Twenty years ago, IP network cameras launched a revolution in video surveillance. Today, network audio systems are about to do the same for the speaker market.

Back in 1996, the predominant video cameras were analog. They weren’t intelligent. They required an expensive and complex head-end of recording and monitoring systems. And their scalability was limited. When IP video systems came on the market they provided a much more scalable solution, one with powerful, native intelligence and most the functionality residing in-camera. It’s no wonder that analog sales are waning while IP network sales are overtaking the industry.

A similar supplanting of technology seems inevitable for speaker systems as well. Today’s speakers are relatively inexpensive and “dumb” devices. They have no local intelligence. They require complex head-end equipment – mixers, amplifiers, etc. – that make them expensive and difficult to scale. Intelligent network audio systems, on the other hand, present a much more scalable solution. And like their IP camera counterparts, they provide far more power and functionality than what is currently on the market.

Replacing Separate Systems With An All-In-One Solution

Initially, network audio systems will be targeted to the retail marketplace. Currently some retailers operate two separate speaker systems in their stores: one for broadcasting background music and one for announcements. The former is generally linked to a streaming or canned music source and the latter is usually tied to the Voice over IP (VoIP) telephone system. For businesses trying to protect their bottom line, maintaining and managing those two separate systems is a costly and inefficient proposition.

Retailers will find that the new, intelligent network audio system is a much better option. These all-in-one systems handle background music and announcements in a single, easily managed all-in-one solution.

The new intelligent network audio systems are designed on open platforms
Much like IP video cameras, IP network audio systems are intelligent devices

Intelligent Network Audio Systems

Much like IP video cameras, IP network audio systems are intelligent devices. They come as a complete audio solution in a single unit, including on-board intelligence, equalizer, amplifier, mixer, digital signal processor, microphone, power supply, and loudspeaker, as well as streaming functionality and network connectivity through a PoE port. They also come with built-in SIP support which makes it easy to integrate them with a company’s VoIP telephone system for live announcements. They have open API for integrating into different subsystems, or for having additional functionality running as an app on-board the speaker, making the network audio system future-proof and ready to support additional music streaming solutions.

  • Installation: Installation is simple because these all-in-one solutions are pre-configured to work and sound great right out of the box. No extra hardware is needed, nor do they require any audio expertise to operate.

  • High quality audio: As full-featured sound systems, intelligent network audio systems are designed to deliver high-quality music playback and clear speech announcements. Combining two functions in one unit makes managing announcements and background music simpler and helps retailers create a uniform atmosphere and consistent service policy across multiple store locations.

  • Programmability: A manager can pre-program audio schedules centrally as well as adjust the timing and volume of music and live and pre-recorded voice announcements on the fly.

  • Easy self-monitoring: The built-in microphone provides a way for retailers to verify that the speaker is operating properly. The speaker can send a test tone through the system which the built-in microphone will pick it up to verify functionality.

  • Seamless integration: As IP-based technology, the intelligent network audio system easily integrates with other systems on the network. For instance, when tied into the store’s surveillance system, the cameras can trigger an alert to the audio system to play a welcome message when someone enters the store. A more advanced application might involve video analytics to detect a customer’s age and gender and trigger a command to the audio system to begin playing a certain type of music. Conversely, if a certain type of patron crosses the threshold the camera may trigger an alert to the audio system to stop streaming music altogether. Or if the camera analytics detects suspicious loitering, it can trigger an alert to the audio system to play a warning message.
Third-party developers will be able to create add-on applications that will further increase functionality
Announcements can be scheduled or triggered by an event captured by a network surveillance camera, such as someone entering the store

Scalable And Customizable

Since the audio system is IP-based retailers can add or remove individual speakers from the network in an instant to accommodate changing needs.

  • Versatile operating options: Because they are intelligent, programmable devices they can be addressed and controlled individually or in groups. Through a smart interface, a retailer can send a command to a single speaker or a unified command to multiple units simultaneously. By creating zones to address groups of loudspeakers a retailer can direct different background music, live or pre-recorded announcements or control and change the volume for each unit individually and/or synchronize music and announcements for different clusters.

