The Age of Voice

The Age of Voice

Voice is evolving as an active partner in the security industry

We all are talking to machines these days. We talk to assistants in our home, in our cars and on our phones. By using our voice, we feel more engaged (Thanks to Alexa!). We also become more productive, freeing our hands and minds for other tasks.

At the same time we are communicating with the machines, we are teaching them about us. The more we engage the better they can assist and anticipate our needs.

Even at this stage in the technology, we still have our issues. The exceptional user experience is still wanting. Often it is due to the limitations of clarity that befuddles the machine and leads to multiple attempts by the user to communicate.

With all these issues, how is voice evolving to meet the needs of organizational security?

It turns out, there are very similar problems that have diluted voice’s promise.

Facing Challenges

The first challenge was the industry’s initial focus on implementing access control, finding a way to easily validate identity and provide appropriate access. The second generation was to deploy video to augment human beings and increase situational awareness. Key issues developed around full integration with access as well as the exponential increase in manpower in identifying and responding to incidents. As well, video clarity, management, storage and evidentially sound reporting had to evolve to meet the need. Many of these issues have finally been addressed. However, the people, process and integration issues are still a challenge. Along with these issues is the continued challenge of cyber defensibility.

Given all this, consultants and integrators have traditionally led with access and video. Audio was a stepchild, an afterthought.

There were compounding reasons for this. Much like video, the level of integration with other enterprise systems was poor. The access and video management vendors reflected the market by not making audio a core capability of their offerings. The level of clarity, when it was truly called upon to deliver, was a significant challenge; one that has damaged the credibility of the audio market. Finally, intercom was just as challenged as video vendors in making cyber defensibility a core part of the design of their systems.

The market is shifting. The devices security executives are deploying are sensors. They collect and, at times, aggregate data, but the data needs to be turned into information. The information, ultimately, must provide a comprehensive understanding of organizational risk, situational awareness and real-time response. That requires a new business model for most vendors and new evaluation criteria for the security executive and their IT support team.

Audio is Emerging

Given the challenge, a new market category is emerging: Intelligent Communications. It reinforces the present day and future use cases that are identified by security risk management service providers. Those use cases point to the need to integrate access, video surveillance and audio, not as a line item on an RFP, but as a business model by the vendors.

The reason: without a bundled solution, interoperability is not recognized or reinforced. There was a day I shopped for individual applications to meet various needs of mine like desktop publishing, spreadsheets or presentations. There were multiple vendors in each space, but what we really needed was a way to work holistically by ensuring interoperability and a premium easy-to-use, easy-todeploy, end user experience. Meet Microsoft Office; a unified platform experience.

Once this occurs, a rapid evolution in the technology will occur. Voice as another form of authentication; or voice behavioral recognition. Machine learning of how voice is being used.

We were able to conduct interviews with several industry leaders: consultants, integrators and leading technology vendors to confirm our own research.

“We believe intelligent communications within the security industry is critical,” said Lorna Chandler, CEO of Security by Design, a leading independent security consulting and design firm. “Our customers have been requesting smart buildings for years, and we believe that this is a vehicle for finally achieving that goal. Using voice, video and access control in a collaborative way will allow our customers increase their security at a in their devices to deliver communications clearly, crisply and in a timely manner.”

Critical Infrastructure

Jonathan Berman, the president and general manager of Open Options believes his position in the market as a premier access control company depends on their interconnectivity of systems.

“Part of that critical infrastructure is to combine video and audio to respond to critical situations at a moment’s notice,” Berman said. “The ability to tie it all together, access, video and audio is fundamental to the success of our clients.”

Jason Schimpf, vice president of the Product/Partner Programs at AMAG Technology did not even mention access control as a description of who AMAG is. He prefers “Unified Security Platform.”

“AMAG is the technology platform within G4S,” Schimpf said. “Historically we were known as an access control platform. In recent years we have repositioned our company as a unified security solution platform. Security executives have been telling us that they need a robust, flexible complete unified security platform. So, we consider video management, visitor management, guest management, and intelligent, intelligible and actionable communications as core to our platform. The criteria for intelligent communications is the ability to hear in any situation, be interoperable with our unified platform and, in today’s world, provide cyber defensibility.”

Phil Aronson, president of Aronson Security Group could not agree more.

“To really have full situational awareness you must be able to get all the information you need at the time of need,” Aronson said. “We can no longer deploy silos of excellence. We must have a fully interoperable solution that provides two-way communication with access and video, so you can virtually respond to any incident real-time, without the lag time of a guard response. It is the only way you can truly be present at the time of need. But, you must have voice clarity in your intelligent communications solution.

“If you don’t, then you might as well not deploy it. We recommend developing a use case and really testing the audio quality under different simulated environmental conditions. We also recommend testing for cyber defensibility before you deploy. Intelligent communications is becoming a critical offering for the platform providers because of the rapidly evolving threat conditions.”

An Audio Partnership

Voice is becoming critical to the operation and to the security program. It provides a level of engagement at the time of need not found in other applications. The business model is changing. Access control providers are evolving into business process optimization and business intelligence platforms. Access control is something they do, not who they are becoming.

Video Management Systems are recognizing the need to integrate voice into the video for situational awareness and actionable response and the end user is beginning to value intelligent communications as the means to not only engage their users at the time of need, but also deliver compelling value in deploying resources within a process by embedding audio and voice throughout their organization. Communication is always critical, not just at the time of an incident. Are the machines you are buying and deploying ready for the age of voice?

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Security Today.

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