Hear Me Out

Hear Me Out

How network audio can be key to security, safety and operations

Spoken words have power. A verbal warning can deter someone from breaking and entering. A calming voice can direct an evacuating crowd to safety. A cautioning message can remind visitors to don protective gear before entering a hazardous area. In the security world, an effective way to extend that power is through network audio system.

Integrating network audio into a security solution is easy. Because it operates on the network via PoE, you can seamlessly integrate it with existing video cameras, access control systems, intercoms, speakers, and other network-based devices. As part of a total security solution, network audio not only adds a layer of proactive deterrence and safety alerts, it can also improve operation efficiencies and positively effect a company’s bottom line. Being a network-based solution, it’s also significantly more scalable and flexible than legacy analog audio technology.

Adding a speaker is simply a matter of running a CAT-5 cable to the speaker from the nearest PoE switch. Want to relocate a speaker? Simply unplug it and reconnect its cable to a different PoE switch. No need to pull cables or rewire racks because the system is configured via software.

WHY NETWORK AUDIO SYSTEMS ARE A BETTER OPTION

Most analog speakers in use today are little more than static background music and paging systems. In sharp contrast, PoE-powered network audio systems are intelligent solutions that deliver a wealth of programmable options for broadcasting live and/or scheduling pre-recorded announcements and playing background music. They even include built-in system health monitoring to ensure speakers and network connections are functioning properly. They also include intuitive software to manage single and multizone applications – to make it easy for network audio users to: • Pre-schedule tones, audio content and announcements by hour, day, season, or even special events • Group zones together logically to play different content in speci fic clusters of speakers • Synchronize music and announcements across an entire enterprise (such as a chain of retail stores) • Add insightful analytics such as occupancy sensing, queue management, loitering detection, emergency mass notification and more to enhance a facility’s ambiance while improving service and safety

What’s more, network audio has built-in SIP support which makes it easy to integrate the technology with an organization’s IP or VoIP telephone system for live announcements.

MAKING A PROACTIVE DIFFERENCE WITH NETWORK AUDIO

Integrating network audio in its total security solution can help almost any organizations enhance its safety, security, and operations. Here are a few scenarios that demonstrate the technology’s versatility.

Network audio systems are also intuitive to program. Users can easily change messages stored in the speaker, select which zones of speakers should broadcast a message, schedule broadcasts by time zone, even monitor the health of the system remotely. They can also integrate with a range of third-party analytics from perimeter protection and loitering to weather warning programs and sound detection such as gunfire, verbal aggression and glass breaking.

FOR USE IN A CAMPUS SETTING

Deter bullying. A school could integrate video cameras and network speakers with third-party audio analytics. In this instance, the analytics would be programmed to detect sounds of aggression which would trigger a security camera to swivel to a speci fic location, record the interaction, and send a video clip to the school security officer. At the same time, an administrator could use school’s phone system to address the perpetrator by name via the closest loudspeaker telling them to stop their behavior.

Deter vaping. A school could integrate third-party vaping sensors and speakers in the bathrooms with video cameras in the hallways. The vaping sensor would detect vapor and trigger the speaker to play an audio clip advising the student to stop. The sensor would also trigger the video camera outside the bathroom to record who exited the bathroom when the audio message was played and advise responsible parties of the event.

Deter vandalism. Outside the building, horn speakers could be integrated with video cameras embedded with perimeter protection analytics. During non-school hours, the analytics would detect anyone approaching the building and trigger a warning from a horn speaker that police are being alerted. Often this is sufficient to encourage potential vandal to flee the scene before causing any damage.

FOR USE IN A RETAIL SETTING

Deter theft. As a proactive measure, stores can integrate their communications system with network audio and network cameras embedded with loitering detection analytics. When the camera detects a customer lingering in an aisle for an extended time, it triggers a message from the nearest speaker that someone will be there shortly to help. The camera also sends an alert to staff via an audio page or a message to a two-way radio, walkie-talkie, mobile phone or VoIP telephone system. The result is two-fold. If it’s a potential shoplifter, it acts as a deterrent. If it’s a potential buyer, sending assistance to the location helps close the sale.

Control occupancy. To comply with building occupancy mandates, retail stores can embed people counting and occupancy analytics into video cameras at their entrances. When the analytics calculates the store has reached maximum capacity it triggers a message from the horn speaker telling customers to line up outside the store.

Promote in-store marketing. Stores can integrate an intelligent network audio system and speakers with their in-store cameras to direct in-store messages to targeted customers. They can program the network audio system to broadcast messages in specific zones about in-store specials, open cashier stations and more. They can also program the audio system to pipe in music to create a unique store ambience.

FOR USE IN A HOSPITAL SETTING

Curb workplace violence. To mitigate workplace danger some hospitals are integrating their network cameras with intelligent sound analytics to detect gunshots and verbal aggression. In volatile areas like emergency rooms, lobbies and psych wards, the analytics detects warning signs of verbal aggression and automatically triggers an alert to staff and security to come defuse the situation. Other security staff could be remotely conversing with the aggressors through the local speaker system tied to the hospital’s VoIP phone system. In the case of weapon fire, the analytics can also send an alert to local police.

Increase premise safety. Hospitals often integrate security cameras and a speaker system with door lock sensors. When someone uses an emergency egress or props open the door, the camera records the event and triggers a warning message from the nearest speaker. With embedded crossline detection analytics, the cameras can be programmed to automatically trigger a recorded message over a loudspeaker warning a driver to move their vehicle because it is blocking a critical restricted area like an ambulance bay or fire lane.

Improve patient care. By integrating security cameras, acoustic analytics, and network speakers with microphones, hospital staff can remotely observe and speak directly to patients in their rooms. If patient distress is detected, floor clinicians can be quickly paged to respond. This approach reduces the frequency of in-person interactions without compromising patient health and helps to mitigate the spread of infections.

NEW FEATURES THAT ADD MORE VALUE TO NETWORK AUDIO

Like most technology, network audio is constantly evolving to provide users with new, more powerful capabilities. Some of the new features include things like:

Touchless talk-back communications. This enables two-way communication through the speakers to be more fluid by removing the need to push a button to engage in conversation.

Paging through cellphone. This allows the user to record a message on a cellphone and broadcast it through the speaker via Wi-Fi. This is especially useful in remote areas where access to a microphone or telephone is limited.

Three equalization presets. Two improve the clarity and crispness of voice pages and the other improves the quality of your music and program material. Each EQ is input dependent, meaning that you can have the music EQ active, make an announcement and the voice EQ kicks in.

Automated health monitoring. This allows users to remotely test each speaker separately to make sure they are up and running properly and minimize downtime if they need maintenance.

NETWORK AUDIO: AN INTEGRAL COMPONENT OF A TOTAL SECURITY SOLUTION

A comprehensive network security solution not only enhances a business’ safety and security but can also add value to their operations. With network audio as part of the technology mix, an organization can be more proactive in detecting and assessing danger, mitigating threats, managing emergency evacuations, even improving the customer experience.

Network audio is easy to install, economical to maintain, and pays for itself over time by reducing costly incidents. It is highly scalable and simple to configure to a company’s needs. And it makes virtually any security solution a better value proposition.

This article originally appeared in the July / August 2021 issue of Security Today.

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