Greater connectivity, security software enhancements, more customisation, and better sound quality are some of the enhancements driving the intercom market.

An advantage now offered on Code Blue’s emergency speakerphones include self-diagnosing software that monitors the status of the phones and their components — microphones, buttons and speakers — and delivers instant notifications if there is ever an issue. Code Blue phones also come with full duplex capabilities with echo cancelling, sometimes known as open duplex, which allows the caller and first responder to communicate simultaneously and eliminates buzzing and static.

IP-based networking systems

Code Blue also builds its phones to open standards like Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which allows calls to be easily processed with a wide variety of systems and software solutions, says David Fleming, Chief Design Officer for Code Blue Corp.

Networking has impacted the intercom market, with the advent of IP-based systems. The corporate network now makes it possible to share information and to control units from a few yards to thousands of miles away, according to Bruce Czerwinski, U.S. General Sales Manager, Aiphone Corp. For example, central command centre guards can monitor and allow entrance to any networked satellite or unmanned facility 24/7.

Multi-site communications

Networks have also spawned mobile apps that allow roaming guards to use smartphones and devices to maintain total control of an intercom system while away from the master station and on the Wi-Fi. And network paging is another recently added communications tool, valuable for routine announcements or emergency instructions.

"Voice is becoming the killer app for serving the safety and security needs of employees and customers"

“We’re now able to offer large-scale multi-site communications using intercom systems,” says Czerwinski. “That’s not just connecting a few buildings on opposite sides of a campus quad, but all those separated by state lines, even across the country.”

As markets and customers served by intercom products continue to evolve with new needs requiring new solutions, intercom companies continually poll the market and develop new and interesting solutions for these needs.

All-in-one physical access control solution

Because intercom manufacturer 2N’s products are often used as part of a physical access control system, convenience and security are key attributes. Bluetooth technology will be employed heavily. 2N has just introduced its Bluetooth access control reader for both standalone access control and integrated into 2N’s VERSO door station.

The technology is based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, which offers long-range detection (up to 10 metres), low energy consumption and ‘banking’ level security. It can be combined with other technologies — near field communication (NFC) and radio-frequency identification (RFID) — for an all-in-one solution.

Mobile video app for door intercoms

2N has also launched a mobile video app/service. It enables a consumer’s smart device to be used as an interface to the door intercom, allowing video calls from anywhere in the world, door access control, and as an ‘always on’ video and audio surveillance system. Notifications can be launched automatically; for example, if someone approaches the homeowner’s door, porch, or surrounding area. A low-cost all-in-one door station — Base — has been released for the residential and small business space, including HD video, audio, and door control but in a simpler-to-install and lower-cost format.

As markets and customers served by intercom products continue to evolve with new needs requiring new solutions, intercom companies continually poll the market and develop new and interesting solutions for these needs
Zenitel’s Customer Intercom Station Kit enables customers to build their own stations

In the spring, 2N is releasing a Z-wave networked door control solution that’s easy to install and extends the reach of an access control system.

Off-the-shelf communication devices

Jim Hoffpauir, President of Zenitel North America, says the intercom company offers a choice of either off-the-shelf communication devices or components to enable customised stations to be built based on a customer’s aesthetics or form and/or function needs. Users also must be heard and be understood, says Hoffpauir.

“We spend millions of dollars in research and development on the intellectual property that defines and sets the standard for intelligible voice audio in the communications industry,” he says. “And we focus on embedding that capability with strategic alliances in access control, video and unified communications.”

“Voice is becoming the killer app for serving the safety and security needs of employees and customers,” says Hoffpauir. “We want to create new interoperable solutions such as our networked HD Video Door station that acts as a communication device as well as an access control station.” It has two-way communication for 24/7 video identification and support for IP phone or unified communications through SIP.

Intelligible critical communications solutions

Zenitel’s Call Access Panel manages intelligible critical communications through a security operations centre or control room. The panel has a small footprint with pre-programmable buttons for instantaneous emergency or mass notifications to all intercom stations or IP public address, alarms, or horns. And it is SIP-compatible for unified communications.

Changes in hardware and software are transforming the intercom market, as are changes in how systems are combined and configured.

There is also a trend toward more discernment in terms of audio quality and system performance. Including an evaluation ‘scorecard’ in a request for proposal (RFP), for example, can ensure there is a clear way to evaluate systems being considered. “We are teaching the market there can be a legitimate scorecard on intelligibility,” says Dan Rothrock, SVP of Global Strategic Alliances, Zenitel North America. “You may not know you have bad audio until something bad happens, and it’s too late.”

Read part 4 in our Security Intercoms series here

Download PDF version

Author profile

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.

