Audio Analytics and Alarm Verification

Jan. 15, 2016
Evolving technologies can curb false alarms while giving customers greater situational awareness in a variety of markets

Are your customer’s listening devices — or, more importantly, your listening solutions — truly smart? In this age of ever larger threats and dangers, the answer should be yes, especially if your goal is to run a more effective and profitable security business.

While cameras are certainly an important part of the security puzzle, more elements are required in order to build a complete smart solution to deal with a variety of security issues; thus, focusing solely on one piece of technology, such as cameras, is not a smart strategy.

The birth and evolution of audio analytics — where sounds indicating the presence of a threat or potentially dangerous incident are captured and classified — is a key technological advance, which has made the advent of smart listening or monitoring solutions possible. Solutions that use audio analytics for detecting threats and dangerous incidents (e.g., glass break, car alarm, gunshot and aggression detectors) can and have been applied successfully in a wide range of applications and settings.


Audio’s Role in Alarms and Verification

Until recently, alarm systems monitored by a third party or remote central station relied heavily on cameras and minimally on sound technology. Today, times have changed. It is now cost-effective to install a smart audio solution that integrates audio analytics with other hardware.

Why this change? The simple truth is that video cameras alone cannot monitor every area of a property. Similarly, it can be challenging for a security officer to monitor every video screen in the control room of a building.

Audio analytics provides two key benefits:

● sound detectors can quickly identify the areas that a guard or officer should focus on — thus, shortening response time to incidents.

● sound detectors can indicate which situations to respond to, as a verified alarm is often given a higher priority for police and  emergency response.


Aggression Detection

Did you know that 90 percent of physical aggression cases are preceded by verbal aggression? As such, analytics productscan play a vital role in crime deterrence. Aggression detectors are capable of accurately recognizing hostility in a person’s voice. The system automatically and objectively detects the presence of rising human aggression, anger or fear — warning staff by either a visual alert or by triggering an alarm.

Guards or other staff members can thus be warned at an early stage if someone is beginning to show signs of aggression or similar negative behaviors. The end-result is that physical aggression can often be prevented. Also, this solution makes the problem of aggression measurable, and reports can be generated.

Audio-based aggression detectors are easy to integrate into video surveillance systems and are simple to install and configure. In a typical audio-video system setup, the integrator would simply select an external microphone for the installation environment, and install the microphone in ideal location for best audio pick up. Afterward, the integrator would plug in the selected microphone to the audio input of the camera or server-based solution and configure event triggers. Event Triggers can send a notification to the video management software (VMS), an email to security staff or even sound an alarm when a specific sound is detected.


Audio Alarm Verification Target Markets

Aggression and other sound detectors can be deployed in a wide range of environments. Here are six target markets:

1. Educational facilities: Audio can be helpful to maintain security in educational settings, and the combination of audio and video is becoming an increasingly prominent tool to deter misbehavior. Texas, for example, recently passed SB 507, which requires school districts to provide cameras and audio solutions that are capable of recording audio from all areas of the classroom, with the goal of ensuring student safety and preventing incidents of abuse.

Along those same lines, an audio analytics solution can significantly enhance a security guard’s abilities to carry out his duties. If an officer is viewing a video feed that shows a crowd gathering in a common area on a college campus, the officer can then focus attention on that location, listen to the audio from that area, and potentially use an aggression detector to determine if there is verbal aggression. These steps will then provide enough verified information to determine whether police or security officers should be dispatched to intervene.

2. Retail: A retail store owner may receive an after-hours notification from a VMS, indicating that a trespasser is on the property. If the system is integrated with audio analytics — more specifically, a glass break detector — then the store owner could confirm whether a break-in actually took place.

3. Car dealerships: A security guard at a car dealership must typically monitor a large number of screens and cars. This is where a car alarm or glass break detector can be of great assistance because it will notify the guard if there is a break-in, and which area needs to be monitored and/or responded to.

4. Healthcare: An aggression detector can determine if a patient or visitor may be acting in a negative or disruptive manner with a nurse or other member of the hospital staff. Security can then determine if an officer should be sent to the area to assist with the situation. Aggression detection can be invaluable for deterring conflict in these environments.

5. Government: Sophisticated yet cost-effective audio analytics technology can be employed to help detect and avoid threats in government buildings or other federal locations. For example, suppose an alarm goes off after hours at the Smithsonian. An operator located at the central station can then turn their attention to the live audio feed, listening closely for sounds that can either provide audio evidence confirming that an incident is occurring, or lead to a conclusion that it is a false alarm. This kind of added confirmation can help government departments lower the incidence of false alarms, which can potentially save both time and money.

6. Correctional facilities: One of the reasons audio monitoring is valuable is that it provides secondary verification of incidents in which there may be a question or disagreement about what happened. For example, suppose a prison inmate claims that a commanding officer has verbally harassed him or her. At this point, the prison warden or captain can listen to the audio recording. This step will reduce or eliminate uncertainty about the situation, since the recording will either support or disprove the inmate’s claim.


Richard Brent is CEO of Louroe Electronics and a member of the Board of Directors of the Security Industry Association (SIA). Request more info about Louroe at

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