  • Multiple audio sources: The ability to play music is integral to intelligent network speakers. When it comes to sourcing that music, the devices leave the path wide open. Retailers can draw from the speakers’ preinstalled audio player application. They can create and schedule their own MP3 playlists from audio streaming services. Or they can air local playlists that they’ve compiled and stored on an SD card residing within the network audio system.

  • Announcements can be scheduled from pre-recorded audio files or, as mentioned above, triggered by an event captured by a network surveillance camera.

On The Horizon

In addition to being smarter, easier to manage, more cost-efficient, and more scalable than their dumb predecessors, these new intelligent network audio systems are designed on open platforms. This provides unlimited potential for integrating the sound system with a retailer’s other communications and security systems. It also opens up the possibilities for strategic deployments in other business sectors that would benefit from intelligent network audio systems such as schools, hospitals, and banks.

Building on the open platform design, third-party developers will be able to create add-on applications that will further increase the functionality and adoption of intelligent network audio systems across industries for many years to come.

Save

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Fredrik Nilsson Vice President of the Americas, Axis Communications

Fredrik Nilsson is the general manager for Axis Communications with responsibility for the company’s operations in North America since 2003. During this time, he has helped the company increase its revenue more than tenfold and has been instrumental in leading the industry shift from analog closed circuit television to network video.

In case you missed it

Disruptive Innovation Providing New Opportunities In Smart Cities
Disruptive Innovation Providing New Opportunities In Smart Cities

Growth is accelerating in the smart cities market, which will quadruple in the next four years based on 2020 numbers. Top priorities are resilient energy and infrastructure projects, followed by data-driven public safety and intelligent transportation. Innovation in smart cities will come from the continual maturation of relevant technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), fifth-generation telecommunications (5G) and edge-to-cloud networking. AI and computer vision (video analytics) are driving challenges in security and safety, in particular, with video management systems (VMSs) capturing video streams and exposing them to various AI analytics. Adoption of disruptive technologies “Cities are entering the critical part of the adoption curve,” said Kasia Hanson, Global Director, Partner Sales, IOT Video, Safe Cities, Intel Corp. “They are beginning to cross the chasm to realize their smart city vision. Cities are taking notice and have new incentives to push harder than before. They are in a better position to innovate.” “Safety and security were already important market drivers responsible for adoption of AI, computer vision and edge computing scenarios,” commented Hanson, in a presentation at the Milestone Integration Platform Symposium (MIPS) 2021. She added: “2020 was an inflection point when technology and the market were ripe for disruption. COVID has accelerated the adoption of disruptive technologies in ways we could not have predicted last year.” Challenges faced by cities Spending in the European Union on public order and safety alone stood at 1.7% of GDP in 2018 Providing wide-ranging services is an expanding need in cities of all sizes. There are currently 33 megacities globally with populations over 10 million. There are also another 4,000 cities with populations over 100,000 inhabitants. Challenges for all cities include improving public health and safety, addressing environmental pressures, enabling mobility, improving quality of life, promoting economic competitiveness, and reducing costs. Spending in the European Union on public order and safety alone stood at 1.7% of GDP in 2018. Other challenges include air quality – 80% of those living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) limits. Highlighting mobility concerns is an eye-opening statistic from Los Angeles in 2017: Residents spent an average of 102 hours sitting in traffic. Smart technology “The Smart City of Today can enable rich and diverse use cases,” says Hanson. Examples include AI-enabled traffic signals to help reduce air pollution, and machine learning for public safety such as real-time visualization and emergency response. Public safety use cases include smart and connected outdoor lighting, smart buildings, crime prevention, video wearables for field agents, smart kiosks, and detection of noise level, glass breaks, and gunshots. Smart technology will make indoor spaces safer by controlling access to a building with keyless and touchless entry. In the age of COVID, systems can also detect face mask compliance, screen for fever, and ensure physical distancing. 2020 was an inflection point when technology and the smart cities market were ripe for disruption, Kasia Hanson told the MIPS 2021 audience. Video solutions Video workloads will provide core capabilities as entertainment venues reopen after the pandemic. When audiences attend an event at a city stadium, deep learning and AI capabilities analyze customer behaviors to create new routes, pathways, signage and to optimize cleaning operations. Personalized digital experiences will add to the overall entertainment value. In the public safety arena, video enables core capabilities such as protection of people, assets, and property, emergency response, and real-time visualization, and increased situational awareness. Video also provides intelligent incident management, better operational efficiency, and faster information sharing and collaboration. Smart video strategy Intel and Milestone provide video solutions across many use cases, including safety and security Video at the edge is a key element in end-to-end solutions. Transforming data from various point solutions into insights is complicated, time-consuming, and costly. Cities and public venues are looking for hardware, software, and industry expertise to provide the right mix of performance, capabilities, and cost-effectiveness. Intel’s smart video strategy focuses around its OpenVINO toolkit. OpenVINO, which is short for Open Visual Inference and Neural network Optimization, enables customers to build and deploy high-performing computer vision and deep learning inference applications. Intel and Milestone partnership – Video solutions “Our customers are asking for choice and flexibility at the edge, on-premises and in the cloud,” said Hansen in her presentation at the virtual conference. “They want the choice to integrate with large-scale software packages to speed deployment and ensure consistency over time. They need to be able to scale computer vision. Resolutions are increasing alongside growth in sensor installations themselves. They have to be able to accommodate that volume, no matter what causes it to grow.” As partners, Intel and Milestone provide video solutions across many use cases, including safety and security. In effect, the partnership combines Intel’s portfolio of video, computer vision, inferencing, and AI capabilities with Milestone’s video management software and community of analytics partners. Given its complex needs, the smart cities market is particularly inviting for these technologies.

