In this podcast, Christoph Trappe chats with David Antar, president at IPVideo, about how the company’s product—HALO Smart Sensors—helps with building security.
It uses sensors to catch: vapes, fires, aggression, glass breaking, gunshots, air quality and more. They discuss the security impact and dive into what it means to privacy.
Learn more about HALO Smart Sensors.
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Christoph Trappe: Hello, everyone. It’s Christoph Trappe, chief content officer at Buildings.com. Back for another episode of our podcast. And today I’m joined by David Antar, president of IPVideo Corporation. David, thanks for joining us.
David Antar: My pleasure, Christoph. Actually, looking forward to it.
Christoph: And so, the reason we ran across each other is your company was at ISC West, the conference, and you won a bunch of awards for your Halo Smart Sensor product. Talk about that product. What problem is it solving in the industry that we want to share with our audience here?
David: We’re really excited about Halo. It’s really a unique product that doesn’t really exist in the marketplace right now.
We’re actually the first product to come out with a multi-sensor that was originally developed for doing vape detection, which are e-cigarettes, which has reached epidemic levels in schools and in buildings where people instead of smoking now are using e-cigarettes.
Typical smoke detectors don’t pick up vape because it’s vaporized into the air. So, our engineers originally were developing this as a solution for that, but it turned into being so much more than a vape detector.
So, Halo has right now 11 different sensors that do everything from vape detection to be able to differentiate vape with THC, which is when they’re using drugs.
They put the THC oil into a vape pen and they’re able to vape that, to advanced smoke detection, which is critical to building owners, because this will actually trigger an event or an alarm prior to a smoke detector going off.
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On top of that, it has other sensors for carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, propane, natural gas detection, chemical detection, like alcohol, ammonia, as well as temperature, humidity, light levels, air pressure. And we got a little carried away.
So, we decided to add a few more sensors to it since that wasn’t enough. We added an accelerometer, which means if somebody hits or tries to move the sensor, it will actually trigger an alarm.
And then we did a whole suite of audio analytics into it, which means it can analyze different sounds like glass break, gunshot, aggression detection, if somebody started to have a fight or somebody was starting to make a lot of noise, it would trigger that as an alarm.
And then it also will over time learn spoken words or keyword detection. So, you can as an example say, “Help. 911.” And this could trigger as a panic alarm into the area.
Christoph: So, when you talk about vape detection, is this mostly used in schools then?
David: The original design was for the educational market and for areas of privacy—bathrooms, locker rooms—places where there’d be an expectation of privacy that a camera won’t go.
But because of all the sensors that we’ve put into this, it really has changed the product into now going into every room of every building in the world.
So, in the school environment, we go into classrooms, stairways, hallways, principals’ offices as well as the areas of privacy, the bathrooms and locker rooms.
In the commercial markets, in healthcare as an example, we can go into every patient room. Because of our air pressure sensor, we can go into an operating room, which needs to maintain positive air pressure.
In the hospitality area, we can actually determine smoke, advanced smoke detection and the vape detection, because they don’t want people vaping or smoking in the hotel rooms.
In addition to that keyword detection, in a lot of hotels are required to have panic alarm systems for their cleaning services. This can actually use a spoken word as that detection for an event, so somebody can again use that word like “Help. 911” as the keyword trigger for it.
So, it really goes into almost every vertical market, commercial buildings obviously. I mean it’s really unlimited in the markets that this can go into.
Christoph: So, I grew up in—so many things to cover here—but I grew up in Germany, Europe. Obviously, lots of smoking happening. Probably in the US, the same thing back in those days. And I understand why people don’t want people to be smoking around them, right, the smell and now your clothes smell like that.
But how about the e-cigarettes? Why do companies care that people don’t do that? What’s the danger? I guess in school, let’s start with school. In school, we don’t want students to do that because they’re too young, I guess. Is that the reason?
