Networked Audio

by David Needham, Sales Manager UK and Ireland, Axis Communications

More than a decade ago in 1996, the video surveillance industry was revolutionised following the launch of the world’s first Internet of Things (IoT) IP camera, the NetEye 200. The shift from traditional analogue solutions into the world of network connected devices facilitated more intelligent and safer business operations for a range of different industries, from retailers through to schools. 

In the present day, a similar revolution is taking place in the world of sound as installers and end users begin to realise the benefits of IP-connected audio solutions, also known as network audio. As well as being an excellent complement to IP cameras and access control systems, IP audio is forging an identity of its own by helping businesses improve security and work more intelligently, and providing installers with increasing revenue streams.

In the present day a similar revolution is taking place in the world of sound…

From ease-of-installation to a futureproofed solution, we take a look at five examples that highlight IP audio’s versatility: 

1. Easy to install, use and maintain For the installer, ease-of-installation is paramount. IP audio systems only require one cable for connectivity, power and communication, and as many are based on open standards, they’re simple to integrate with existing systems. More than ‘just a speaker’, everything is built into an IP audio system. Audio is sent digitally using a network cable, and speakers can be placed wherever there’s a network connection. 

2. Streaming and scheduling capabilities IP audio’s versatility makes it an excellent option for many industries, including retail. Not only are systems compatible with streaming services such as Spotify for Business, you can connect to any audio source, allowing stores to play the most suitable music to its clientele. In addition, many IP audio systems offer the ability to schedule what a speaker plays over a weeklong period, making it easy to record and schedule important announcements around opening hours, or sales promotions.

3. Intelligent systems Both in schools and brick-and-mortar stores, smart zoning capabilities allow users to target announcements at specific areas. This is beneficial for stores, where particular departments may have a special offer, and also for schools. With smart zoning, staff can speak to individuals in certain hallways or areas, telling them to hurry along to class if they’re running late, for example. When combined with IP cameras and access control systems, IP audio allows you to gain even more from a system. Intelligent solutions can be set up to do many various tasks, for instance, sending an audio message out to staff when an IP camera recognises that a queue has become too long, or triggering an audio message if an intruder steps into a set perimeter.

4. Improved security – IP audio can add another layer to a connected security network. For example, if someone is caught acting suspiciously, the operator can use the audio system to inform them they are being filmed and police are on the way. Many IP audio systems include built-in microphones, and gathering audio in real-time can help schools and retailers respond to incidents as they occur. Furthermore, in an emergency situation the network can mute any other audio currently being played to ensure there’s no risk that emergency announcements will be missed. IP audio can also be used as an active security sensor, with audio analytics that detects screams, glass breaking or gunshots, for example, adding a new dimension to a physical security system.

5. Flexible and future-proofed As many IP audio systems are based on open standards, they’re easy to integrate with existing and new hardware and networks – not only saving a firm money on installation costs, but also ensuring a system is future-proofed. Systems are also easy to modify to fit a growing business and speakers can be divided into individual zones or systems, added to a video surveillance system or updated with the latest firmware or applications to enhance functionality. It’s clear to see the benefits that IP audio can offer – not only in retail and education – but across a wide spectrum of industries. The technology also presents new revenue opportunities for installers and integrators, who by adding audio to their repertoire of IP technologies can go even further in helping their customer improve on premise security and operate more efficiently.

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