What Are the Physical Security Challenges of Smart Cities?
What Are the Physical Security Challenges of Smart Cities?

The emergence of smart cities provides real-world evidence of the vast capabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT). Urban areas today can deploy a variety of IoT sensors to collect data that is then analyzed to provide insights to drive better decision-making and ultimately to make modern cities more livable. Safety and security are an important aspect of smart cities, and the capabilities that drive smarter cities also enable technologies that make them safer. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the physical security challenges of smart cities?

New Markets For AI-Powered Smart Cameras In 2021
New Markets For AI-Powered Smart Cameras In 2021

Organizations faced a number of unforeseen challenges in nearly every business sector throughout 2020 – and continuing into 2021. Until now, businesses have been on the defensive, reacting to the shifting workforce and economic conditions, however, COVID-19 proved to be a catalyst for some to accelerate their long-term technology and digitalization plans. This is now giving decision-makers the chance to take a proactive approach to mitigate current and post-pandemic risks. These long-term technology solutions can be used for today’s new world of social distancing and face mask policies and flexibly repurposed for tomorrow’s renewed focus on efficiency and business optimization. For many, this emphasis on optimization will likely be precipitated by not only the resulting economic impacts of the pandemic but also the growing sophistication and maturity of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), technologies that are coming of age just when they seem to be needed the most.COVID-19 proved to be a catalyst for some to accelerate their long-term technology and digitalization plans Combined with today’s cutting-edge computer vision capabilities, AI and ML have produced smart cameras that have enabled organizations to more easily implement and comply with new health and safety requirements. Smart cameras equipped with AI-enabled intelligent video analytic applications can also be used in a variety of use cases that take into account traditional security applications, as well as business or operational optimization, uses – all on a single camera. As the applications for video analytics become more and more mainstream - providing valuable insights to a variety of industries - 2021 will be a year to explore new areas of use for AI-powered cameras. Optimizing production workflows and product quality in agriculture Surveillance and monitoring technologies are offering value to industries such as agriculture by providing a cost-effective solution for monitoring of crops, business assets and optimizing production processes. As many in the agriculture sector seek to find new technologies to assist in reducing energy usage, as well as reduce the environmental strain of modern farming, they can find an unusual ally in smart surveillance. Some niche farming organizations are already implementing AI solutions to monitor crops for peak production freshness in order to reduce waste and increase product quality.  For users who face environmental threats, such as mold, parasites, or other insects, smart surveillance monitoring can assist in the early identification of these pests and notify proper personnel before damage has occurred. They can also monitor vast amounts of livestock in fields to ensure safety from predators or to identify if an animal is injured. Using video monitoring in the growing environment as well as along the supply chain can also prove valuable to large-scale agriculture production. Applications can track and manage inventory in real-time, improving knowledge of high-demand items and allowing for better supply chain planning, further reducing potential spoilage. Efficient monitoring in manufacturing and logistics New challenges have arisen in the transportation and logistics sector, with the industry experiencing global growth. While security and operational requirements are changing, smart surveillance offers an entirely new way to monitor