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Boosting Security - Over the last few years, campus security and student safety have become two of the most discussed issues.

Boosting Security

Illinois school enlists help of audio analytics

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 analytics solutions.

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 playgrounds.

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 security solutions.

“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.

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