Enabling Prevention

Enhancing security with IP network audio solutions

For organizations that wish to monitor their premises, video surveillance is most often the first solution they think of. We’ve become accustomed to having access to video at any time and from anywhere, so the ability to see what’s happening at a location at any given moment is an attractive proposition. As effective as video alone is, incorporating network audio as part of a security solution has been shown to increase a surveillance system’s overall ability to deter crime, increase safety and improve situational awareness for first responders.

A Standalone System

While security professionals have used audio for many years, it has historically been deployed in limited situations and typically as a standalone system not integrated with other security solutions. Many IP cameras offer audio capabilities, but their performance is limited. For high-quality, full-featured audio, IP network speakers are an attractive proposition, offering the potential for integration, which increases the power and value of all surveillance systems at a relatively low cost.

There are many potential security and non-security applications for audio, such as targeted in store messaging and announcements, queue monitoring, monitoring high-traffic areas for safety, improving loss-prevention and more.

There are four main benefits of incorporating audio into security using IP speakers, which are discussed below.

Detection with Advanced Analytics

Most of us are undoubtedly familiar with video analytics, which can be deployed to detect anomalies such as line-crossing, left objects, vehicles and more. The performance of these technologies has improved substantially since their introduction, however, even the most advanced video analytics are limited by the video a camera is able to capture. Therefore, their weakness lies in detecting incidents that occur out of the camera’s field of vision. Audio analytics, on the other hand, are capable of monitoring a 360-degree area to cover those blind spots that lie beyond a camera’s field of view and ensure that incidents don’t fall through the cracks.

Using a preset decibel threshold or acoustic signature, audio analytics can determine if a specific event has occurred— such as glass breaking or a gunshot—or can be used to detect aggression in a person’s voice that may indicate potential escalation of a situation. These are just two examples of the types of analytics available today that transform traditionally reactive security systems into proactive solutions that offer the potential to prevent an event from happening in the first place.

Audio analytics also create cost savings by taking the human element out of monitoring, allowing organizations to deploy their security personnel more efficiently and effectively. For example, a school could set up audio and video perimeter detection analytics to automatically play a message and alert someone when a perimeter is breached, allowing an operator or guard to concentrate on that specific event rather than trying to manually monitor the entire perimeter.

Deterrence and Prevention

Going hand in hand with detection is response, one key strength of audio is its ability to serve as a deterrent. Given the prevalence of cameras today, many people take video surveillance for granted. Either they’ve become so accustomed to cameras that they don’t notice them, or they simply don’t take them seriously. After all, there’s no way to tell by looking at a camera whether it is even working and if it is, whether the resolution is high enough to make out faces or other identifying details, or whether a person is actually watching the video feed.

When you add audio to the mix, you literally send a message to the area that the camera is in fact working and that someone is indeed watching. Whether triggered by audio or video analytic, responses can come in the form of a prerecorded message stored in the speaker or an operator talking directly to someone on the premises, both of which have proven effective in realworld applications.

Consider a situation where someone has entered a location without authorization and is about to commit a crime or is engaging in a dangerous or unsafe behavior. Hearing a voice speaking directly to them could almost fill the role of their conscience reminding them of the potential ramifications of the poor decision they’ve made or are about to make. Hearing that voice of reason should make them rethink and hopefully stop what they were about to do and leave the premises.

In many cases, live chat or recorded messages actually prevent an incident from happening altogether. And the ability to deter a crime, accident or other event from happening directly translates into cost savings. For example, prevention can allow end users to save on first responder costs, time, resources and administrative costs, to name a few. If a criminal activity is prevented, organizations avoid loss from theft or vandalism, attorney’s fees and other costs associated with the judicial process. From a safety perspective, prevention can translate into savings on healthcare, insurance and legal costs.

Flexibility and Scalability

Introducing audio into the security landscape is hardly a new concept. While legacy analog systems may have been adequate in the past, network audio has become the standard today, rather than the exception. Therefore, traditional analog technologies simply don’t provide the same level of functionality and stability as IP solutions, and can actually do more harm than good.

Security, phone, building automation and many other systems operate via IP networks, which opens the door for integrators to tie these systems together enhancing security and overall operations. IP network speakers powered over the Ethernet (PoE) seamlessly fit into this complete solution.

With these solutions, everything is built into the speakers, including scheduling software allowing users to schedule announcements for various times of day or week, select sources, monitor system health and more, In addition, since each speaker has its own unique IP address, users can also customize and configure zones however they’d like.

Since PoE IP speakers are self-powered via the Ethernet, scheduling, zoning and other parameters can easily be changed on the fly remotely via a software interface using a web browser, delivering a level of flexibility and scalability that just isn’t fiscally viable with analog solutions. One of the main drawbacks with analog speaker systems is that once they’re installed and configured, they’re static. This means any changes to the system may require a truck roll, rewiring of the system and rewiring of the rack which could translate into significant increased cost to the client.

Given the differences in performance between these two technologies, there really is no comparison between analog systems and IP Network audio solutions. Where analog speakers are passive— essentially just moving air in the form of sound—IP speakers offer an all in one intelligent, cost-effective solution that just makes sense in today’s IP-based world.

Integrator Benefits

For integrators, augmenting security systems with IP network audio solutions offers not only ease of installation, configuration and integration, but audio also creates an additional revenue stream in the form of net new business and ongoing services. When you consider the potential savings realized from preventing incidents, adding network audio as part of your security ecosystem solutions just makes sense.

Let’s say an audio system allows an organization to deter just one person from stealing from or vandalizing a business or prevents one person from being injured. The savings associated with preventing that single incident, could conceivably offset the cost of the system. With each subsequent prevention, the audio system transforms from a cost center to a revenue generator.

And considering the breadth of verticals that can benefit from deploying audio as part of their security system, integrators’ revenue opportunities are virtually unlimited. Corporations, healthcare facilities, schools, government, retail, transportation, finance and municipalities are just a sample of the markets where integrators can deploy audio to enhance security for both new and existing customers.

Moving forward, smart integrators will want to familiarize themselves with SIP in order to take advantage of the benefits of IP networked speakers. Additionally, every time integrators install a camera, they should think how network audio would benefit their clients.

Without question, video surveillance has become a powerful and effective tool for securing people, premises and assets. Given continued advancements in image quality, video analytics, compression and other capabilities, the role of video in security will only increase in the future. Adding network audio to your security ecosystem has gained acceptance and when you consider these four main benefits, there is no question that IP network audio can be an equally vital component for delivering enhanced security.

With the ability to enhance the detection and interpretation of events IP network audio solutions to transform traditionally reactive solutions into proactive, preventative systems, these solutions can generate significant cost savings for organizations who deploy them as part of their overall security strategy.

This article originally appeared in the January / February 2020 issue of Security Today.

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