While the current state of social distancing is temporarily forcing companies to modify how they do businesses, we’re likely to return to some level of normalcy in the near future. Before the current state of affairs, Fortune Business Insights, a global market research firm, forecasted the market for analytics would reach nearly $12 billion by 2026. And while numbers can always shift, we believe this demand is and will continue to remain high given just how powerful a component analytics are in network solutions, particularly as it relates to audio.
Recently, Chris Wildfoerster, Business Development Manager for Audio Solutions, Axis Communications Inc, and his colleague Aaron Andino, Solutions Engineer, sat down to discuss analytics and the role they can play in elevating a network audio solution into a powerful, versatile security system. Here they discuss not only what makes analytics so popular and useful but how they’re used to enhance the audio components of network surveillance solutions.
Q: Let’s talk about analytic, in general, for a moment. Why is there so much intrigue around analytics and what can they contribute to the overall performance of surveillance systems?
Chris Wildfoerster: Any time you add analytics to a network surveillance system it becomes more intelligent and you learn more about who or what is in the area, what they’re doing, where they’re going and what their intentions might be. Depending on the event, analytics can be programmed to trigger various levels of response – everything from blaring a siren to broadcasting a warning message to initiating a lockdown to notifying authorities.
Aaron Andino: One of the biggest contributions that analytics provide is focus. In many installations, you have many cameras and only a few sets of eyes watching them. Analytics alert people to pay attention to specific cameras that are detecting something they should see. Or in the case of audio analytics, they could automatically reposition a PTZ camera to the geolocation of a sound like breaking glass, a car alarm, or a gunshot.
Wildfoerster: Absolutely. To Aaron’s point, analytics are the glue that holds an intelligent security solution together. They create a smart cohesive solution that’s more than just a camera, a speaker, and a microphone. Analytics give the system the ability to observe, listen, process, and respond to events. And that helps users be more proactive so they can verify and mitigate issues before they escalate out of control.
Q: How do system integrators factor into the equation?
Wildfoerster: That’s a great question. As a trusted partner, you’re helping your client increase the value of their solution. Analytics can play a significant role in improving business operations as well as addressing security and safety concerns, which gives customers a greater return on their investment. From an integrator’s perspective, it can increase the profitability of your projects. Where once you might have just installed cameras, now you can offer your customers a complete package – cameras, audio sensors, smart networked speakers, and analytics. Offering a complete end-to-end solution increases your value to the client while providing a much more comprehensive secure environment.
Q: How should integrators broach the value proposition of analytics with their customers?
Wildfoerster: Like the title of this article says, the goal is to see more, hear more, do more. Whether you use an analytic to verify what the camera is seeing, or what an audio sensor is hearing, the real question is “What happens next?” Does the event warrant human intervention? Can the issue be mitigated in other ways, for example with an audio response. Maybe the network audio solution triggers a customer service greeting over a public address system or trips an emergency door alarm that notifies the person via our AXIS C1310-E Network Horn Speaker that says, “We can see you, you are trespassing. Please leave immediately.” The point of installing analytics is to trigger some appropriate action that will help your client enhance their security, mitigate risks, or improve business operations.
Q: Could you share some examples of how different vertical markets could use analytics?
Andino: Sure. Let’s start with the retail industry where analytics are often deployed for loss prevention. A retailer might use dwell time or loitering analytics especially around high-value merchandise. When the camera detects a customer standing in the aisle for a certain amount of time, the analytics could trigger a nearby network audio speaker to say, “Somebody will be right with you.” At the same time, an alert would go out for a salesclerk to assist the customer. If the person was a prospective buyer, sending a salesclerk to assist them would improve the customer experience. The benefits are two-fold. If the person was intending to shoplift, the directed announcement would remind them they were being observed.
Wildfoerster: From a customer service perspective, many retailers large and small use loitering analytics to trigger in-store advertising messages promoting certain items. That goes a long way in increasing profitability, customer satisfaction, and employee morale.
From a safety standpoint, some retailers are even using crossline detection analytics integrated with a speaker to trigger a warning when an emergency exit is block, which has proven to be an effective way to modify careless employee behavior and avoid costly OSHA violations.
How about financial institution?
