Adding Audio to ROI Programs
Hearing is the key to everything we do as human beings
- By Kelly Lake
- Jul 29, 2022
Across the globe, security teams are under pressure to justify what they do and how they do it. They need to continually make a strong case to internal and external shareholders for their budgets and activities. More than ever, security teams in enterprises, big or small, are expected to think about Return on Investment (ROI) with almost every decision that they make.
The concept of ROI is simple. You invest time, money, and/or resources into the right security solutions to mitigate security and safety risks. Demonstrating how that investment contributes to a safer work environment is key to securing future funding.
Yet, the task can also be difficult, as security and safety business units do not usually generate a monetary return like other business units do. Security’s investment pays for itself in risk mitigation: a security event didn’t take place today and employees went home safe.
Audio and Risk of Inaction
ROI does mean return on investment, but a more recent meaning of the term that is showing up in other industries is risk of inaction. It refers to playing it safe, by simply leaning on established strategies and not knowing or acting upon all opportunities for improvement. Is there a risk of inaction with audio and intelligent communication solutions in your facility?
Audio should be an action, not an inaction, and it should be included in every security solution. Here is why.
Fundamentally, hearing is key to everything we do as human beings. Imagine trying to watch a movie without sound or attending a music concert and not being able to hear it. Sound is everywhere, and we need it in our lives. We often hear something before we see it: a loud noise or voice, a door slamming, a gunshot or breaking glass. Sounds trigger a response that impels us to act, to yell for help or to dial 911. As humans, sound is something that we have instinctively responded to since birth.
Most enterprise security teams today have a vast amount of technology such as IP video surveillance and access control. Access control serves as the arms and hands of a security system; it can either keep someone out or allow them in. IP video allows a security team to remotely position a set of eyes anywhere an IP camera can be placed on a network. A VMS allows security teams to see what is happening and decide how to respond. Yet, while “a picture is worth a thousand words,” video only tells half the story. The security guard may miss the event, the video may not catch the event or the event may be over by the time security responds.
Relying entirely on video, access control and other surveillance technologies to mitigate threats is a missed opportunity to completely understand the whole situation and respond effectively.
The Benefits of Audio
In a security setting, there are many benefits of integrating audio and intelligent communications within security solutions. Here are four examples.
First, quality of the response. Picture a security guard who is protecting a facility late at night, when an individual approaches the entrance and wants to gain access. The security guard can pull up the video surveillance feed and see the individual and his movements, which appear to be suspicious. But he also needs to hear him to decide the next decisions. Does he escalate the situation, calling for backup and for first responders’ response, or does he allow the individual access to the building because he works there and is authorized to enter? The security guard needs to hear and to communicate with that individual.
Second, improved situational awareness. Audio amplifies awareness, which leads to a better response and improved outcome. For example, listening to live audio from the scene helps the security officer better understand what is happening and determine if the incident requires first responders. The officer can get more details, such as languages spoken, names said or orders given. The officer can then give that information to first responders to be fully prepared with the response. Adding an IP speaker to the security mix means that security teams can also have a two-way conversation to potentially de-escalate the situation.
Third, minimize false alarms. Audio can provide real-time confirmation on whether the alarm is valid or not, which provides cost savings in reduced fines and improved response time. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 90 percent of emergency alarms are unnecessary for multiple reasons, and those false alarms can be a threat to public safety.
Fourth, audio has reach. Consider a facility’s perimeter that is far away from the facility itself, such as an airport, or a utility or a manufacturer’s warehouse. IP speakers are easy to install and offer two-way communications, and they operate in all conditions. Security teams can use video surveillance to see an individual trying to enter the perimeter, and then use audio to determine why they are there or direct them to leave. If the person is simply lost, security staff can talk to them and provide direction and reassurance, and the individual can hear and talk back to them.
A New Perspective
Sometimes we don’t know what we are missing until someone points it out to us. That can apply to your security systems. An effective security approach requires a multifaceted suite of technologies, and a platform that provides clear audio must be one of them. Each component plays an integral role in supporting a unified security system, and without all of them, the security system is not complete.
Success in any business depends upon a strong ROI – securing the Return on Investment while protecting against the Risk of Inaction. The value of audio can sometimes be overlooked, resulting in inaction, but that should not be the case. Action means understanding how audio can help mitigate risk and improve response, no matter who or what is being protected. Ensuring your team can hear, be heard and be understood in virtually any environment will contribute to a successful ROI for your security organization.
This article originally appeared in the July / August 2022 issue of Security Today.
Kelly Lake is the director of global strategic alliances at Zenitel Americas.