Can You Hear Me Now?

Two-way audio systems add value for customers


"Pulse takes away the central exchange, software licensing and the programming," he explained. "Everything is done from a PC with a network interface card." One master IP station can handle 16 substations. The master is G.722 compliant and acts as a SIP server. All the other stations register to the SIP server by auto-discovery. It supports a range of SIP-based VoIP phones and gateways. Where installations are copper-based, the server allows a POTS line gateway.

Yet, audio does not really make sense for applications such as centralized traffic monitoring where audio for red light cameras is not necessary. "But, there is an increase in audio surveillance in public areas, where a company or guard is handling security supervision," Rietschel confirmed. In Germany for example, there have been increasing incidents of fights and harassment in subway stations.

"A remote guard who sees this on video will have a difficult time reacting," Rietschel continued. "Being able to speak to the perpetrators and warn them that they are on video and police have been dispatched can potentially save lives."

Bolen said that delivering service with both audio and video is appropriate for any market where virtual guard services can supplant physical guards.

"Even if a business is employing a guard they can deliver the same life-safety value at a fraction of the cost," Bolen said.

Another interesting voice application is analyzing audio to detect fear and aggression. "In these cases, you aren't really interpreting the spoken word but cameras have triggered based suspicious activity in the audio," Rietschel said. This technique can appease privacy laws as you are not eavesdropping, but instead detecting moods through audio analysis.

Still, privacy concerns remain, depending on the application and the country, noted Rietschel. Casinos often allow simultaneous audio and video surveillance, especially where privacy laws do not prevent eavesdropping for security reasons. "ATM machines are another example where this is allowed," Rietschel said. "Additionally, voice analysis can assist with suspect identification." However, this technology is still unacceptable in a hospital environment, where people want to speak in privacy.

Make audio work for you

The first thing to do is look at the business goals and the lifecycle security goals of the customer, Bolen said. When selling their Virtual Guard Service, Westec never promotes audio without video or video without audio. "We offer fully interactive audio and video to our customers. Only if the customer requests it do we dial it back," he said.

Myers pointed to wireless as the latest improvement in the system. Consider that it can take an hour to run a wire to a second-floor bedroom-so the advantage of wireless units in this installation scenario is obvious.

A home unit can be installed where the homeowner wants it to sit in the house. Digital Security Control's (part of Tyco Security Products) Impassa is based on 3G radio (used by BlackBerry, for example). In addition to 3G's faster speeds, Myers noted that cellular carriers will maintain 3G in their networks long after legacy 2G systems become obsolete.

In another wireless aspect, many homeowners abandoned hardwired phones for cellular. Not having POTS doesn't necessarily mean no two-way audio. "Our Impassa system is a new, wireless 32-zone panel that can be integrated with POTS, cellular or IP," Myers said. "It allows two-way audio over cellular communications."

"The biggest installation failure is lack of serious technical expertise out in the field," Cooper said. This vexes the project manager, who sees delays in the project.

"As we drive technology to more software and less hardware in systems, there are too many guys who never have been trained on installations," explained Cooper. "If you sell a project, the person who installs it should have some idea of what he is doing."

An installer also has to be aware of where they install the system, Myers advised. Noting that most panels have about a 50-foot radius, he said it is important for an installer to put the panel where it can be heard and where it can pick up the owner's voice.