Internet protocol (IP) audio and intercom systems are perfect surveillance systems for public buildings, as they can use the existing Ethernet or other methods of connectivity to set up a facility-wide communication configuration.

“IP is wonderful,” said Chris Coffin, chief executive officer of Digital Acoustics, Lake Forest, Ill. Digital Acoustics is a company that first entered the IP audio market back in 2004, when it was just a new technology many simply did not understand. “The value is that most users want to be able to manage multiple buildings and locations. With an analog system, you are constrained to the wires in each building.”

With digital audio systems, customers can make use of their existing network to deploy the technology.

Adding IP devices gives users the ability to perform audio intercom and management functions in a building across the street or around the world.

“IP allows you to break out of the building,” Coffin said.

IP audio has been beneficial and is being adopted increasingly in the educational market. This is logical since schools—from local community colleges to large universities—have multiple buildings and sometimes several campuses. IP audio and intercoms allow for efficient and centralized control over monitoring and paging capabilities. It also is scalable, meaning you can easily add units and stations as necessary.

The status of public warning policies also has prompted a resurrecting awareness of the benefits of area-wide audio communications. In the wake of catastrophic hurricanes, other natural disasters and the Virginia Tech shootings, many have taken a new look at warning systems, and audio is generally part of the solution. With IP audio coupled with video, the end-user is able to manage multiple areas and locations from a single site, literally anywhere.

The Digital Acoustics solution uses a management feature designed to look for alternative command centers if one goes down. If a failure is detected, as long as the network stays up, the Digital Acoustic software will look for a different centralized control area. In addition, users always know when individual intercoms go offline, even if on a WAN.

IP is simple and a great upgrade for any facility. It’s perfect for retrofit, and this also is important for electrical contractors, especially those working in older buildings where they may be limited for locations to pull wires or can gain access.

By opting for IP, one can tap into or use a wireless infrastructure and, thus, bypass such cabling concerns. Coffin said if an end-user wants to increase parking lot security, he or she can -either trench across the lot and lay cable or use a secured wireless network and add on IP audio. While many still choose hardwired over wireless, both options are available, viable and effective.

The next step

IP audio professionals, such as Coffin, believe integration will continue to dominate. Already in the process of evolving and being deployed is the integration of edge devices such as audio and intercoms being coupled with technologies like biometrics. This means more comprehensive, total security offerings—all based on the IP network.

One potential IP limitation may be the availability of addresses. Each IP device requires its own unique address.

“The only limiting point today is if everything goes IP, do we have enough addresses? Speed won’t be an issue,” Coffin said. “The beauty of IP audio is that it takes very little bandwidth, and with our application, you can deploy with whatever connectivity you want: Ethernet, fiber optic or wireless.”

Video may dominate IP-based systems in the news, but there are other options for the network, including audio and intercom communications.

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.