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Sync Surveillance with Sound

Surveillance camera with soundwaves

Video Intercoms to Control Access

What if you want to use audio in a more interactive way? Video intercoms allow you to see and hear people as they approach an entrance. These dynamic devices can interface with your badging system so you can communicate with individuals as an added layer of authentication.

“Video intercoms are a bridge solution between access control and surveillance, says John Mosebar, Vice President of Aiphone, a communication systems provider. “They enable you to engage with what you see.”

The systems are typically standalone and don’t need to be networked, which simplifies installation. They are routinely used at external entrances, both main and back doors, and can capture images during low light and darkness, says Mosebar. You can also use them internally for restricted areas. There are also software solutions that run on a computer or mobile phone, a useful solution to reduce hardware on a reception desk and simplify guest verification, he adds.

One key advantage is the field of view. Security cameras are traditionally placed high in a corner so they have wide coverage – useful for monitoring perimeters but not for verifying identity. Video intercoms, on the other hand, are placed at eye level because the depth is intentionally shallow to capture faces. Individuals will also approach the station directly so a front view can be achieved.

In terms of operational efficiency, video intercoms are a time saver because badging issues can be resolved remotely, Mosebar explains. Your security team can provide instant assistance if a person’s access is denied. He or she could hold up a photo ID for verification or say a preapproved security phrase to gain entry.

Beyond access control, video paging can amplify the effectiveness of emergency or push-for-help stations, adds Mosebar. These devices are traditionally configured as a distress button or a call station with two-way communication, but the only way you can see that location is to have a separate surveillance camera in the vicinity. With a video intercom feature, however, you can visually monitor the location while receiving and sending information.  

Distinguish Threats with Analytics

Video analytics can already interpret physical movement and audio analytics are no different. Much research has gone into mapping the human ear and watching how the cochlea transmits sound waves to the brain as nerve signals. Software algorithms replicate this biological process in order to identify signature sounds. These apps can flag anything from cries of distress and vocal aggression to the sounds of vehicle crashes, breaking glass or weapon discharges, Surfaro says.

Note that these programs are a form of audio recognition – they’re not continuously listening to every single noise, stresses Surfaro. Only predefined or unexpected noises will trigger the software to send an alert to your security team. And unless the software is supposed to recognize key words, aggression detection is limited to vocal inflections rather than word choice. Not only does this allay speech privacy concerns, but it saves on bandwidth because the app doesn’t need to stream all the time.

Using analytics to identify specialized sounds helps you to respond more quickly. A few seconds saved over scrutinizing a silent video capture can get guards on location more nimbly or a 911 call dispatched earlier. It’s the difference between responding to a physical fight in progress and preventing verbal aggression from escalating to battery.

You can also put sound detection to use outside of your security operations. In industrial or mission critical settings, you can teach the analytics to recognize the hum of your machinery, Surfaro explains. If a machine runs outside of business hours, makes an unusual noise that points to a maintenance issue or goes silent when it should be on, the analytics will know and send a notification.

Another smart use of this capability is in parking areas. While gunshot detection has become more prevalent in recent years, don’t overlook more common occurrences like car accidents that affect life safety, says Surfaro. It’s far more likely that a fender bender will happen on your property than mass violence. In addition to recognizing the distinct sound of cars hitting one another, analytics can detect car alarms and breaking glass. Thieves may think twice if someone can hear them breaking into a vehicle and occupants can take comfort that their car is less likely to be stolen or vandalized.

No matter which sound capture option you use, adding audio will help solidify your due diligence. “You should do everything in your power to make your facility safer,” says Surfaro. “If you have the capability for audio, why not use it to your advantage?”

Jennie Morton jennie.morton@buildings.com is Senior Editor of BUILDINGS.


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