“We kind of like to look at our device HALO as your nose and your ears. [...] It’s giving us those two additional senses and really gives you a very different situational awareness than just cameras alone. It really gives you a much better exposure to what’s actually going on.” - David Antar
David: Sure. There is nicotine in the e-cigarettes and it’s an addiction. And now we have kids as early as in fifth grade vaping. So, it’s really reached critical level. It’s still a personal space where people don’t want people blowing vapor in people’s faces.
So, it’s no different than the original, you know, we don’t want people smoking and blowing third party smoke into people’s faces. It’s no different with vaping.
And there are restrictions in many buildings that they don’t want vaping in those buildings. I was just at a ballgame yesterday at City Field and they made an announcement that vaping is not allowed on their premises.
So, it’s becoming, the restricting areas is no different than smoking, that they want to have designated areas for vaping, just like they have designated areas for smoking.
Christoph: And that’s because you’re still blowing out the smoke.
David: That’s correct. And also, the interesting thing is people can be vaping with different chemicals in there. They have all different flavored vapes and all different chemicals that can be in there, including ones that are illegal, like THC, where they could be vaping with things that could be illegal or harmful to others.
Christoph: Very interesting. So, let’s talk about, you mentioned hospitality. So, if you have the sensor in a room, are there privacy concerns? Or how does that work?
David: That’s the great thing about this. You couldn’t put a microphone in an area of privacy because of wire tap laws. This doesn’t do that. In essence, it’s analyzing the audio, similar to maybe an Alexa or a Siri where it can actually analyze the words that are spoken or the sounds that it hears and identifies the patterns of them, or the signatures of them, and then can alert you that a certain event happened.
So, that glass break or bullying where all of a sudden there was a loud rise in the noise levels. So, it can give you alerts to that.
So, it doesn’t really compromise or cause any issues with any privacy or feeling of invasion of privacy by having the technology in there because it’s not recording anything, it’s not playing it back to anybody else.
Christoph: So, you don’t have anybody sitting at headquarters in New York City analyzing what people talked about in the hotel room?
David: Absolutely not. Unlike Alexa who does apparently do that. We don’t do that. What we end up doing is really, we just do the analysis of it and tell the people what the event was and just announce it as an event.
So, as an example, if it was set up for glass break detection, somebody broke a window to try and break into a building, it would send that off as an alarm that glass break was just heard.
Christoph: So, if you have—how many sensors are there to even do this? Because the sensors to get the vaping, to smoke, to gunshot, glass breaking, they’re very different events, right?
David: They are. And that’s what the unique thing of this product is. Partly on the software side of it, this also has a computer inside it. So, it’s a smart device.
It’s really just about 5-and-a-half inches in diameter. It looks like a smoke detector when it’s installed in the ceiling.
The other unique thing, by they way, before I get into that part of it, is that this is powered by the network switches, a POE device. So, very simple installation.
You drill a 5-inch hole, you pop this into a drop ceiling or into a ceiling, plug in a network cable into it, and it has little wings that come out to lock it into the ceiling.
So, it literally takes minutes to install and then it’s able to use the multiple sensors that it has on there. But it can work to use two or three sensors to give you a single reading on what you’re looking for.
As an example, when we determine vape with THC, we’re using multiple sensors and the readings on those, but you only see it as one alarm and rising gauge if you want.
So, we’re able to combine sensors to determine what the signature of different things look like and alert you to those things that are important to you as a building owner or as a facility manager.
Christoph: So, very interesting. Let’s talk about in schools and other commercial buildings I suppose to, when it comes to active shooter scenarios.
Unfortunately, of course, today, we have schools practicing those kinds of things. We actually had the sheriff’s office come into the building headquarters. And they did a drill with us.
We did a virtual reality video on it. It’s very eye-opening when they come in and they actually—they’re not shooting at you, but they have the pellets or whatever. And it’s just unbelievable. And the time you have to get out or barricade or fight back, it’s just so small.
What this sensor, so let’s say it detects a gunshot, I mean how much time can the potential victim gain back to get out?
