Listen Up: The Sound Of Security

Network audio solutions can be a critical element of facility security and safety systems.

By Chris Wildfoerster
From the August 2020 Issue

The security landscape has advanced rapidly to now include tools such as network cameras, network audio, and analytics. While security system components, such as physical locks, door alarms, metal detectors, and others, remain valuable elements of facility security, there are video, audio, and analytic technologies available that are more advanced, effective, and efficient than their analog predecessors.

audio solutions security
(Photo: Nevarpp)

Identifying the most effective security tools is a high priority for security and facility management professionals. The advent of tools like IP cameras, analytics, radar detectors, and thermal imaging have revolutionized video surveillance, enabling security personnel to gain a more accurate sense of what is happening within their facilities at any given time. But the advancements do not end there. While high-quality video surveillance is an essential aspect of building security, the addition of network audio solutions offers further capabilities. Audio solutions complement new and existing video surveillance solutions, adding a new dimension to building security and safety.

Sound Detection Capabilities For Facility Security

Most security incidents involve or are preceded by some sort of noise. Glass shattering might signify a break-in, while gunshots indicate something more violent. Even raised voices can be a sign that an incident is about to take place, and the ability to recognize that can mean the difference between responding to an incident and stopping one before it occurs.

The latest audio solutions can do just that. Just as IP cameras don’t just record video anymore—they actively analyze it and issue alerts when certain conditions are met—the latest audio solutions can listen for pre-defined sounds and send alerts for active and potential incidents. An alert triggered by an unusual sound informs security personnel to focus on that specific area. Audio capabilities can also give security teams the edge in low-light situations where video observation can be difficult, adding a further element to existing capabilities.

This is particularly valuable for incidents where response time is critical, such as a break-in or a violent assault. When audio solutions are integrated with video surveillance, they can be tailored for a wide range of different situations and programmed to identify unusual disturbances and noises such as glass breaking, the creak of a door, or voices after hours when no one should be in the building. Once unusual noise is detected or a threshold on the premise is crossed, integrated audio solutions can trigger an alert to key stakeholders and can give security or law enforcement a significant head start in responding. Given that regulators have estimated that just a one-minute reduction in average 911 call response time could save up to 10,000 lives in the U.S. alone, the potential impact is clear. Complementing video solutions with advanced audio detection can help facility security teams verify the situation on the ground and respond with immediate and relevant actions.

See It, Say It, Do It

See it with cameras. Say it with network audio. Do it with analytics. Traditional security systems record critical information, filing away important information on the who, what, when, where, and why of an event. Adding audio to a traditional security setup can transform that system from a passive, reactive, forensic system into a proactive deterrence solution.

Integrated video, audio, and analytics solutions are important for surveillance and remote monitoring applications that require the ability to see and hear events and communicate with visitors or intruders in real time. If an intruder is detected, two-way, SIP-based audio technology allows facility managers or operators to remotely address people and deter unwanted activity. Remote audio often means less incidents, less property damage, fewer guards, and decreased costs. For facility managers, whose top priority is the safety and protection of the people and assets in their buildings, this can make the addition of audio detection essential.

audio solutions security
The latest audio solutions for facility security can listen for pre-defined sounds and send alerts for both active and potential incidents. (Photo: Andrey Suslov)

Consider the resources that could be saved (or allocated elsewhere) if a simple audio message could help prevent a dangerous incident before it happens. Playing a pre-recorded warning that security has been notified or a live call out to leave the premises can de-escalate a potentially violent situation. This is an important consideration, because although it is possible to trigger an alert to security personnel when an intruder is detected, there is still a certain amount of lag time before authorities can respond and be on-site to mitigate the situation. On the other hand, a recording or live call out might deter the event from occurring at all. Audio notifies the individual that they are in a monitored area, their activity has been detected, and the appropriate authorities have been notified. In many cases, when an intruder hears a cautionary message and knows they have been detected, it is enough to scare them off before anything is taken or damaged, or they injure themselves.

This technology is valuable in other contexts, as well. Certain facilities have reported a frustrating difficulty in preventing visitors from accidentally triggering alarms by using emergency exits. Facilities like hospitals, which might have thousands of visitors a day and have an expansive layout, are particularly susceptible to this problem. An audio solution tailored to broadcast an automated warning triggered by analytics when it detects someone approaching an emergency exit or loitering in its general vicinity can help reduce these incidents dramatically.

This sort of solution can also be valuable for buildings that have a problem with loitering in general. Sometimes, all it takes is letting people know that their actions are being observed. These same capabilities can be used to keep visitors and occupants informed during emergency situations as well, providing instructions during an active shooter situation or severe weather event, potentially saving lives.

Comprehensive Security, Use All Resources

Strong locks and access control are good, and IP surveillance cameras are great. But taking a see it, say it, do it approach through video, audio, and analytics completes an optimal end-to-end security solution. Surveillance cameras have long provided facility management with eyes on the ground, and now audio solutions can give them ears—and a voice—as well. Capable of providing both additional detection capabilities and proactive communication options, modern audio solutions add a new dimension to building security, enabling security personnel to not only respond to incidents quicker, but in many cases prevent them entirely.

Whether managing a commercial or office facility, a hotel, or an apartment building, the safety and security of both the people and property within is of paramount importance for facility executives. The countless sensors and security devices on the market have made the job of protecting them easier than ever, especially as video, audio, and analytic surveillance capabilities continue to evolve in complementary ways. Thanks to today’s technology, facility management personnel can gain a clearer picture of what is happening in and around their facilities—and modern audio solutions play a critical role in their security and safety.

Wildfoerster is the business development manager for audio solutions for Axis Communications, Inc. With three decades of experience in the audio and controls industries, he has worked with companies such as Bogen Communications, BOSE, Crestron Electronics, ClearOne, and MUSIC Group. Wildfoerster has been an active contributor to AXVIA, CEA, CEDIA, NSCA, and various other associations. He is well known for his expertise working with AV IT integrators and distributors, discovering new channels to market and forging business and technological alliances.

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