Tech Improves Remote Guarding and Monitoring

Jan. 15, 2020
New video verification technologies are enabling integrators to address previous issues and create a more reliable solution

Airports, utilities, data centers and other mission-critical sites all occupy vast amounts of land. Detecting and deterring threats across these large properties is paramount to the successful operation of these enterprises.

If vulnerable to intrusions, critical infrastructure facilities will be subject to loss and business interruptions that can affect thousands of people. In the United States alone, the Associated Press reported 345 breaches from 2004 to 2016 at 31 major airports — many of which resulted in costly damage to property, as well as the disruption of air traffic procedures.

To improve perimeter security, many large enterprises have employed remote video monitoring, or the use of video cameras and analytics to surveil the property and notify the appropriate personnel of any intrusions. Event-based video has been a force-multiplier for many businesses and has helped to create strong interest in remote guarding systems, which connect surveillance cameras, sensors and analytics to monitoring centers with security operators acting as virtual guards­.

Together, remote monitoring and guarding offer expanded coverage and greater efficiency. Instead of a security officer having to physically patrol an entire property or stare at a video wall in a command center, they can be alerted to a specific event in a designated area that may require a response.

Traditionally, however, these remote monitoring and remote guarding solutions have carried with them a predicament of their own. To many customers’ surprise, these systems produced a relatively high number of false alarms – mainly due to the relative infancy and imprecision of video analytics. Fortunately, there are strategies and technologies today that are helping integrators address these issues and offer their customers a more reliable remote monitoring and guarding solution.

The Pesky Problem of False Positives

According to the 2016 Resolutions of the International Chiefs of Police, 98 percent of all alarms are false.  Case in point – in 2016, the Memphis Police Department responded to 62,494 alarm calls where just 458 were true events. About 51 percent of these alarm calls came from commercial properties.

Wildlife, moving foliage, wind, insects, low-performing sensors and human error are all common causes of false alarms.

False alarms are expensive and also time-consuming. In 2016, the Memphis Police Department spent $1.7 million allocating resources to respond to false alarm calls, which consumed 63,952 hours of officer time; however, it is not just law enforcement losing time and money answering false alarms. Enterprises are also wasting resources dispatching guards to investigate alerts that turn out to be false positives.

All of these factors have contributed to a lack of confidence in remote monitoring systems and video analytics from integrators, end-users and law enforcement alike.

To mitigate the issue of law enforcement officers repeatedly responding to false alarms, cities like Memphis have begun to impose fines on companies and individuals. In Memphis, a user can be charged $140 when police respond and there is no true threat. Implementing fines has helped to curb the problem. The Memphis Metro Alarms Office reported a 20 percent decrease in false alarms after the fines ordinance was enacted in July 2017.  

Technology Rises to the Challenge

What nuisance alerts have truly revealed is the need to better verify an alarm before first responders are dispatched. Today, security technology manufacturers are offering much more refined technologies to address false alarms and optimize video verification. By integrating more refined technologies, these solutions are delivering more accurate alarms and lowering the total cost of ownership of remote monitoring systems.

Here are a few key strategies that are driving this movement of enhanced remote monitoring and remote guarding forward.

1. Leveraging more advanced technologies: Innovation in product development has led security manufacturers to offer what were once military-grade technologies, such as thermal sensors and radar, at more accessible price points. As a result, these technologies are now being deployed in broader markets, such as commercial or industrial perimeter security applications. They are becoming more mainstream, and they are being integrated as specialty technologies in high-end, remote monitoring systems to enhance intrusion detection. Improved sensor technology increases the probability of an getting an accurate alarm.

2. Enhanced video analytic performance with thermal: In particular, the integration of thermal sensors in remote monitoring solutions substantially improves threat detection and video verification. As thermal cameras do not require a light source to produce video, they enable 24/7 surveillance in the toughest conditions, such as fog, rain, mist and even total darkness.

Considering that nearly half of all burglaries occur at night, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, thermal technology adds significant value to remote monitoring solutions. Because thermal sensors create images by measuring the minute differences in heat signatures vs. light, they yield high-contrast, sharper images, regardless of the weather or lighting conditions. Thus, thermal images enable video analytics to perform optimally at all times.

Integrating thermal sensors with remote guarding solutions also improves video verification by providing another video stream for remote operators to observe and verify an alarm. The International Chiefs of Police defines a “verified alarm” as “an electronic security system event in which a trained central station operator utilizing a standardized protocol has determined the presence of human(s) and the high probability that a criminal offense is in progress.” 

High-contrast thermal images enable central station monitors to easily distinguish a human hiding in the bushes, for example, whereas the night scene may not be as clear when observing a video clip from a standard surveillance camera.

3. Improved threat assessment with HD: Now popular 1080p and 4K cameras are also improving image clarity and analytics performance in remote monitoring solutions. These HD cameras deliver evidentiary-class video, reducing the risk that video footage will be pixelated, blurred or hazy – thanks to their higher resolution. Built-in IR illuminators are also increasing the effective range of HD cameras at night.

All in all, these HD cameras are allowing central station monitors to see greater scene detail. The high-quality, full color video clips are improving a remote guard’s ability to identify suspect characteristics, giving them more specific information to share with law enforcement.

4. The all-in-one solution: The concept of integrating multiple technologies – such as thermal sensors, analytics, visible cameras and illumination technologies – into one unit has made remote monitoring solutions more appealing. On a practical level, this reduces infrastructure and hardware footprint. On an applicational level, these turn-key solutions are proving more cost-efficient than older designs by housing all technologies within a single device.

These all-in-one solutions essentially reduce equipment and labor needed for installation, which ultimately lowers overall project expenses for integrators, positively affecting the bottom line.

Improving Live Response and Intruder Disorientation

Connecting remote monitoring systems to central stations via the cloud enables security operation personnel to actively monitor and guard sites as well as respond to incidents as they unfold.

The key objective for remote guarding systems is to use technology to allow remote monitors to engage suspects in real time and proactively deter crimes from being committed on the property. The integration of two-way audio capabilities in remote guarding systems is now a standard feature for live response, as this functionality allows guards to issue warnings or directives over bi-directional speakers.

Another tactic being deployed in remote guarding systems to delay intruders is incorporating white LED illuminators. Upon detection of an intruder, the LEDs act as a floodlight and flash to momentarily disorient the suspect. The bright white lights ultimately communicate to a suspect that their behavior did not go unnoticed.

Deploying precise sensors that yield more accurate detection and enhanced video verification is a tried-and-true method to improve remote monitoring and guarding systems; moreover, using solutions that integrate multiple technologies with a track record of success in large perimeter applications under one housing is another best practice to simplify design layouts and increase efficiency. At the end of the day, having a high-performing remote monitoring solution gives customers greater peace of mind and assurance of their security investment.

Daniel Gundlach is General Manager and VP of Security for FLIR Systems. Request more info about FLIR at