Illinois school enlists help of audio analytics
- By Richard Brent
- Jan 05, 2016
Over the last few years, campus security and student safety have become two of the most discussed issues. With the number of active shooter incidents on
the rise over the last decade, there has been a movement to examine and enhance current security systems in schools. One K-8 school, serving 1,000 students
in Illinois, is a prime example.
The school, which will remain anonymous for security and confidential
reasons, wanted to take a proactive look at their current security
system after the end of the 2014-2015 school year. The school
turned to Jeff Gibson, president and CEO of TacticalVIDEO, to conduct
a security assessment and implement his recommendations.
The integrator found that the layout of the school was such that each
classroom had an exterior door. As a result, the school needed a
revamped audio-video surveillance system to increase security around
its perimeter, and more specifically, to detect visitors coming and going
through the exterior doors and other vulnerable areas on the premises.
Gibson recommended deploying a complete surveillance solution
integrating Axis IP cameras and Exacq VMS. Gibson also introduced
the idea of integrating Louroe Electronics’ audio monitoring and
advanced analytic technology into the solution, which the school was
eager to install.
“Where it makes sense, I think the inclusion of audio into a video
surveillance system that is monitoring the general population, can give
you that early warning detection that video itself is not capable of providing,”
Gibson said. “The precursor to a lot of bad behavior tends to
be acoustic in nature.”
The integrator chose Louroe’s signature Verifact microphones for
the project. The Verifact is known for its directional capability, impressive
pick-up pattern and appealing design.
“From an install perspective, the microphone is a little bit more
aesthetically pleasing,” Gibson said. “It looks more like a smoke detector
or something that is non-threatening that people wouldn’t necessarily
look at it and say, oh I know that’s a microphone and I’m going
to be scared of that.”
After the microphones were selected, the analytic software was
chosen to address key challenges and threats the school faced. The
school decided to go with Louroe’s gunshot and aggression detection
Studies show that 90 percent of physical aggression is preceded by
verbal aggression, making aggression detection technology an important
deterrence tool that allows for early intervention. Wanting to be
aware of any escalated conflicts that could indicate a child may be at
risk in their home life, the school wanted to mount the Aggression
Detector at its front entrance to identify any arguments or heated discussions
arising while visitors or families dropped their children off.
The way the Aggression Detector functions is simple. The microphone
captures all sound, which is then transmitted to the IP camera
containing the downloaded analytic software. Much like how the human ear processes sounds, the analytic software analyzes audio
through advanced algorithms. It focuses on identifying spikes in verbal
aggression such as shouting, stressed voices and other verbal cues
that indicate anger and/or fear. Once a noise that matches the sound
pattern for aggression is identified, the detector immediately sends an
alert to staff, either with a visual notification or by triggering an alarm.
The Gunshot Detector was installed in the center of the collective
area of the school’s first building. It can detect discharge from a variety
of firearms, including handguns, shotguns, rifles and automatic rifles.
According to a recent FBI 2014 study, the median police response time
for 51 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2012 was three minutes.
The key value of deploying a Gunshot Detector comes in its ability
to shorten response time. Within seconds of a gunshot, the detector
can immediately notify staff and first responders, while also giving
them the ability to playback the gunshot recording.
When either the Aggression or Gunshot Detector identifies a preclassified
sound, the school can use the mapping interface within the
VMS software to post alerts and activity in real time. Alerts are sent via
text messages and email, which can also be shared with local police,
creating a coordinated effort among first responders.
In the summer of 2015, TacticalVIDEO installed the Aggression
Detector and the Gunshot Detector. For this application, the detectors
integrated Verifact microphones, Sound Intelligence analytics software,
Axis IP cameras and Exacq VMS.
“There have been no problems with the audio,” Gibson said, as he
described the security system.
In addition to the detectors, several cameras were set up to increase
perimeter security. A number of cameras were installed inside Building
1, and others were mounted on the exterior of the school’s four
buildings. The cameras are used to monitor driveways in and out of the
school, ingress and egress points, basketball courts and the general
One challenge that the Illinois school, and any organization that
deploys an audio security solution, will face is monitoring compliance.
“There are a lot of varying laws and statutes for audio. A lot of times,
video systems can’t be monitoring audio,” Gibson said.
However, the law indicates that where there is no expectation of
privacy, such as in public places, recording is allowed. On the other
hand, in environments where there is some expectation of privacy for
the individual involved, it goes to the state’s policy. For example, Illinois
is a two-party consent state, meaning that all parties involved
must give their consent for monitoring to be permitted. One of the
unique aspects of the Illinois school’s audio solution is that the “audio
is never transmitted or interpreted,” as Gibson puts it.
“The use of acoustic analytics circumvents the majority, if not all, of
the legislation and rules around the use of general audio,” Gibson said.
In other words, sound detection actually upholds privacy because it
recognizes sound patterns rather than speech. For this reason, Gibson
feels that audio analytics will only continue to gain prominence in
“I think this is going to be an emerging technology that’s going to be
included into sensitive video installations,” he said.
Audio analytics technology, or classifying sounds that indicate highrisk
or threat situations, has been around for many years. As the security
industry moves from detection to preventative
technologies, audio analytics will only
continue to become a staple security technology
for the education sector.
This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Security Today.