Enhancing security with IP network audio solutions
- By Chris Wildfoerster
- Feb 01, 2020
For organizations that wish
to monitor their premises,
video surveillance is most
often the first solution they
think of. We’ve become accustomed
to having access to video at any
time and from anywhere, so the ability to
see what’s happening at a location at any
given moment is an attractive proposition.
As effective as video alone is, incorporating
network audio as part of a security
solution has been shown to increase a surveillance
system’s overall ability to deter
crime, increase safety and improve situational
awareness for first responders.
A Standalone System
While security professionals have used audio
for many years, it has historically been
deployed in limited situations and typically
as a standalone system not integrated
with other security solutions. Many IP
cameras offer audio capabilities, but their
performance is limited. For high-quality,
full-featured audio, IP network speakers
are an attractive proposition, offering the
potential for integration, which increases
the power and value of all surveillance
systems at a relatively low cost.
There are many potential security and
non-security applications for audio, such
as targeted in store messaging and announcements,
queue monitoring, monitoring
high-traffic areas for safety, improving
loss-prevention and more.
There are four main benefits of incorporating
audio into security using IP
speakers, which are discussed below.
Most of us are undoubtedly familiar with
video analytics, which can be deployed to
detect anomalies such as line-crossing, left
objects, vehicles and more. The performance
of these technologies has improved
substantially since their introduction,
however, even the most advanced video
analytics are limited by the video a camera
is able to capture. Therefore, their weakness
lies in detecting incidents that occur
out of the camera’s field of vision. Audio
analytics, on the other hand, are capable
of monitoring a 360-degree area to cover
those blind spots that lie beyond a camera’s
field of view and ensure that incidents
don’t fall through the cracks.
Using a preset decibel threshold or
acoustic signature, audio analytics can determine
if a specific event has occurred—
such as glass breaking or a gunshot—or
can be used to detect aggression in a person’s
voice that may indicate potential escalation
of a situation. These are just two
examples of the types of analytics available
today that transform traditionally
reactive security systems into proactive solutions
that offer the potential to prevent
an event from happening in the first place.
Audio analytics also create cost savings
by taking the human element out of monitoring,
allowing organizations to deploy
their security personnel more efficiently
and effectively. For example, a school
could set up audio and video perimeter
detection analytics to automatically play a
message and alert someone when a perimeter
is breached, allowing an operator or
guard to concentrate on that specific event
rather than trying to manually monitor
the entire perimeter.
Going hand in hand with detection is response,
one key strength of audio is its
ability to serve as a deterrent. Given the
prevalence of cameras today, many people
take video surveillance for granted. Either
they’ve become so accustomed to cameras
that they don’t notice them, or they simply
don’t take them seriously. After all,
there’s no way to tell by looking at a camera whether it is even working and if it is, whether the resolution
is high enough to make out faces or other identifying details, or
whether a person is actually watching the video feed.
When you add audio to the mix, you literally send a message
to the area that the camera is in fact working and that someone
is indeed watching. Whether triggered by audio or video analytic,
responses can come in the form of a prerecorded message
stored in the speaker or an operator talking directly to someone
on the premises, both of which have proven effective in realworld
Consider a situation where someone has entered a location
without authorization and is about to commit a crime or is engaging
in a dangerous or unsafe behavior. Hearing a voice speaking
directly to them could almost fill the role of their conscience
reminding them of the potential ramifications of the poor decision
they’ve made or are about to make. Hearing that voice of
reason should make them rethink and hopefully stop what they
were about to do and leave the premises.
In many cases, live chat or recorded messages actually prevent
an incident from happening altogether. And the ability to deter a
crime, accident or other event from happening directly translates
into cost savings. For example, prevention can allow end users to
save on first responder costs, time, resources and administrative
costs, to name a few. If a criminal activity is prevented, organizations
avoid loss from theft or vandalism, attorney’s fees and other
costs associated with the judicial process. From a safety perspective,
prevention can translate into savings on healthcare, insurance
and legal costs.
Flexibility and Scalability
Introducing audio into the security landscape is hardly a new
concept. While legacy analog systems may have been adequate
in the past, network audio has become the standard today, rather
than the exception. Therefore, traditional analog technologies
simply don’t provide the same level of functionality and stability
as IP solutions, and can actually do more harm than good.
Security, phone, building automation and many other systems
operate via IP networks, which opens the door for integrators
to tie these systems together enhancing security and overall operations.
IP network speakers powered over the Ethernet (PoE)
seamlessly fit into this complete solution.
With these solutions, everything is built into the speakers, including
scheduling software allowing users to schedule announcements
for various times of day or week, select sources, monitor
system health and more, In addition, since each speaker has its
own unique IP address, users can also customize and configure
zones however they’d like.
Since PoE IP speakers are self-powered via the Ethernet,
scheduling, zoning and other parameters can easily be changed
on the fly remotely via a software interface using a web browser,
delivering a level of flexibility and scalability that just isn’t fiscally
viable with analog solutions. One of the main drawbacks with analog
speaker systems is that once they’re installed and configured,
they’re static. This means any changes to the system may require
a truck roll, rewiring of the system and rewiring of the rack which
could translate into significant increased cost to the client.
Given the differences in performance between these two technologies,
there really is no comparison between analog systems
and IP Network audio solutions. Where analog speakers are passive—
essentially just moving air in the form of sound—IP speakers
offer an all in one intelligent, cost-effective solution that just
makes sense in today’s IP-based world.
For integrators, augmenting security systems with IP network
audio solutions offers not only ease of installation, configuration
and integration, but audio also creates an additional revenue
stream in the form of net new business and ongoing services.
When you consider the potential savings realized from preventing
incidents, adding network audio as part of your security ecosystem
solutions just makes sense.
Let’s say an audio system allows an organization to deter just
one person from stealing from or vandalizing a business or prevents
one person from being injured. The savings associated with
preventing that single incident, could conceivably offset the cost
of the system. With each subsequent prevention, the audio system
transforms from a cost center to a revenue generator.
And considering the breadth of verticals that can benefit
from deploying audio as part of their security system, integrators’
revenue opportunities are virtually unlimited. Corporations,
healthcare facilities, schools, government, retail, transportation,
finance and municipalities are just a sample of the markets where
integrators can deploy audio to enhance security for both new
and existing customers.
Moving forward, smart integrators will want to familiarize
themselves with SIP in order to take advantage of the benefits
of IP networked speakers. Additionally, every time integrators
install a camera, they should think how network audio would
benefit their clients.
Without question, video surveillance has become a powerful
and effective tool for securing people, premises and assets.
Given continued advancements in image quality, video analytics,
compression and other capabilities, the role of video in security
will only increase in the future. Adding network audio to
your security ecosystem has gained acceptance and when you
consider these four main benefits, there is no question that IP
network audio can be an equally vital component for delivering
With the ability to enhance the detection and interpretation
of events IP network audio solutions to transform traditionally
reactive solutions into proactive, preventative systems, these solutions
can generate significant cost savings for
organizations who deploy them as part of their
overall security strategy.
This article originally appeared in the January / February 2020 issue of Security Today.