and control the physical side of logistics, correcting problems that often go undetected by the human eye, but have a significant impact on the overall customer experience. Smart surveillance offers an entirely new way to monitor and control the physical side of logistics, correcting problems that often go undetected by the human eye. Video analytics can assist logistic service providers in successfully delivering the correct product to the right location and customer in its original condition, which normally requires the supply chain to be both secure and ultra-efficient. The latest camera technology and intelligent software algorithms can analyze footage directly on the camera – detecting a damaged package at the loading dock before it is loaded onto a truck for delivery. When shipments come in, smart cameras can also alert drivers of empty loading bays available for offloading or alert facility staff of potential blockages or hazards for incoming and outgoing vehicles that could delay delivery schedules planned down to the minute. For monitoring and detecting specific vehicles, computer vision in combination with video analysis enables security cameras to streamline access control measures with license plate recognition. Smart cameras equipped with this technology can identify incoming and outgoing trucks - ensuring that only authorized vehicles gain access to transfer points or warehouses. Enhance regulatory safety measures in industrial settings  Smart surveillance and AI-enabled applications can be used to ensure compliance with organizational or regulatory safety measures in industrial environments. Object detection apps can identify if employees are wearing proper safety gear, such as facial coverings, hard hats, or lifting belts. Similar to the prevention of break-ins and theft, cameras equipped with behavior detection can help to automatically recognize accidents at an early stage. For example, if a worker falls to the ground or is hit by a falling object, the system recognizes this as unusual behavior and reports it immediately. Going beyond employee safety is the ability to use this technology for vital preventative maintenance on machinery and structures. A camera can identify potential safety hazards, such as a loose cable causing sparks, potential wiring hazards, or even detect defects in raw materials. Other more subtle changes, such as gradual structural shifts/crack or increases in vibrations – ones that would take the human eye months or years to discover – are detectable by smart cameras trained to detect the first signs of mechanical deterioration that could potentially pose a physical safety risk to people or assets. Early recognition of fire and smoke is another use case where industrial decision-makers can find value. Conventional fire alarms are often difficult to properly mount in buildings or outdoor spaces and they require a lot of maintenance. Smart security cameras can be deployed in difficult or hard-to-reach areas. When equipped with fire detection applications, they can trigger notification far earlier than a conventional fire alarm – as well as reduce false alarms by distinguishing between smoke, fog, or other objects that trigger false alarms. By digitizing analog environments, whether a smoke detector or an analog pressure gauge, decision-makers will have access to a wealth of data for analysis that will enable them to optimize highly technical processes along different stages of manufacturing - as well as ensure employee safety and security of industrial assets and resources. Looking forward to the future of smart surveillance With the rise of automation in all three of these markets, from intelligent shelving systems in warehouses to autonomous-driving trucks, object detection for security threats, and the use of AI in monitoring agricultural crops and livestock, the overall demand for computer vision and video analytics will continue to grow. That is why now is the best time for decision-makers across a number of industries to examine their current infrastructure and determine if they are ready to make an investment in a sustainable, multi-use, and long-term security and business optimization solution.