Page 72 - Security Today, January/February 2021
P. 72

"While the demand for audio-only intercoms in commercial applications is waning, there still may be some niche applications for them on a college campus."
By Craig Szmania
Campus Network
Intercoms are an ideal solution for col- lege and university campuses, because they provide an appealing level of secu- rity for a campus’ friendly flow of peo- ple. With multiple buildings all being used for different purposes, and up to tens of thousands of people coming and going at all hours, the need for effectual security com- munication on a campus is ever-present.
While yesterday’s intercoms were primar- ily used for convenient communication among family members on different levels of a home, today’s intercoms go well beyond strictly convenience to functioning as a sophisticated security device in commercial and institutional applications. They are par- ticularly effective on campuses of all sizes.
The majority of installed intercoms use analog technology; however, that share is being redistributed and there will be more IP-based intercoms than analog in the com- ing years. Network-based intercoms offer many benefits for integration with other security and safety systems, such as telepho- ny, video, access control, and emergency paging. In concert with these other technolo- gies, intercoms enable a fresh angle of situa- tional awareness that those responsible for security may not have had before.
What Can an Intercom Do?
On campuses, intercoms are used in admin- istration buildings, classroom buildings, lec- ture halls and auditoriums, offices, cafeterias, libraries, dorms and residence halls, sports centers and athletic facilities, maintenance buildings and parking garages. They can be especially useful at “information points” around a campus, for example, used as emer- gency “call boxes.” They also are commonly used at gates controlling the entrances to a campus, which in some cases may reduce the number of security guards needed.
In its most basic form, an intercom facili-
tates audio communication between two or more people separated by distance, particu- larly when one of them is attempting to gain access to a building and the other is responsi- ble for granting that access by unlocking a door or raising a gate. While the demand for audio-only intercoms in commercial applica- tions is waning, there still may be some niche applications for them on a college campus.
A growing trend in the intercom market are units that provide both high-definition (HD) audio as well as HD color video. The benefits of having integrated two-way audio communication with video verification are powerful. Intercoms are used for vetting peo- ple, to ascertain who the user is letting into their campus buildings. The addition of HD video to an intercom changes it to a more robust security solution than audio alone. In addition, having a unit with audio, video, and even access control all in one device means that one unit can function in place of several separate products, and it communicates as one unified security solution.
Campus Concerns
Key words for campuses today related to intercoms are: security/verification, conve- nience, low contact and interoperability.
When used for security, the first part of vetting people through an intercom is two- way communication with a high-quality audio connection that works well in noisy environments. The second part is an inte- grated camera with HD resolution and low- light capability or night vision, so intercom users can see who is requesting entry. Addi- tional features, enabled by network integra- tion, are things such as the capability of sending snapshots of visitors via email, or letting in people using a mobile device or desktop computer.
Intercoms have to be convenient because of the sheer number of people using them,
especially in college and university campuses where there may be tens of thousands of stu- dents, professors, staff and visitors who interact with them. One example of enabling convenience is by having an integrated access control reader so authorized users can enter a building using their card, smart- phone (Bluetooth-enabled), fingerprint or PIN — or a combination of these for multi- factor authentication — while unauthorized users must press a button and be vetted first before being allowed entry.
Low contact is a buzzword today, but it is important because of the effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. The less often one has to touch anything, the better. That can be accomplished in a few different ways with intercoms. For the person at the door, using their smartphone as a credential means they don’t need to touch a keypad to gain entry. For the person monitoring the intercom, they can be in a remote location from the people at the door, while still keeping the entry secure by vetting visitors through the audio and video functions of the intercom.
Underlying interoperability is integration of the intercoms with other systems on the campus network, so they will act as part of a single security system that manages every- thing — or at least multiple systems that all “talk” to one another.
Open-platform IP intercoms can easily integrate into a university’s other network- based systems, including first and foremost, the IP telephony system. SIP protocol sup- port makes it easy to link the intercom with IP phones and PBX from other producers, without having to connect to the server.
By means of this integration, when the intercom button is pressed, it triggers a pre- defined/programmed group of phones to sequentially or simultaneously ring. Staff assigned to allowing access can then view a video of the caller prior to answering on a
The Possibilities of Integrating Intercoms on a Network
Integrating intercoms onto a campus network enhances a college or university’s security and safety applications

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