David Needham of Axis Communications looks at the benefits that network audio solutions can bring to businesses eager to get more from their security and surveillance systems.

For any business, unplanned downtime can cause huge financial and logistical problems. When this downtime comes as a result of theft or vandalism, the interruption to operations can be catastrophic, causing costly delays and a lengthy breakdown in service. 

A construction site that experiences a break-in, in which intruders take expensive tools, might not only lose the cost of replacing the stolen equipment, but also suffer the impact of important projects being delayed with the consequential loss of vital contracts. Whatever the industry, the disruption, financial burden and stress to management and employees is universal. 

Attentions naturally turn to the methods and technologies that can be put in place to prevent theft and ensure continual operation. With dated legacy CCTV equipment no longer fit to adequately protect against current threats, businesses are increasingly turning to modern, network surveillance systems, incorporating powerful analytics for greater intelligence. Yet, when looking to employ such solutions, considerations around network (IP) audio systems can often be overlooked, forgoing an essential dimension to threat response and a more comprehensive level of a company’s security provision.

Network camera surveillance has evolved now offering superior real-time monitoring and after-the-fact forensics as well as a wide range of additional functionality. But surveillance is typically limited to a visual-only experience. 

The addition of IP audio is a powerful complement to existing network cameras and access control devices to deliver improved security, as well as public broadcast functionality and the ability to deliver ambient music, vital to some sectors such as leisure and retail.

Network audio speakers can be configured to communicate with the other devices which are also connected to the IP surveillance system. For example, IP cameras fitted with motion detection can be instructed to trigger an alarm when someone crosses a predetermined perimeter or if someone is loitering within a clearly defined zone. 

This can also send an automated alert to an alarm receiving centre (ARC), where an operator can respond immediately and intervene via the speaker remotely to deter a potential incident. Pre-recorded voice messages, activated from the network speaker itself, can also serve as a warning when broadcast at a site. 

Live announcement capabilities come into effect when used to issue verbal warnings to deter criminal activity, or when an urgent announcement is required in real-time to prompt immediate customer and staff response. 

Utilising a system that is capable of real-time communication as well as pre-recorded messages is a potent tool with many applications across a variety of industries and sectors. In a retail scenario, the same network audio system that can deliver pre-recorded messages to inform customers of current special offers, or that additional checkouts have opened to avoid unnecessary queue ‘bottlenecks’, can also be used to play ambient background music suited to the shopper profile. 

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, IP audio can be invaluable in helping to inform customers of in-store protocol around social distancing. There is an onus on stores to monitor and set occupancy thresholds as lockdown measures are eased, safeguarding customers and staff as they adjust to new ways of operating.

IP audio can complement existing surveillance systems by providing a consistent pre-recorded message to remind customers of their duty to remain distant from each other. Data about occupancy can be collated from store to store and used to evidence due diligence in relation to social distancing regulations being followed, taking pressure off the store management team.

As all industries and businesses have their own security requirements, today’s robust systems can be tailor-made to meet individual end-user needs, with the placement of cameras and speakers fully guided by user demand and requirement. If circumstances change, the number of cameras and speakers can be easily scaled up or down utilising simple plug and play connectivity. 

It’s also possible to add IP audio into an existing surveillance set-up. Ongoing concerns about safety and security prompt a growing demand for integrated security systems, with surveillance, access control and audio providing a comprehensive overarching solution.

The clear benefits, from both a security and business perspective, make IP audio an obvious choice when it comes to assisting with operations while providing ongoing protection. Through a security system which integrates both audio and visual technologies, customers can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from feeling fully supported and protected. 

Network audio has, potentially, a key part to play in every security installation. It can increase capabilities by providing a more effective deterrent and therefore minimise threat, while proving to be a prime example of how innovation can help create a smarter, safer world.

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