How Real Time Media Can Solidify Security and Save Money
- By Diego Grassi
- Sep 18, 2017
Join u-blox for an upcoming webinar Want to learn more about using cellular connectivity to support home security and hybrid home automation? u-blox will be hosting an upcoming webinar on September 28.
Selecting Cellular Connectivity for Alarm Panels & Building Automation
Thursday, September 28, 2017 11:00am ET/ 8:00am PT/ 4:00pm UK
Protecting physical spaces and facilities is an ever-present problem. As bad actors continue to seek unlawful entry in innovative ways and unforeseeable disasters like fires continue to exist, alarm systems need to keep pace and leverage new technologies to prevent and mitigate these risks.
In an upcoming white paper I wrote for u-blox, where I lead product strategy creating the next wave of positioning and wireless modules and chips for the automotive, industrial and consumer markets, entitled “Innovation Trends in Cellular Connectivity for Alarm Panels,” I explored a variety of enhancements and solutions for alarm panels and systems that can be accomplished with current technology, but aren’t nearly often enough used in vulnerable buildings.
The paper focuses on use cases and strategic arguments for the adoption of cellular connectivity technology in alarm panels and connected buildings. The manufacturers of such devices should be able to improve time to market with his tips and enrich feature sets through good engineering.
One key family of improvements can be found in the realm of multi-media. More specifically, there are clear proofs of the advantages to be found in voice and audio enhancements, and how high-quality video moves panels out of the passive realm and into the pursuit of active threat prevention. Voice and audio in alarm panels Alarm panels can make use of voice support to reduce the costs that are caused by false alarms and unnecessary site-checks. The rate of false burglary and fire alarms falls at more than 90 percent, according to the paper, and this fact has caused a “Cried Wolf” policy for some law enforcement and fire department, which are adopting a policy not to respond unless the alarm is verified. This can mean that a real emergency gets no response if there isn’t a mechanism in place to verify alarms. Because of this, it is critical to the integration of data and voice tools in alarm panel platforms that they include support for simultaneous transmission and an optimal level of audio quality.
Remote monitoring stations need to be able to listen to on-site microphones and communicate to building occupants through speakers via high-quality audio and, thanks to the voice capabilities enabled by cellular-connected modems, users can initiate a call for audio monitoring of the premises via smartphones.
These panel-mounted voice systems with audio alarm verification modules can also be used by anti-intrusion systems in order to notify emergency services of intruders and provide 2-way audio call-back support, which can satisfy the “Cry Wolf” policies.
Audio communications between alarm units and alarm receiving centers (ARC) is generally accomplished via hands-free, 2-way instantaneous audio or push-to-talk features. Premises have to wire with a series of strategically placed microphones and speakers, with control units, IP cameras and small sensors. These systems have to have high-volume speakers and high-gain, maximum volume broadcast capability. And that introduces the problem of background noise and or challenges in controlling the gain on the speakers. u-blox cellular modules support a comprehensive and advanced range of extended and configurable set of commands for audio processing that can automate these controls and thus can simplify the development work of alarm panel and enable superior audio performance and optimal end-user experience. Sometimes it’s easiest to get a sense of how a voice-enabled system like this is meant to work by running through a possible use case. When a two-way audio system is in place with both listen-in and speak-in enabled, audio communication between alarm panels and ARC is generally accomplished with hands-free, 2-way instantaneous audio or push-to-talk. This is exactly the kind of situation that introduces the problems of complex alarm panel design, background noise, and difficulty in controlling gain levels. To address all of these issues, designers of alarm panels can use u-blox cellular modules that improve the audio quality of alarm panels with an advanced set of tuning commands used for configuring, activating and deactivating the Extended Audio Processing blocks for audio processing blocks. This block configuration keeps announcements clean through active sound management and level balancing, as needed, optimizes microphone and speaker equalization, eliminates echo reduction in linear conditions, increases or reduces spectral Echo to balance, and performs automatic gain control (AGC).
Many modern telecommunication infrastructures which migrated to 4G cellular technology are equipped to use Voice over LTE, or VoLTE, for connectivity, rather than traditional Voice capabilities. VoLTE is a high-speed wireless communication standard, based on the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) network and it delivers voice and data entirely via LTE. This means that the user doesn't depend on or need any circuit-switched voice network infrastructure. VoLTE has as much as triple the voice and data capacity of 3G while using less bandwidth by sending smaller packets.
u-blox LTE category 1 IoT modules such as LARA-R2 for EMEA, TOBY-R2 and LARA-R2 for the US, as well as the newest SARA-R4 family that enables global coverage on LTE category M1 networks, are designed to support VoLTE thus offering reduced latency and power consumption and enhanced audio quality. This capability from u-blox will enable the next generation of alarm systems with superior QoS and better user experience.
Of course, audio isn’t the only game in town for real-time identity and emergency verification. Increasingly, video tools are becoming the desired avenue for enterprises of all sizes. Audio verification, while powerful when well-implemented, can be limited in the ability to provide the most clear event information to first responders. Therefore, in the most advanced buildings, video verification is often implemented. Indoor and outdoor PIR Camera detectors act as a solution to reduce costs and improve security services, while visual verification can minimize the total cost of ownership of a security system because it lowers the costs tied to false dispatches, which can climb into the thousands per year with only a few false alarms. Video verification prevents fines for false dispatches thanks to monitoring stations’ ability to view the interior of the monitored locations and perform a situation assessment when an alarm event occurs. This way, the most appropriate response can be determined before responders are dispatched.
Typical visual verification security systems capture images before and after an alarm event is triggered, with still images being delivered to back-end monitoring systems using IP or Cellular connectivity. Images are generally captured every half second up to a total of 10 images per alarm. The first image is sent to the monitoring station in real-time upon initial alarm and, while the image is viewable, the rest of the images are delivered. Then they all get stitched together into a slideshow-type movie. In order to get the fastest possible transmission these legacy forms of “video verification” use low image and video resolution but still enough to assure a video quality that is sufficient to get a correct visual assessment of the alarm event.
In this way, video verification over cellular can be generally more economical than most closed circuit TV systems, requiring lower bandwidth, easier installation and maintenance, and lower expenditure for install and operation.
In a typical case on a legacy system, video verification is triggered by an alarm event, which turns on PIR cameras inside and outside of the building. The 10 images are captured over 5 seconds and then sent to the monitoring station. Usually, a 2G throughput is necessary to stream the images at low resolution.
In a newer, more modern high-end system, with on demand video monitoring over the cellular network, the monitoring station gets control over a larger number of IP Cameras that can stream high quality multimedia content over an LTE Cat 1 connection. All of this happens in real-time with low latency, allowing situational determination needs, and avoiding false dispatch.
It is important for enterprises to rethink the safety and security systems in place in their facilities for a modern, connected age. Bad actors will not hesitate to take advantage of lag times and false alarm fatigue to gain entry and cause problems. Meanwhile a fire or other accident can get quickly out of control without real-time situational awareness and losses like these are not easily absorbed by any company.
With the simple application of modern real-time multimedia alarm panels and security systems, companies can avoid downtime, false alarms and losses of capital. And that’s a good thing for all concerned.
Join u-blox for an upcoming webinar
Want to learn more about using cellular connectivity to support home security and hybrid home automation? u-blox will be hosting an upcoming webinar on September 28.
Selecting Cellular Connectivity for Alarm Panels & Building Automation
Thursday, September 28, 2017
11:00am ET/ 8:00am PT/ 4:00pm UK