How the audio features in your video security system can add an extra layer of awareness and insight

   Gratiela Dumitrica, September 15 2022
4 mins

From sound detection to audio recording, here is how audio solutions can contribute to a smarter and safer environment

It’s difficult to imagine running a business or an organization without considering different systems to protect it. A video security system is one of the first to be deployed to ensure your people and premises are always safe. Video security heavily relies on both live and recorded video footage. Today’s technology makes surveillance cameras better than ever, not only in capturing crisper, more detailed images but also in delivering powerful video analytics, making it possible to locate specific license plates, and identify people, vehicles, and other objects on the footage.  

While video monitoring is essential, some of the best video surveillance systems also offer powerful audio features that, when correctly deployed, can help you get even more value from these systems. Sounds provide an extra layer of information that delivers context to events captured on camera. Even when your surveillance cameras are equipped with video analytics, essentially interpreting and categorizing what these devices are ’seeing’, you can also include “ears.” Audio awareness can proactively alert operators to an unfolding event, even when the camera is pointing in the opposite direction.

Understanding audio features in video security systems

From the audio realm, video security solutions can include features ranging from audio analytics, recording audio, and live audio streaming to audio talk down. Audio analytics help identify sound patterns, categorize them, create rules that trigger notifications based on these sounds, and even determine their direction. They deliver better coverage of the areas you need to monitor, as the sounds can come from areas that are in the cameras’ fields of view and are still detectable even when they come from behind pillars or other objects.

To complement audio analytics, specific use cases require the ability to access those sounds after the incident has occurred, for forensic investigations, or used as proof in liability and malpractice cases. Acting on events and investigating misconduct or negligence cases can be very difficult without being able to (re)listen to those historical sound alerts or to react to recorded sounds.

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Respond to incidents quickly with audio analytics and live audio streaming

Security cameras have their limitations, and managing blind spots can be challenging. But more and more businesses have started to deploy cameras with integrated audio analytics capabilities, like Ava’s cloud video surveillance devices. But what are audio analytics? Audio analytics is a type of technology that detects and identifies unusual sound events and, depending on the hardware, also alerts your operators to the location from which the sound originated in real time. Typically, these sounds are breaking glass, loud noises, a gunshot, somebody screaming, fire, smoke, car alarms, ultrasonic frequencies like those of panic alarms, or other anomalous sounds. 

You can create audio alarm rules when connecting these cameras with audio analytics to an intelligent video security platform like Ava Aware. When an audio event occurs, your video security system highlights it in the user interface. It can send an email or a notification on a communications platform, enabling you to react instantly to the situation rather than having to wait for a witness call.

Adding live audio streaming to the mix allows you to get additional insight into an ongoing event. You can hear and see what is happening and respond appropriately to an incident. 

The use cases for this feature are endless. For instance, statistics show that retailers are worried about violence and verbal abuse against staff — with 48% having experienced abuse and anti-social behavior. Using audio analytics in their video security system, retailers can detect and act on aggressive behavior, vandalism, and robberies to safeguard customers and staff and reduce shrinkage.

In healthcare, administrators are constantly challenged to protect patients, staff, visitors, and property. With security cameras with onboard audio analytics and live audio streaming, operators can detect and contain verbal aggression incidents against staff or patients before escalating, as well as identify patients who slip and fall. What’s more, monitoring high-risk patients is easier and more efficient. Providing staff with ultrasonic alarms means they can quickly call assistance when needed.

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Speeding up post-event investigations with audio recording

While recording video footage is commonplace, audio surveillance and recording are more strictly regulated. But there are specific cases when it can be used lawfully. Recording the sound from an audio event can help you review incidents and ensure that you have captured all the details when investigating a crime, from verbal abuse, vandalism, and malpractice to robberies and gun violence. A platform like Ava Aware, can make recording audio easily customizable and accessible from all your cameras (both Ava and third-party cameras*), allowing you to choose whether to record all audio or just when an alarm is triggered.

But remember that you must comply with the rules on audio recording in your country or jurisdiction, especially those that concern the recording of conversations, since these can be categorized as personally identifiable information (PII) under some privacy legislation.

Keeping people safe with voice messages

An easy way to stop suspicious activities or guide people to get to safety is through quick and clear verbal communication. Suppose your school, store, museum, or stadium has security cameras with speakers or audio output systems. In that case, your operators can send personalized warnings or instructions from a distance using audio talk down

Five years ago, a school district installed video security cameras with speakers to support resource officers and ensure their students and staff are safe. They have recently decided to connect these existing cameras to an open cloud video security platform. This enabled them to watch over hallways, canteens, gyms, and libraries and receive real-time notifications. When students are fighting, if a child is lost or someone is loitering on campus, operators can quickly reach these students or visitors and ask them to stop the altercation or instruct them to reach the nearest staff member. This school saved money by not having to rip and replace their existing security cameras and improved incident response times to mere seconds instead of minutes.

Today, video and audio analytics help organizations become more proactive and detect details that would otherwise have been missed. Deploying audio features to protect your people and facilities better should be seamlessly integrated with your existing technology. Furthermore, it should be easy to configure these audio rules depending on your retention policies, storage requirements, or local legal regulations. With Ava’s 5.2 video security release, you can use all the audio features covered in this blog post to increase your situational awareness and respond to incidents faster.

*This feature is currently in beta.