David: That’s a great point you bring up. We actually have a division that actually specializes in active shooter training. So, IPVideo, we have a division that does active shooter training or customers and people that we work with.
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Our motto is that time equals lives. The quicker that you can respond and have accurate information to a situation, the more lives that can be saved.
And we’re very big proponents of using all the best practices to accomplish that. And HALO is a critical, almost the kingpin of that because of that active shooter ability to determine gunshot or that loud aggression noise and be able to pinpoint the location of the incident.
So, as an example, if we had a building that had 20 of these in a building, we could actually locate the event and triangulate on it very quickly to be able to determine where the event originated from. We also can have audio alert coming from this. This actually has a speaker on it.
So, it actually has the ability to be able to play pre-recorded messages or alerts, telling people to shelter in place or to prepare them for the next steps or things that they feel that should be taken at that point.
Christoph: So, the one scenario that the sheriff ran us through, so everybody was in the big executive conference room, and one of the deputies left and went into the bathroom 10 steps away—not even—and fired two shots, right? Not real shots, but the practice shots.
And so, he came back in and he said, “Did anybody hear me?” And we said, “Did we hear you do what?”
So, nobody even heard it and he wasn’t that far away.
Christoph: So, does this product help with that? Like, to catch those sounds, even…
David: Sure. It’s truly a game changer with this technology. Because the fact that you blanket a building with it, including those privacy areas, because a lot of times, when we do camera systems and different things, we put them into public areas, and it’s great.
But being able to now monitor and be able to put this into areas of privacy in addition to the areas that are not a privacy, gives you that comprehensive coverage.
So, we kind of like to look at our device HALO as your nose and your ears. So, if you look at the five senses, your camera is kind of your eyes. The HALO sensor in this point is nose and smell technically at that point. Your smell as well as your hearing.
So, it’s giving us those two additional senses and really gives you a very different situational awareness than just cameras alone. It really gives you a much better exposure to what’s actually going on.
Christoph: What are the biggest problems when building owners come to you and buy this product that they’re trying to solve? What are the most typically used cases?
David: The interesting thing, we’re in the process of doing something called a “BACnet integration,” which basically will tie this into building management systems. So, now we can help to manage energy levels in a building.
We have a light sensor in here also that basically tells us light levels and tells us where lights are on in buildings.
So, this becomes a tool that they use every day to manage their buildings and manage them more efficiently.
If you can imagine taking all the different sensors they currently use to accomplish that and bring this all down to one [unintelligible] device—it really is kind of a game changer in the fact that we’re able to consolidate all of these technologies together and then also, bring all the new things like that vape detection, the advanced smoke detection… so it truly not only secures a building, but it can help to make it much more efficient as a building.
Christoph: So, your company, IPVideo Corporation, also produces this product?
David: We do. We actually developed, we filed a patent on this, we’ve been working on it for about four years and it’s out in full production at this point. We’ve had some incredible success with it.
And we’ve had so many vertical markets contact us aside from the school market, which is the easy, kind of the low hanging fruit of the school market because the vape detection is so critical in the bathrooms.
But as people start to realize the additional capabilities of this, everybody wants it.
We just received an inquiry recently that they’re specing into a project in England for a museum, because they need to monitor the air quality. This is measuring pollution levels and air quality in a building.
We recently had a customer of ours that told us in the middle of the night, they were getting some very high readings on the devices. And then as they looked and heard in the news, there was a fire two towns over.
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Just the smoke in the general air from two towns over was registering on their HALO unit and being able to show them that the air quality was poor in their building at that time.
Christoph: Very interesting. David, thank you so much for sharing all this interesting information with us. I was joined by David Antar, president of IPVideo Corporation.
Thanks everyone for listening to another episode of our podcast.
If you are listening on any of the podcast syndication channels, feel free to head over to Buildings.com. We have pictures of the product in our product section. We’ll share links again to our active shooter training story and the virtual reality video from that.
And thanks again for listening, everyone.
This podcast was originally posted in May 2019 and updated in July 2019.
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