Breaking the Silence: Integrating Audio with Video

Jan. 15, 2015
As it becomes more accepted, audio surveillance is becoming a viable and welcome addition to many video deployments

Typically, when people talk about surveillance innovation, they discuss migration from analog to IP, ultra HD imaging, new compression standards and network storage technology. One potentially overlooked video surveillance trend is system integration — and it should not be ignored.

According to a 2014 IHS report, the global market for security system integration is expected to expand annually by nearly $5 billion, or roughly nine percent, through 2018. System integration has already impacted IP video camera technology standards, as evidenced by the security industry’s adoption of ONVIF and PSIA standards.

Integrating audio with video is becoming more prominent in the security industry. Audio is a logical upsell for dealers and integrators because it enhances a video solution by providing additional verification. Together, audio and video offer your customers in a large variety of industries a complete security solution that enables them to analyze all elements of a situation.

Here are a few specific vertical market situations where audio can enhance surveillance by providing alarm verification, additional evidence, deterrence and prevention:

  • Public Safety: A central station guard looks at the surveillance feed and notices a suspicious person walking on the premises. Audio capability would enable the guard to speak to that person in real-time.
  • Transportation: While authorities are investigating the cause of a train wreck, an integrated audio and video system will enable them to see and hear what happened in the final moments before the incident.
  • Convenience Stores: Two people are discussing a burglary outside of the purview of a video camera; audio will allow the guard to hear what is being said before they act.

There is a clear ROI on a video system with audio for the end-user, but what does audio offer for the dealer or integrator? The answer is good margins. Typically, if an integrator sells microphones, the company may see margins that range anywhere from 15 to 30 points; moreover, audio diversifies an integrator’s portfolio and becomes another selling point.

“By adding audio to video, we can offer a total integrated solution that can be applied to various facets of a customer’s business while increasing the bottom line,” says Nicholas Grace, director of technology at LMI Systems, an Atlanta-based full-service technology and electrical contracting company.

Audio/Video Systems on the Rise

In 2014, one of the major security trends was an increase in the number of video and audio installations. Last March, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority ordered that video and audio recorders be installed on rail cars to aid in accident prevention and post-accident investigation. The decision came several months after a train derailed and killed four passengers in Dec. 2013.

Recent events suggest that security changes in rail transportation will likely move beyond trains in New York. In fact, the Federal Rail Administration’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee is currently working on a regulation that would require all lead train cabs to have recording devices.

In Feb. 2014, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed legislation that exempted school buses from the state’s wiretapping law. In the past, school buses could record video, but this new law allows buses to record audio if the district’s school board approves it. More than seven school districts have authorized audio and video surveillance on bus fleets and plan to use the recordings to deter misconduct, resolve conflicts and counteract bullying.

These examples illustrate the growing number of security leaders who are realizing that surveillance is much more effective when there is an integration of audio and video. The trend for these types of integrated solutions will only increase over the next several years as contractors receive more requests for virtual guard services using two-way audio communication.

In 2014, LMI deployed video and audio integrated systems using’ microphones from Louroe Electronics. The technology was installed for a quick-service restaurant chain that had 400 sites, a financial company that had 650 sites and a car dealership that had 120 sites. Typically, the installation uses anywhere from two to 30 IP cameras and up to four microphones.

“We are seeing more companies use video for more than just security,” Grace says. “We have several customers who are installing video and audio integrated systems to monitor employees for quality and training as well.”

Just as Grace describes, the value of security equipment has spread beyond capturing or preventing crime to becoming a tool to improve business operations. If solutions provide the sight and sound to monitor a business practice, security managers could use the data to show a positive return on the initial investment for the security system, which would keep the end user very happy.

Audio Surveillance and the Law

When it comes to audio monitoring, by far the most common question among security integrators and executives is: “is it legal?”

The general rule of thumb is that it is legal to record audio when there is no expectation of privacy among the parties involved. Public settings are prime examples of places where it is acceptable to monitor, but make sure to post clearly visible signage alerting people that monitoring is taking place in the area.

Whether you are a dealer, integrator or end-user, it is important to check the laws prior to implementing audio equipment, as each state has its own regulations on audio monitoring — see the accompanying chart for guidance on the laws and statutes for all 50 states. California, Florida and Illinois, for example, require all parties to give their consent; while in states like Georgia, New York and Texas, only one party must give consent.

Although the legal implications associated with monitoring may seem daunting, what security personnel need to understand is simple. All that is needed is a thorough knowledge of the applicable monitoring laws, compliance with its regulations, and the management of the expectation of privacy with customers. For more specific requirements, check the local law.

Positioning Audio Integration

As the demand for video and audio integrated systems increases, start preparing your representatives and technicians now. Here are three tips on how to best sell video and audio.

  1. Showcase the Value Proposition: Position a video and audio integrated system as a complete security solution that will be the most effective in delivering facts and situation assessments. Describe how the system can also serve as a business or customer-training tool.
  2. Demonstrate the ROI: Cite a compelling case study where video and audio evidence prevented a customer from facing a claim. Compare the costs the customer would have incurred had he undergone a lawsuit and compare it to the installation costs for the camera and microphones.

 Provide Legal Resources: Reaffirm the circumstances where it is legal to monitor. Provide the end user with a fact sheet with their state’s policy on monitoring, and refer them to a local attorney who they can go to for more information.

Richard Brent is CEO of Louroe Electronics. To request more info about the company, please visit

About the Author

Richard Brent

Richard Brent is CEO of Louroe Electronics.