Audio has been slower to catch on in the security market because of lingering concerns about privacy laws related to audio surveillance. But audio analytics capabilities are increasing right alongside the more commonly used video analytics. Integrators who ignore audio are missing an opportunity to create better systems. 

Privacy is generally not a concern. U.S. law is clear that audio monitoring is legal as long as there is no expectation of privacy among those being monitored. Public signs must be posted to provide clear indication that audio communication is being monitored.

Missed opportunity for smaller integrators

Audio has especially not yet been embraced by integrators that typically do residential and light industrial type applications, says Richard Brent, CEO of audio monitoring provider Louroe Electronics. Larger integrators doing bigger jobs are more likely to incorporate audio into the mix. For the smaller integrators, especially, it’s a missed opportunity.

More integrators today are offering audio as a component, and more and more end users will say that video alone isn’t giving me all the answers,” says Brent. “It continues to grow.”

Video without audio is like living in a silent movie, according to Louroe. In many instances, the sound element can make all the difference and identify a threat before it’s too late. Audio monitoring also helps combat false alarms by providing secondary verification in case of an emergency, robbery, security threat or other intrusion.

Audio monitoring also helps
combat false alarms by
providing secondary
verification in case of an
emergency, robbery, security
threat or other intrusion

Louroe Electronics works closely with customers to ensure their audio products are used overtly and in compliance with the law. International laws vary greatly in terms of permitted applications of audio; in any case, legal concerns should be addressed by an attorney.

Louroe has been in the audio monitoring business for more than 38 years; some 800,000 of its Verifact microphones are installed all over the world. For the last year and a half, Louroe has partnered with Dutch company Sound Intelligence to bring the LE-802 Intelligent Audio Analytics System to market, in effect analysing sound and turning it into useful information.

Threat assessment system

The LE-802, which will be exhibited at ASIS 2016 in Orlando, combines four different types of audio analytics, running simultaneously, into a “threat assessment” system that provides alerts of a dangerous situation, sometimes before it becomes deadly, says Brent. The audio analytics can detect gunshots, aggression, glass breaking and a car alarm.

Audio software analyses factors such as volume, duration, frequencies and intensity, and the resulting sound profiles are associated with various events, whether a gunshot or glass breaking.

The system’s ability to detect aggression is based on contrasting the sound of someone suddenly yelling with typical ambient sounds. The software identifies fear, anger and duress and immediately notifies security staff so they can intervene before a conflict escalates. Brent estimates that 90 percent of physical aggressions are preceded by verbal aggression.

Gunshot detection is an
especially useful tool in the
education market, given that
there have been 191 U.S.
school shootings since 2013

Vertical markets for audio analytics

Applications of intelligent audio analytics cut across multiple vertical markets. In education, audio analytics could detect an escalating conflict between students. In a hospital, it could provide an alarm in case of a disruptive patient. It could identify when a bar patron has had too much to drink and becomes belligerent. It could be useful in a factory, or at a postal facility, or in a check-cashing facility – anywhere that aggressive behaviour could be a precursor to violence. Audio analytics can integrate directly with video cameras and/or video management systems (VMSs).

Gunshot detection is an especially useful tool in the education market, given that there have been 191 U.S. school shootings since 2013, or about one per week since Sandy Hook. Gunshot detection has also found a lot of interest in Safe Cities applications.

Based on an audio analytics alarm, nearby cameras could be triggered to capture video as a situation unfolds. Two-way audio integrated with a nearby speaker could communicate with an aggressive individual and let them know that authorities have been notified. Security staff could remotely interact with suspicious persons in real time, rather than needing to send a guard physically to an area.

Audio is also finding a role in the broader market of building management, where a large building systems integrator might use audio as a component to monitor the sounds of an HVAC system, or machinery in an oil-and-gas application. “There are so many ways that audio gets used to complement our visual experiences,” says Brent.

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Larry Anderson Editor, SecurityInformed.com & SourceSecurity.com

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is SourceSecurity.com's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SourceSecurity.com's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

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