With reoccurring stories of data breaches, theft and assault, it is imperative for security staffs to go on the offensive and take a more proactive approach to deter crime. Many companies have begun to do this by investing in and upgrading their surveillance technologies. CSOs have made the leap from analog to IP cameras that have analytic capability. Now, it’s time to take surveillance a step further and integrate audio.
Integrating audio monitoring into an existing security system is advantageous for many reasons, the first being that it delivers additional evidence. Video alone provides just one part of the story. By adding audio, security directors get more facts about a situation such as names, language spoken and commands given. These additional details help staff more effectively respond to an incident.
Audio monitoring also allows for alarm verification, a crucial and cost-saving benefit. If a central station officer receives an alert from a video system and has access to live audio from the property, the officer can determine whether it’s a false alarm and prevent police from showing up to the area unnecessarily. On the other hand, if an alert is valid, the guard can use the audio to gather important information. For example, if the guard hears multiple voices and shattered glass, he could confirm with police that there’s a group of people at the crime scene that have loaded firearms. All of these clues better equip first responders to deal with the threat at hand.
Another key benefit of audio monitoring is real-time crime deterrence. One of the differences between audio and video solutions is that audio offers the opportunity to be proactive and take preventative actions while video provides data that security personnel can typically only react to. Imagine that a trespasser walks onto a car dealership’s parking lot. If the dealership had a video system, a central station guard could see the suspect, but could only dispatch an officer to head to the scene– by which time the individual could have stolen a car. However, if the dealership had a two-way audio system integrated with video, the officer could speak to the suspect in real time saying something like, “Hey! You in the red shirt, we see you and the police will be here 60 seconds.” This simple dialogue can often be enough to scare the suspect and deter the person from committing the crime.
Audio monitoring is not only a valuable security tool, but also a great resource to improve business operations and quality assurance, particularly in retail. One of the common issues retailers encounter is customer complaints, but audio provides a way to mitigate these conflicts. By installing a microphone above a checkout counter area, there will be a record of all verbal interactions that can be accessed by store managers to resolve disputes and prevent them from escalating into a lawsuit. Managers can also use the audio monitoring system to assess whether an employee is providing good customer service or if that staff member should undergo additional training.
There have been excellent technological innovations in the audio security sector, most notably, the use of sound detection and audio analytics. Various software companies have created programs that analyze sounds and identify them in categories such as aggression, gunshot or glass break. In other words, the analytic software that can detect rising human voices and send an alert to security staff so that further aggression can be avoided. In the case of aggression, where 90 percent of physical altercations are preceded by verbal hostility, this technology is a game-changer for crime deterrence.
There are many compelling reasons for why audio monitoring should be part of the security surveillance solution, however many companies are only just beginning to discover and install audio. This is largely because there is a misconception about the legality of monitoring throughout the industry. Many believe it is illegal to record while others shy away from it because they are unsure of what the law states. The truth is when there is no expectation of privacy it is legal to monitor.
Parks, sports arenas and other public places are prime examples. Another way to properly remove the expectation of privacy is to post clearly visible signage that says monitoring is taking place on the premises. When it comes to setting up surveillance in settings that aren’t necessarily public, check your state’s law on monitoring. Each state has its own policy as to the number of parties required to give consent for the recording to be used. Lastly, remember that the purpose of audio monitoring is not to intrude on people’s privacy, and when monitoring is properly conducted this is not the case, but to provide people with a sense of extra security and safety.
The battle for security is fierce and the consequences for not upholding it are substantial. If organizations truly want to combat theft, assault and other crimes, security directors need to use all security resources that are at their disposal, and audio is no exception. As the security industry continues to move toward system integration, let’s move with it and tap into the power of emerging technologies like audio.
About the Author:
By Richard Brent is the CEO of Louroe Electronics and SIA Board Member