco to MDI to Intergraph to Vidient, etc., it's unlikely that anyone can completely meet the airport's needs with their COTS offering. Securing commitments (and pricing) from both the PSIM vendor and the security system vendor is essential to ensure integration on systems not supported 'out of the box'.
  • Bankrupt *********: The RFP states that access control provider ***** ********. ***** ** ****** ******* **** *************, ** ****** MDI's **** ***** ****** *** ** *** ************. ************, ***** the *** **** *** ***** ****, ** **** **** *** of ***** ***** *********,******* ** *** ** ********. ******** ** ***, **** *** **** *********** **** **** difficult, ********** ** ** ******** *** *** *********** ** *** part ** *** ******** *******.
  • Burden ** *** ****** ** *********: The airport has made it clear that the burden on integrating these system is firmly on the bidder and that no help will be provided. We think this is prudent precaution for the airport as a bidder could try to 'escape' by arguing that some integrations are just not possible (especially because of bankrupt subsystem suppliers). On the other hand, the more the airport demands all the systems to be integrated, the more bidders will have to increase/pad their bids to deal with the uncertainly involved.
  • 3D ****: The whole airport 3D map requirement is interesting. We question how valuable it ultimately is especially relative to the cost of producing such a map. While the 2D element can be relatively easily obtained via publicly available resources, 3D maps generally require a dedicated, manual process of capturing imagery and building of the map. This could cost hundreds of thousands alone.
  • PSIM *********: Two of the most aggressive marketers are notably absent - ************. ** *** ***** ****, *** ***** ************ ** **** project ** ****** ****** ***** ********** ************ (****** *** ***** marketing ******). ** *** ********* ***** ******, * *** ***** companies (****** *** ****** *******, ******** ** **** ********) *** the ***** ** * ***** ******* ****** ***** **** **** 50 ***** **** (********). ** ***** ******** ** * ***** option. ***** **** *** ** ***** *** *** **** ** such * ******** ********* ** ***** ********, **** ******* ** Proximex **** ******** (**** ***** ****** ******* ** ********* ********) or **** ******** *** **** ******* (**** **********)? (******* ******** will ** **** ** ****** *********** *********** ********** *********** *******).
  • PSIM ** **********: One of the most bizarre elements of the project is that they want to integrate Intergraph with their new PSIM system. It's potentially extremely redundant as Integraph is designed to operate as command and control system for such applications. As we examined in October 2010, ************ ********* ($***,*** *******) *** ** ***'* ** ***** ** deploy * ***** *** **** ******.
  • Low ***** **** ***********: The RFP requires a number of lower level integrations between the PSIM and the various subsystems. We think this is going to be difficult and/or costly to deliver. Most security systems only expose basic/core functionalities via API. For instance, VMS systems may expose live and recorded video but rarely do they make system configuration available.
  • VSM *********: The VMS shortlist makes a lot of sense to us with Genetec and DvTel offering similar overall solutions and Visual Defense providing the advantage of tight integration with its own PSIM offering. For a project with this many requirements, only a handful of VMSes are even realistic options.
  • Matrix ****** ***********: In high end projects, matrix switch and keyboard integration are common 'must haves.' This RFP is no exception. The problem for VMS selection is that only a fraction of VMS systems integrate with these devices, eliminating most products.
  • Moving **** **** ******: It's interesting that the airport is moving away from Endura, a product that is certainly still in its 'prime of life'. We do not know why though the airport is requiring the use of off the shelf computers/servers. This would be one element that would disqualify Endura.
  • Forcing *********** **** ******: Not surprisingly, the airport wants to keep using Endura for cameras already in use and add new cameras to the new VMS. From both a financial and political standpoint, switching out Endura would be very problematic as the equipment almost certainly has many years of usable life remaining.
  • Cisco ********** ******** ********: While IP networks are based on open standards, the airport's requirement for all Cisco networking equipment is not surprising. Using a single vendor can sometimes reduce interoperability issues (especially if the network uses more advanced features). Cisco was not able to leverage its networking power into the security specification but the all Cisco network requirement is another good reminder of Cisco's wide reach in general IT.
  • Sub ***** ***********: The airport is requiring end to end latency of under 300ms for the system. This is likely most important for PTZ controls (or two way audio if used). However, keeping latency under 500ms is generally done to make a system truly 'real-time.' On the other hand, we are skeptical how they are going to measure this (we do not see how the measurement process is defined). Depending on how you measure, you can make the latency appear to be much shorter or longer. Secondly, we are not sure what the value is of enforcing such a tight latency requirement. For instance, a fixed camera with a 1000ms (or 1s) delay is not a security risk (and may not be noticeable) even in responding to a real time incident.
  • Standardizing ** *********: We think standardizing new cameras on megapixel makes good sense and is a important 'sign of the times.' Airports cover large, usually open areas (SFO is **** * ******* ****** ****). ** **** *****, ********* ** ******* ******** ** ********* cost-effective ***** ********. ** ** *******, ***** ************ ** **** costly *** ******* ** **********/*******, ***** * ***** ****** ** more '********' ******* ** ****** *********.
  • Pixels ** ****** *************: While pixels on targets is a useful metric, it appears that the RFP will allow bidders to make the decision about how many pixels on target are provided. We think greater clarity on this element is needed both in terms of total pixel on target and where the target will be. Otherwise, visual detail will likely not match operator's needs/expectations. Secondly, when specifying pixels on target, the RFP should factor in any direct sunlight facing cameras (that will increase the need for WDR or more pixels) or any areas that might become dark during certain times of the day (though less likely in an airport).
  • Pelco ******* ** '******': We do not understand why Pelco is the cameras of 'choice.' In the old system, with Endura as the recording platform, it made some sense because of the tighter integration provided by the all Pelco system. However, integrated with Genetec, DvTel, etc. Pelco does not provide clear advantages over numerous other large IP camera manufacturers. Additionally, in the required H.264 mode, Pelco Sarix frame rate is generally low plus the cameras max out at 3MP (while the specification calls for up to 5MP cameras).
  • Specifying ****** *******: In general, the camera specification is minimal (beyond the Pelco and the 1 to 5Mp requirements). Do they require interchangeable lenses, mechanical cut filters, WDR capabilities, audio, alarm inputs, multi-streaming, SNMP, etc, etc.? These elements should be clearly spelled out in a bid this large to ensure that important functionalities are not missed because their need was not communicated up front.
  • Equivalent / ************ *******: The Airport has a good substitution process where the bidder provides essentially a white paper on why an alternative product is superior. Rather than artificially force the bidder to meet arbitrary requirements, the RFP does a good job of laying out key questions to check if the alternative is capable of meeting the fundamental needs.
  • 5 **** ********/******** ********: We think their software warranty and upgrade requirement is a prudent approach. While it increases up front cost, this eliminates the risk and complexity of allocating new funds in the future. Additionally, it may reduce the cost as manufacturers often offer discounts for up front long term contracts.
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