Hear Me Out
How network audio can be key to security, safety and operations
- By Chris Wildfoerster
- Aug 02, 2021
Spoken words have power. A verbal warning can
deter someone from breaking and entering. A
calming voice can direct an evacuating crowd to
safety. A cautioning message can remind visitors
to don protective gear before entering a hazardous
area. In the security world, an effective way to extend that power
is through network audio system.
Integrating network audio into a security solution is easy.
Because it operates on the network via PoE, you can seamlessly
integrate it with existing video cameras, access control systems,
intercoms, speakers, and other network-based devices. As part of
a total security solution, network audio not only adds a layer of
proactive deterrence and safety alerts, it can also improve operation
efficiencies and positively effect a company’s bottom line. Being
a network-based solution, it’s also significantly more scalable
and flexible than legacy analog audio technology.
Adding a speaker is simply a matter of running a CAT-5 cable
to the speaker from the nearest PoE switch. Want to relocate a
speaker? Simply unplug it and reconnect its cable to a different
PoE switch. No need to pull cables or rewire racks because the
system is configured via software.
WHY NETWORK AUDIO SYSTEMS
ARE A BETTER OPTION
Most analog speakers in use today are little more than static background
music and paging systems. In sharp contrast, PoE-powered
network audio systems are intelligent solutions that deliver
a wealth of programmable options for broadcasting live and/or
scheduling pre-recorded announcements and playing background
music. They even include built-in system health monitoring to ensure
speakers and network connections are functioning properly.
They also include intuitive software to manage single and multizone
applications – to make it easy for network audio users to:
• Pre-schedule tones, audio content and announcements by hour,
day, season, or even special events
• Group zones together logically to play different content in speci
fic clusters of speakers
• Synchronize music and announcements across an entire enterprise
(such as a chain of retail stores)
• Add insightful analytics such as occupancy sensing, queue management,
loitering detection, emergency mass notification and
more to enhance a facility’s ambiance while improving service
What’s more, network audio has built-in SIP support which
makes it easy to integrate the technology with an organization’s
IP or VoIP telephone system for live announcements.
MAKING A PROACTIVE DIFFERENCE
WITH NETWORK AUDIO
Integrating network audio in its total security solution can help
almost any organizations enhance its safety, security, and operations.
Here are a few scenarios that demonstrate the technology’s
Network audio systems are also intuitive to program. Users can
easily change messages stored in the speaker, select which zones of
speakers should broadcast a message, schedule broadcasts by time
zone, even monitor the health of the system remotely. They can
also integrate with a range of third-party analytics from perimeter protection and loitering to weather warning programs and sound
detection such as gunfire, verbal aggression and glass breaking.
FOR USE IN A CAMPUS SETTING
Deter bullying. A school could integrate video cameras and network
speakers with third-party audio analytics. In this instance,
the analytics would be programmed to detect sounds of aggression
which would trigger a security camera to swivel to a speci
fic location, record the interaction, and send a video clip to the
school security officer. At the same time, an administrator could
use school’s phone system to address the perpetrator by name via
the closest loudspeaker telling them to stop their behavior.
Deter vaping. A school could integrate third-party vaping sensors
and speakers in the bathrooms with video cameras in the
hallways. The vaping sensor would detect vapor and trigger the
speaker to play an audio clip advising the student to stop. The
sensor would also trigger the video camera outside the bathroom
to record who exited the bathroom when the audio message was
played and advise responsible parties of the event.
Deter vandalism. Outside the building, horn speakers could
be integrated with video cameras embedded with perimeter protection
analytics. During non-school hours, the analytics would
detect anyone approaching the building and trigger a warning
from a horn speaker that police are being alerted. Often this is
sufficient to encourage potential vandal to flee the scene before
causing any damage.
FOR USE IN A RETAIL SETTING
Deter theft. As a proactive measure, stores can integrate their
communications system with network audio and network cameras
embedded with loitering detection analytics. When the camera
detects a customer lingering in an aisle for an extended time,
it triggers a message from the nearest speaker that someone will
be there shortly to help. The camera also sends an alert to staff
via an audio page or a message to a two-way radio, walkie-talkie,
mobile phone or VoIP telephone system. The result is two-fold. If
it’s a potential shoplifter, it acts as a deterrent. If it’s a potential
buyer, sending assistance to the location helps close the sale.
Control occupancy. To comply with building occupancy mandates,
retail stores can embed people counting and occupancy
analytics into video cameras at their entrances. When the analytics
calculates the store has reached maximum capacity it triggers
a message from the horn speaker telling customers to line up outside
Promote in-store marketing. Stores can integrate an intelligent
network audio system and speakers with their in-store cameras to
direct in-store messages to targeted customers. They can program
the network audio system to broadcast messages in specific zones
about in-store specials, open cashier stations and more. They can
also program the audio system to pipe in music to create a unique
FOR USE IN A HOSPITAL SETTING
Curb workplace violence. To mitigate workplace danger some
hospitals are integrating their network cameras with intelligent
sound analytics to detect gunshots and verbal aggression. In volatile
areas like emergency rooms, lobbies and psych wards, the
analytics detects warning signs of verbal aggression and automatically
triggers an alert to staff and security to come defuse the
situation. Other security staff could be remotely conversing with
the aggressors through the local speaker system tied to the hospital’s
VoIP phone system. In the case of weapon fire, the analytics
can also send an alert to local police.
Increase premise safety. Hospitals often integrate security cameras
and a speaker system with door lock sensors. When someone
uses an emergency egress or props open the door, the camera records
the event and triggers a warning message from the nearest speaker.
With embedded crossline detection analytics, the cameras can
be programmed to automatically trigger a recorded message over
a loudspeaker warning a driver to move their vehicle because it is
blocking a critical restricted area like an ambulance bay or fire lane.
Improve patient care. By integrating security cameras, acoustic
analytics, and network speakers with microphones, hospital
staff can remotely observe and speak directly to patients in
their rooms. If patient distress is detected, floor clinicians can be
quickly paged to respond. This approach reduces the frequency
of in-person interactions without compromising patient health
and helps to mitigate the spread of infections.
NEW FEATURES THAT ADD MORE VALUE
TO NETWORK AUDIO
Like most technology, network audio is constantly evolving to
provide users with new, more powerful capabilities. Some of the
new features include things like:
Touchless talk-back communications. This enables two-way
communication through the speakers to be more fluid by removing
the need to push a button to engage in conversation.
Paging through cellphone. This allows the user to record a
message on a cellphone and broadcast it through the speaker via
Wi-Fi. This is especially useful in remote areas where access to a
microphone or telephone is limited.
Three equalization presets. Two improve the clarity and crispness
of voice pages and the other improves the quality of your
music and program material. Each EQ is input dependent, meaning
that you can have the music EQ active, make an announcement
and the voice EQ kicks in.
Automated health monitoring. This allows users to remotely
test each speaker separately to make sure they are up and running
properly and minimize downtime if they need maintenance.
NETWORK AUDIO: AN INTEGRAL COMPONENT
OF A TOTAL SECURITY SOLUTION
A comprehensive network security solution not only enhances
a business’ safety and security but can also add value to their
operations. With network audio as part of the technology mix,
an organization can be more proactive in detecting and assessing
danger, mitigating threats, managing emergency evacuations,
even improving the customer experience.
Network audio is easy to install, economical
to maintain, and pays for itself over time by reducing
costly incidents. It is highly scalable and
simple to configure to a company’s needs. And
it makes virtually any security solution a better
This article originally appeared in the July / August 2021 issue of Security Today.
Chris Wildfoerster is the business development manager, Audio Solutions, at Axis Communications Inc.