It’s Time to Innovate for a Smarter, Safer World
Audio technology has come a long way since the early days of eight-track and cassettes. The same is true for communications systems. We’re seeing an industry moving from static 70V audio systems to intelligent network audio solutions that leverage customers’ existing network infrastructure. There are lots of reasons why this evolution is gaining traction. Primarily it’s because intelligent IP-based audio gives customers more flexibility, scalability and reliability than their legacy analog systems. Designed to easily integrate with other network-based systems, they can also add value to a customer’s existing network communications and security systems while providing systems integrators with additional revenue opportunities.
Making the transition from analog to IP audio solutions
Building an intelligent audio solution starts with audio management software. Axis Communications offers two options. AXIS Audio Manager Edge, which comes pre-installed on all Axis audio devices, is designed for systems with up to 200 speakers and up to 20 audio zones, which is for single-site locations such as commercial, warehouse and retail applications. AXIS Audio Manager Pro Series, which is sold separately in a server or e-license format, is designed for larger sites with more complex audio needs like a school campus or manufacturing facility. The Pro Series comes with an unlimited number of licenses so you can expand your customer’s audio ecosystem as their needs grow.
At the heart of an Axis network audio solution is the software that’s driven by digital signal processing. The company says this leads to more accurate reproduction of audio which you can tailor to your clients’ needs. It also gives your customers the flexibility to control and customize their entire speaker ecosystem from a single intuitive dashboard. A drop-and-drag interface makes it easy to preset or reconfigure speakers in real-time, define audio zones, set volumes and mix live and prerecorded announcements with ads and background music. It also allows customers to plan, schedule content, change messaging on the fly and more.
When it comes to choosing speakers, Axis offers a wide selection of options all powered by PoE via category cable. This enables you to bring intelligence to the edge where each speaker becomes a system unto itself. Decentralizing the speakers allows customers to target specific audio to individual speakers, a zone of speakers or all speakers on the network.
Because network speakers are configured by their individual IP addresses rather than their physical wiring as in a typical 70V system, Axis says it’s much easier to scale the audio ecosystem.
Axis intelligent network audio systems include a host of features:
- Message scheduling capabilities
- Onboard message storage
- Up to nine priority levels
- Remote health monitoring
- Two-way communications
- Announcements via cell phone
- Latency adjustments
- And more
More than a public address system
Network audio isn’t just about speakers, it’s about creating a complete end-to-end solution that enhances your customers’ safety, security, and business operations. And here is where the technology excels compared to its analog counterparts. In addition to being a public address system, a network audio system can play an important role in multiple areas of your customers’ operations. With the addition of analytics, network audio can be integrated with video surveillance systems, retail management technology, even environmental sensors and programmed to broadcast appropriate messages in response to specific events. They can complement passive forensic security systems by adding a proactive deterrent element or help stores improve revenue by directing customers to profitable merchandise. They can even be used to reinforce safety and health protocols and much more. Here are a few other examples:
- Business management. Network audio systems can be used to enhance the retail shopping experience. They can be programmed to create a customized audio experience (music, live or prerecorded announcements) within various areas of a store or across an entire chain. Network audio can expedite queue management by directing customers to the next available ticket taker, teller or checkout line. Network audio can be used in parking garages to deter vandalism or on warehouse floors to warn employees about blocking emergency exits.
- Mass communications. In addition to text and email alerts, network audio can help warn people of impending danger — weather alerts, chemical spills, active shooters, etc. — along with instructions on what they should do. Customers can use it to broadcast live or prerecorded evacuation instructions, shelter-in-place procedures or other directions that need to be followed.
- Threat assessment. When integrated with audio analytics, network audio takes safety and security to an even higher level. Audio analytics detect and identify specific acoustic wave patterns. They are often used to point the camera in the direction of the event. Depending on the sound detected, they can also trigger certain actions and specific network audio responses such as a suitable prerecorded audio clip. For example, aggression detection analytics might trigger a page to security. Gunshot detection might trigger an immediate facility lockdown and an automated call to local police.
- Intrusion protection. When a video camera detects someone entering a restricted area or loitering too long in one place, network audio can be programmed to broadcast a warning to trespassers that they’re being watched and should vacate the premises because police are on their way. Or if it’s a student lingering in the hall, the message advises them to get back to class. Studies have shown that the immediacy of the verbal message tends to deter unwanted behavior.
- COVID-19 compliance. Integrating network audio with security cameras can also help promote adherence to safety guidelines, such as broadcasting a reminder to mask up, social distance and use hand sanitizer before entering the building. Network audio can also complement occupancy management efforts, airing a message to patrons to wait to enter if the venue is currently a maximum mandated capacity. While they’re waiting, the audio system can be playing music or looping an infomercial on current sales and daily specials to keep them engaged. At airports and retail stores, network audio can be tied to security cameras at the checkout area to remind shoppers to maintain social distancing while they’re waiting in line.