Can You Hear Me Now?

Two-way audio systems add value for customers

Think video is the only way to go? Think again. Two-way audio is on the upswing. It is a less expensive sell than video, gives users peace of mind and contact with their security provider and is going wireless. And while video may be core to many currently, systems integrators need to identify ways to leverage audio to users for a complete system.

"Two-way audio and alarming are gaining considerably in the market," said Tim Myers, senior product manager, Wireless Systems and Sensors Portfolio, Tyco Security Products, Toronto. "It is growing faster than video." He said savvy dealers see audio as a cost-effective way to deliver interactive protection to the residential market and build recurring monthly revenue (RMR). And with the coming of wireless, the audio market has the ability to expand to another group of residential markets.

"Everybody should have audio," agreed Bennie Cooper, sales engineer with Stentofon-Zenitel, Kansas City, Mo. "Everybody wants video and security card access but video is usually the third thing on their list. A system is not truly interactive if you can't talk to the people you can see."

Cooper confirmed the biggest markets for audio are in campus situations or any site with multiple buildings like a hospital, college or large pharmaceutical plant where buildings are spread out.

Audio gains traction in multiple vertical market environments

Johannes G. Rietschel, chief executive officer and founder, Barix Technology Inc., Oakdale, Minn., attributed the technology's growth to how helpful two-way audio can be for monitoring, announcements and intercom communication.

"Audio increases security and it should be offered," Rietschel said. "Security integrators installing a video system in a train station, where video surveillance is a must, should look at how to offer audio, whether separately or on a shared network. Two-way audio installations require good-quality standalone speakers to enable intercom and enhanced audio surveillance," he said. A speaker built into the camera will not work in the latter situation, since the camera would be in the wrong position for the internal speaker to pick up everything. "Integrators need to plan for multiple microphones per camera, especially if you want to pick up audio from people whispering," Rietschel added.

In the U.S., Spain and the United Kingdom-dominated by central stations-two-way audio is booming. In regions of Latin America or Asia where customers are cost sensitive and self-monitoring reigns, audio is not currently as important. However, domestically, audio is key. "The reason is cost," Myers said. "Audio comes on every panel and is easy to operate. Two-way audio keeps cost down and makes an easier sell."

Myers said that audio is of value in any market dominated by central stations in response to interior alarms.

"At the next level, perimeter protection, it does not add as much value," he added.

Two-way audio is gaining ground in the remote monitoring business as well, but only for those providers who can deliver a reliable and clear connection, according to Jon Bolen, chief product officer, Westec, Plano, Texas. While he is enthusiastic about dealers and integrators offering audio services, he warned of the complexities of audio.

"Delivering audio and video over the same connection will create quality of service problems for customers and providers who do not properly plan their wide area infrastructure," Bolen continued. He said that his firm continues to segregate the audio and video transmission to ensure high quality of service.

Stentofon-Zenitel's Pulse system, which uses all IP stations, is a good application for supermarkets, small offices or similar smaller installations, according to Cooper. It currently is being rolled out in pilot installations with full support from the firm's Norway headquarters.

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