Let there be sound! Or rather, let there be good sound, sound that is clear, intelligible and understood, every time. Think of the last time you tried to order food from a restaurant’s drive-through system, and you’ll get what I mean.
But specifically to enterprise security, you all have your high-end security video systems in place. And while a picture is worth a thousand words, video often only tells half the story. Audio can be an invaluable addition to an enterprise security system, yet it’s still not widespread. The challenge with it, is that sound clarity has been so bad for so many years that it has become nonessential to the critical enterprise security plans and budgets.
How did we get there? According to Jim Hoffpauir, president of Zenitel USA, “For many years, two-way radios filled the essential communication role for security teams due to their portability, ease of use and reliability. Without a better solution, they set the benchmark and provided a path for greater efficiency. Intercom technology offered nothing greater than the current telephone technology. Both struggled with intelligibility. This minimum standard for intercom created decades of bad audio expectations.”
With IP intercom, voice becomes embedded in the organization’s culture, its core processes and its security. Clear directions can be broadcasted to people inside and outside a building. Opportunities for interoperability with other communication systems like security officer radios and digital signage provide multi-modal means to communicate the same message. When evacuations must occur, it increases the likelihood of a measured and successful exit.
So, how is the industry forming a scorecard for this important category? Hoffpauir is striving to communicate to enterprise security leaders how communication must not only be heard, but also understood, and in every situation. He says: “We took the information we received from many surveys and our client’s experiences and offered up our view of the critical communication scorecard. We are taking a risk. This is a benchmark we are saying must be met before you introduce any other feature into the equation, because without it you will dilute your value and risk your investment.”
Hoffpauir says the high-level scorecard must include the following:
Intelligibility: the ability to hear, be heard and be understood. This can be measured through the evaluation of current sound conditions in your environment as well as unexpected “events” that might occur. If it fails, then you must consider another vendor. According to Hoffpauir, you must find a way to perform a proof of concept to ensure your initial evaluation from sales demonstrations and product data sheets does not interfere with a true objective measurement of this critical scorecard element.
Interoperability: you must not only validate integrations that are advertised by the vendors, but you must also evaluate the program track record. For example: dig for the data on when the integration first was designed and the track record of the vendor in staying current with the product revisions over time. The ideal situation is the service level agreement and metrics associated with the integration is managed and measured by both vendors.
Zenitel USA offers four “-ilities,” or four things that IT executives need (and you and your team should, as well) to ensure mission-critical applications get deployed properly. IP communications leaders must be prepared to ensure the following for enterprise security executives:
High Availability: The solution should have a 99.999% track record.
Maintainability: The solution should have strong performance management, or “supervision” capabilities.
Scalability: The solution should be able to grow from a smaller implementation to a global implementation, taking into account legacy systems.
Defensibility: The solution should provide a network security strategy to mitigate potential risk to its hosted network.
Easy to Use: The solution should be designed intuitively, so a team can be set up and running quickly to reduce overall operational costs.
With a new industry scorecard and new expectations, the decades of bad audio may be over. Voice in enterprise security is finally at the point to be taken seriously. What are you going to do? Please email me at email@example.com