Wildfoerster: Financial institutions might use audio analytics, such as aggression detection to identify aggressive behavior, gunshots, or breaking glass detection. In turn, the network audio solution will trigger a speaker to broadcast a message that police are on the way. At this time, the analytics could also trigger an automatic lockdown of doors and vaults.
Andino: Along with security, what some people don’t always remember is that financial institutions really are a service industry. As such, they might use demographic identifying analytics to track the gender and age range of customers typically entering the bank and target their in-branch marketing efforts accordingly. With a network audio solution, banks could also create the appropriate ambiance with background music in different zones, which is both useful when customers are waiting to be helped or to help mask conversations for privacy purposes.
Is there value in deploying analytics at critical infrastructure?
Andino: Absolutely. The first thing that comes to mind is AXIS Perimeter Defender. The algorithm is designed to detect abnormal behavior, such as someone loitering or going from one area to the next like they’re scouting the place. Or the analytics watch for vehicles driving up the road at times when there shouldn’t be traffic. Analytics could trigger an alarm, send an alert to the facility security staff or even broadcast a pre-recorded warning message to trespassers over our AXIS C1310-E Network Horn Speaker.
Wildfoerster: For places like oil refineries, cameras could also be equipped with audio sensors to detect and alert on anomalous sounds such as an unusual hiss coming from a venting valve. In case of impending disaster, the analytics can trigger a mass communications response – an emergency siren or pre-recorded evacuation instructions – warning everyone but essential personnel to vacate the premises.
Would healthcare be another target market for analytics?
Wildfoerster: Audio analytics can be especially useful in monitoring healthcare and assisted living facilities. In a healthcare environment, for example, an audio sensor can be programmed to ignore the typical ambient sounds of the equipment in the room and focus on the sound patterns of distress. If a bedridden patient tries to get out of bed, moans, or yells, the analytics can detect that and send a notification to the nurses’ station. At the same time, a speaker in the ceiling could broadcast a message to the patient that someone is on their way. If there’s a camera in the room, someone at the nurse’s station could look in on the patient to determine if the situation requires a code blue emergency response. Another example is residents in an assisted living facility entering a secure or unsafe area or wandering off property. Generally, playing a simple message while notifying security personnel can prevent the resident from injuring themselves or others.
Andino: To expand on that, we’re also seeing hospitals use AXIS Parking Violation Detection to trigger speakers to inform drivers that they’re blocking emergency lanes or parking illegally. Similarly, they’re taking advantage of cross line detection analytics to warn someone not to open an emergency exit door.
What would be the benefit of analytics in a school setting?
Andino: Educational facilities can use AXIS Loitering Guard to trigger a message to students to go back to class. If the loitering occurs after hours, the analytics could trigger a message warning the individual not to trespass on the premises. Or if the audio sensor detects the sound of breaking glass, it could send an alert to the local police.
Wildfoerster: I think Aaron makes a great point. Aggression detection analytics are a must for any school. School security officers can’t be everywhere at once, but microphones in the cameras can detect sound patterns of bullying or distress and alert staff exactly where to go and intercede before the confrontation escalates. Quick intervention as events are happening reinforces zero tolerance policies and helps the administration create a safer learning environment for students, teachers, and visitors.
From all the examples you’ve shared, it seems that analytics are what tie the whole solution together. Would you say this is an accurate statement?
Wildfoerster: Analytics are the proactive piece of the equation. Video cameras and microphones are passive collectors of information. Analytics turn that data into actionable intelligence. Equally important, analytics can be used to automate a targeted response using all the tools in the networked solution from speakers to door locks to alarms and more. See it with network cameras, say it with network speakers, and do it by integrating analytics into your next project.
Andino: Furthermore, integrators need to think about the added value analytics bring to a surveillance solution. Analytics can help your customers detect potential threats, mitigate problems, and even identify new business opportunities. And that creates an awesome return on their investment.
Network audio isn’t the future. It’s the now
In their infancy surveillance systems were merely simple recording devices. These analog systems had limited capabilities from a video and audio perspective. Today’s network audio systems are built on IP based, smart edge devices with open APIs. This means that each device is managed over a network with various video management software providers, making it easy to integrate with other IP-based systems such as HVAC, access control, or security systems. Coupled with analytics, these powerful network solutions are now helping companies in every industry get the full potential from their surveillance systems so they can improve security and optimize business performance.