In case you missed it

Smart home access control growth and the future of door security
Smart home access control growth and the future of door security

There’s growing noise around smart homes and smarter security. You’ve probably heard it. But there is a place where access control and more have been smart for decades: the workplace. Home automation and IoT are still playing catch-up with the commercial sector. A new insights report from ASSA ABLOY and IFSEC Global — “The Smart Door Locks Report 2018” — measures just how fast consumer smart technology is running. According to a survey conducted for the report, 61% of households now claim to own at least one smart home device or system. Energy monitors, home CCTV cameras, intruder alarms and smart door locks are the most popular, according to the report. All these functions, of course, have been available to businesses for years.61% of households now claim to own at least one smart home device or system Educating the smart home consumer Paradoxically, report data also questions how much consumers really know about their smarter home. A surprising 42% of those surveyed, for example, were unaware they could control a smart door lock from their phone. In fact, many leading smart door lock models offer this feature, delivered by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and an app. Despite a wealth of features offered by the latest smart door locks — remote and location-based locking/unlocking; voice activation; timed access; emailed entry alerts; and integration with smart camera and lighting systems — most people still have limited knowledge of their capabilities.  Smart technology is increasingly becoming the new norm in terms of home security  Only 14% of survey respondents described themselves as “very familiar” with what a smart lock can do. Even though most of them probably use smart access control solutions at their workplace. Secure homes through smart technology Monitoring and security are not the only drivers for smart home adoption. We humans also love convenience, and modern living presents us with problems that smart home technology can solve. Ironically, given the report’s findings, it takes a smartphone to really unlock the convenient possibilities of smarter living. The device that’s “always to hand” is central to the newest generation of smart door locks.A smart door lock is a convenient way for a landlord or agency to offer round-the-clock check-in and check-out If homeowners wish to remotely manage property access for friends and family, many smart door locks oblige. You let in guests remotely, send them a virtual digital key, or provide a temporary or single-use PIN to unlock the door. It is just as easy to revoke a digital key, if you don’t want its owner to come around anymore. This is a significant improvement over sharing physical keys — or hiding one under the doormat. We cannot be totally sure where a metal key ends up and have no way to track or cancel it once it’s “out in the wild”. Commercial access control offers such functionality as standard, of course.  In addition, smart door locks offer more than just stand-alone operation and clever functions. In a domestic setting, magic happens when locks work in harmony with a home automation system, connected by protocols like Z-Wave, ZigBee or Wi-Fi. "Smart" security on the move  The smartphone is becoming a remote control for managing a connected life beyond just home (and even workplace) security. According to Accenture, the parcel delivery services market will grow by $343 billion by 2020. Just like home security, convenience is a major driver of change. Homeowners can send guests a virtual digital key to their phones, or provide a temporary or single-use PIN to unlock the door A recent PostNord pilot in Sweden aimed to remove the inconvenience of waiting home for a postal delivery. Selected customers of some major Scandinavian e-retailers could choose to have parcels delivered inside their front door, if it was equipped with a Yale smart door lock.  Home delivery is among potential smart services covered in “The Smart Door Locks Report 2018 ”. When asked whether the ability to receive parcels securely in a porch or lobby would make them more likely to invest in a smart door lock, 79% said it would.It is easy to revoke a digital key, if you don’t want its owner to come around anymore Holiday rentals and smart home tech ASSA ABLOY research published in 2017 forecasts continued growth in the European holiday rentals sector (at 5.8% CAGR). Smart door locks are also making an impact here, at both ends of the market: for service providers — agents and homeowners — and for travellers. A smart door lock is a convenient way for a landlord or agency to offer round-the-clock check-in and check-out, without creating extra work or staff costs. Both Intersoft, in Croatia, and Hoomvip in Spain have built holiday rentals management systems around an app and the ENTR® smart door lock. Agents issue, revoke, track and manage virtual keys for all their guests, saving everyone time and hassle. Travellers use their phones and an app to unlock their apartment. For these visitors the smartphone is already an essential travel accessory. It is a boarding pass, a credit card, a travel guide, and a postcard home... why not a door key, too? And if this key is backed by a trusted home security brand — and a company with vast experience in the mature market for commercial “smart” security — better still.

