The New Standard
The transformative impact for video intercoms and network technology
Have you ever stopped to notice that
as video surveillance goes, so goes the
security industry? Nowhere is that more
evident than in the major shift from analog
to IP technology. Once network video
was firmly established as the new standard
for surveillance, it was inevitable
that other security systems would follow suit in hopes of
capitalizing on the same benefits.
But as many in the security industry have learned, leveraging
transformative IP technology doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.
For these innovative products to create true value for their
end users, security professionals need to ensure that the capabilities
of these systems match the needs of the customer and that
these tools perform within the system context in which they’re
being used. This is especially true for intercoms, one of the latest
security systems to undergo this technology transformation.
Nature Abhors a Vacuum
While most intercom and door phone manufacturers have been
focusing on the high volume residential market, little effort was
spent on developing high-grade products and solutions for the
smaller niche security sector. Attempts to integrate consumerquality
products into professional security environments have
been disappointing, primarily because the needs of security
professionals differ greatly from the residential sector. Specifically,
professional-grade solutions need to deliver a much higher
audio quality and image usability, and adhere to stringent standards
for system topology and seamless integration with other
However, as we all know: nature abhors a vacuum. And that
market gap is about to be closed with new manufacturers focusing
on delivering high-quality products specifically designed for
security applications and products based on open standards that
can easily integrate with other security systems and bring all the
segments of the security industry closer together.
A Quantum Leap in Audio Quality
and Image Usability
In security applications, intercoms are often placed in areas where
the surrounding environment can rarely be controlled to ensure
optimal performance. Yet, despite the less than ideal conditions,
audio quality is paramount.
To elevate audio quality to achieve security industry standards,
manufacturers are addressing issues beyond sound pressure
levels and wind-protected microphones. They are incorporating
features like active noise reduction to make the intercom
system useful even in locations with a lot of activity and background
noise because, often is the case, this is where security intercoms
are needed the most.
Similarly, image usability is critical in these situations to ensure
full situational awareness. In this instance, manufacturers are
focusing on improvements to the camera component of the video
intercom, embedding a smart technology that can compensate for
strong backlight or lowlight conditions. Camera capabilities such
as wide dynamic range (WDR) and good lowlight performance
enhance image usability, which is crucial for security applications.
After all there is little purpose of having a camera integrated into
the video intercom if the video quality doesn’t enable you to identify
a visitor or get an overview of an emergency situation.
With the addition of analytics, the network video intercom
becomes an ever more powerful tool capable of triggering alarms,
network surveillance camera recordings or public safety broadcasts
based on whatever is happening at the scene. For instance,
audio analytics can be used to detect a gunshot, glass breaking or the early stages of a brawl and send an alert to security.
Video analytics can, among other things, be used for motion
or cross-line detection and people counting. With capabilities like
this, a network video intercom transforms from an isolated tool
into an intrinsic and proactive part of the network security system.
Creating Integration Possibilities
Through Open Interfaces
Traditional intercom and door phone systems are developed for
multi-tenant buildings with a single intercom at the entrance
and many receiving units throughout the building to enable individual
tenants to identify callers, such as a One-to-Many system.
In this setting, the intercom often operates as standalone
one-task solution and generally doesn’t need to integrate with
For security professionals, however, the system topology is
very different. In those deployments multiple intercoms or door
phones connect to one centralized point of operation, the reception
desk or security command center, such as a Many-to-One
system configuration. For example, in the case of an airport security
office, a hotel reception desk or an alarm central station
the intercoms and door phones are important for visitor management
and identification, perimeter protection and emergency
communication. But they are only one piece of the puzzle to create
a safe environment and critical situational awareness. Security
professionals also depend on video surveillance, access control,
alarm and communication systems. All those systems also connect
back to the centralized point of operation. It is easy to understand
that having all these systems operate as separate entities
would undermine efficiency and overall security.
Therefore when manufacturing video intercoms for security
applications, companies have needed to redesign their products
to be network-based and conform to the open standards and interfaces
used by the systems and solutions already deployed by
security professionals worldwide. IP standards, such as ONVIF
and SIP, give security professionals great freedom to choose the
best products and system solutions for their needs rather than
being locked into a single manufacturer and struggling with connectivity
and interoperability between systems.
The Topology of a Security System
The ONVIF standard, for example, enables integration with
most IP-based video management software systems so that the
door station can operate as a full-featured surveillance camera
and communication device simultaneously. Session Initiation
Protocol (SIP) enables a video door station or intercom to integrate
with existing IP telephony and VoIP communication
systems. While the ability to forward audio as well as pictures
to security operators makes daily surveillance operations more
efficient, the open interface also gives customers the flexibility to
enhance their door stations with advanced third-party software
such as video analytics.
Open standards enable true best-of-breed solutions where video
from an intercom can be monitored and stored along with all
other security camera data. Calls can be received and doors controlled
according to the preferences of the security professional,
whether through an IP phone system, mobile device or desktop
video management system. Similarly, the use of open IP-based
products enables integration between different parts of the security
system and provides greater opportunity to efficiently track,
monitor and react to incidents in the future.
Promoting a More Holistic
Approach to Security
The emergence of open standards and APIs will ultimately
eliminate the lock-in effects of proprietary systems and open the
door for new industry entrants. Enabling security professionals
to choose products and solutions that best meets their needs encourages
competition between industry participants and drives
The shift towards IP technology and the emergence of open
systems in the intercom industry is still in its very early stages, but
it will inevitably change the rules of the game and generate new
solutions better adapted to a holistic approach to security system
This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Security Today.