More than 18 months since the COVID-19 pandemic began, physical security is still being tested. That’s according to a new report that notes that threats at U.S. businesses have reached an “unsettling” pace.

The 2021 Mid-Year Outlook State of Protective Intelligence Report — The Escalating Physical Threat Landscape: A Clarion Call for Corporate Protective Intelligence, a new study commissioned by the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence, found that violence and physical threats to businesses are continuing to challenge enterprise security teams, especially as COVID-19 vaccinations continue, companies embrace hybrid work, employees return to the office, and the U.S. re-opens.

“Pent up economic and political frustrations marked by the January 6 Capitol riot are being unleashed after months of limited in-person interactions, mass shootings have skyrocketed, and companies are experiencing an increase in physical threats as compared to the beginning of 2021,” said Fred Burton, Executive Director of the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence. “And yet, as our study found, even as physical threats increasingly originate in the cyber world, CEOs are reluctant to believe their companies could be targets.”

Enterprise security leaders, however, are fully aware that their companies can be a target of physical and cyber threats. They also are realizing more than ever the value of intelligent communications to help mitigate those threats.


The Value of Voice and Audio

In enterprise security, audio and communication technologies are often not leveraged to their full potential, but they should be.

Video surveillance has long been embraced as an essential element of a physical security solution. However, surveillance footage is often recorded without sound, even though some security cameras can capture it.

Access control is an additional essential component, as it can either allow or deny access, but it too is limiting.

There’s no doubt that both technologies are very important. However, they are about monitoring and control, and they do not give you the ability to effectively understand the situation and communicate with people before, during and after an incident.

Have you ever watched a silent movie? Or turned the volume off while watching the news? It’s difficult to discern the complete story. As a viewer, you miss out on the complexities, nuances, and cues that come with sound.

Audio and communications that are incorporated with video and access control give security teams a complete solution. It’s like adding “ears” to your “eyes” in a situation. For example, voice communication can provide a greeting to people at the perimeter of your facility, give instructions, and enable a two-way conversation to further identify their intent. When combined with video and access control, each employee and visitor is properly vetted.

Clear communication also helps with crime deterrence. For example, a voice can warn people they are getting too close to a secure perimeter fence or alert an individual that they are being monitored and should stop what they are doing. It can also enable a security officer to speak directly with a suspect, helping to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation before it unfolds.

As a surveillance tool, audio allows you to capture sounds (and thus, information) that video alone cannot provide. What could your security team learn by incorporating audio into your security solution? Here are just a few items that could be critical to determining the best response:

  1. Names and other identifying information
  2. The language that is spoken
  3. Mood, emotions, or levels of aggression
  4. Sounds of a security breach, such as breaking glass, an alarm, or a door opening
  5. Notification that first responders have arrived on the scene

What are some of the benefits of giving your security team a voice? With intelligent audio at their fingertips, they can:

  1. Capture accurate information from a variety of audio and video sources.
  2. Listen in to an area to determine the nature of the event more quickly.
  3. Make informed decisions regarding the appropriate level of response.
  4. Maintain communication with all parties throughout the event.
  5. Enable detailed post-event scene analysis and evidence collection.
  6. Have complete situational data for training and re-training security personnel.

If you have not already, it’s time to incorporate and leverage voice and audio technology into your enterprise security strategy. Audio and voice communications have established their presence as a critical tool for enhancing situational awareness, enabling better risk mitigation, maximizing safety, and overall allowing an enterprise to focus important resources where they can be most beneficial. It’s time to hear, be heard, and be understood, in every situation. 

This article originally ran in Security, a twice-monthly security-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security Magazine. Subscribe here.