Bosch startup SAST addresses need for evolved solutions in security industry
Bosch startup SAST addresses need for evolved solutions in security industry

Security and Safety Things GmbH (SAST) is a new company that has announced its vision for an Internet of Things (IoT) platform for the next generation of security cameras. The Bosch startup plans to build a global ecosystem for the development of innovative security camera applications. Based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), SAST provides libraries, an API framework, and codecs for developers to work with. The SAST App Store will allow developers to build and market new applications, similar to today’s app stores for smartphone applications. We presented some questions to Nikolas Mangold-Takao, VP Product Management and Marketing, about the new venture, and here are his responses: Q: Why a new company now? What technology innovations have made this a good time to launch this company? The time is right to bring market needs and technological innovations together on one platform"Mangold-Takao: From a technical perspective we see two main drivers: increasing computing power at the edge and increasing internet connectivity, which will enable devices to directly communicate with each other and bring new technologies such as artificial intelligence also to the security and safety industry. At the same time, we see that this industry and its users are hungry for more innovative solutions – addressing new security needs while at the same leveraging the possibility to improve business operations for specific verticals, e.g. retail and transportation. The time is right to bring market needs and technological innovations together on one platform for this industry. Q: Why does SAST need to be a separate entity from Bosch? Mangold-Takao: SAST is setup as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bosch Group. We wanted to make sure that SAST is able to underline its role as an industry standard platform across multiple players. SAST is open to get additional investors and is being setup as a startup in its own offices in Munich to foster the environment where speed and innovation can more easily take place. Having said that, several entities of the Bosch Group are very interesting partners for SAST. The SAST App Store will allow developers to build and market new applications, similar to today’s app stores for smartphone applications Q: Please explain your "value proposition" to the industry. Mangold-Takao: We will bring new innovations and possibilities to the security and safety industry by providing an open, secure and standardised Operating System for video security cameras, to also address pressing issues such as cyber security and data privacy concerns. Devices that run then with the SAST operating system will work with an application marketplace provided and operated by SAST. Integrators and users can then use these apps from this marketplace to deploy additional functionality on these devices. With our platform we will be able to build up a community of app developers, including the ones not yet developing for this industry who have expertise in computer vision and artificial intelligence. Q: It seems what you are doing has parallels with the Apple and Android "app" stores. How is your approach the same (and how is it different) than those approaches? We are setting up SAST as a user-centric company and involve selected users very early on in the process"Mangold-Takao: The approach is similar in the way that we plan to generate revenue by operating the application marketplace and thus participate in the app revenue. The difference is that there is much more needed than apps and cameras to create a complete working solution addressing a user problem in this industry – we need to make sure that our own platform as well as the new applications being created will work as a part of an end-to-end solution. Q: "Critical mass" and wide industry participation seem to be requirements for your success. How will you achieve those goals? Will you involve integrators, consultants, or other parties in addition to manufacturers (to drive awareness)? How? Mangold-Takao: SAST is in close exchange with device manufacturers, integrators and consultants, as well as application developers and large end-users at the moment to ensure that we are building the right platform and ecosystem for this industry. We are setting up SAST as a user-centric company and involve selected users very early on in the process. We will run dedicated programs and hackathons to attract app developers, already active and new to our industry. We will also run selected pilots with end-users throughout 2019 to ensure we have all partners involved early on. SAST sees the industry is hungry for more innovative solutions – with the retail vertical market a target for these solutions Q: What timeline do you foresee in terms of implementing these initiatives? Mangold-Takao: While we start with first app development programs and plan our first pilots already for this year, we are planning our commercial launch for end of 2019. Q: How does your new company relate to the new Open Security & Safety Alliance (OSSA)? Mangold-Takao: The Open Security and Safety Alliance has been working very closely with SAST over the past year, defining some important concepts and elements required. One of the most important elements is an open and standardised Operating System, specific to this industry, which will then bring forward new innovative technologies and solutions. SAST is actively working on this Operating System, based on Android Open Source Project (ASOP), but is evolved and hardened with industry-specific features. Q: What's the biggest thing you want the security industry to understand about SAST? What is your "message" to the industry? Mangold-Takao: Our message is simple: let’s build better security and safety systems – together! But for real, innovating an industry is a joint effort, we can only bring new innovation to this industry with partners who share our vision and are excited about new technology. At the same time, we strongly believe that our platform allows every partner to bring forward what they do best but also invite new partners to our industry.

What is the value of remotely monitoring a system's health and operation?
What is the value of remotely monitoring a system's health and operation?

When is it too late to learn that a video camera isn’t working properly? As any security professional will tell you, it’s too late when you find that the system has failed to capture critical video. And yet, for many years, system administrators “didn’t know what they didn’t know.” And when they found out, it was too late, and the system failed to perform as intended. Fortunately, in today’s technology-driven networked environment, monitoring a system’s health is much easier, and a variety of systems can be deployed to ensure the integrity of a system’s operation. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How can remote monitoring of a security system’s health and operation impact integrators and end users?