Aiphone offers security communication systems providing versatile solutions for a range of industries. Our wide variety of reliable, high-quality products offers comprehensive security solutions for virtually any security need—large or small.
As leaders in our industry, it is our privilege to bring you perspectives and considerations from our pool of knowledgeable experts around topics related to technology, security, and business. Each week we will post new and timely answers to relevant topics.
Question of the Week: What is the importance of having UL certification when selecting an intercom?
Author: Spencer Britenstein, Director of Sales South
A: The UL certification is widely known and has become the accepted quality assurance stamp of approval across many products over the years. Intercomsare no different. End–users, installers, and inspectors have relied on this identification to ensurethe products they are buyingand installingmeet the requirements for a safe, quality purchase. While intercom is low voltage, which inherently meansthere is a lower risk of electrical danger, it’s reassuring to know that the intercom being installed has passed the UL requirements. This UL certification can apply to power supplies as well as individual products.
Author: Josh Hentz, Regional Sales Representative: DE, E. PA, MD, S. NJ, VA & DC
A: The importance of having a UL certification when selecting an intercom is safety and peace of mind!
The UL (Underwriters Laboratory) is responsible for research, standards, and inspecting the processes and materials of most electronics around the world, including intercoms. Some people are not aware of the Underwriters Laboratory, or if you pick up any electronic in your home, there should be a UL label stamped on it. With this label comes peace of mind. You can trust the material was built to meet—or exceed the standards of safety involving electronics to reduce hazards, such as electrical fires or personal injury. It must have the UL label to go in my home!
Author: Charles McGaughey
A: This would be determined by the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction). Some state that products must be UL approved while others don’t care. The dealer needs to know the attitude of the AHJ.
Question of the Week: What is a common misconception about intercoms?
Author: Chris Ebert, Director of Sales Midwest
A: For Aiphone, the most common misconception about intercoms is in the name itself, “Intercom.“ By definition an Intercom is two-way communication within a building, small group of buildings, or vehicle that consists of a microphone and speaker for localized use. Modern intercoms like ours can bridge communication gaps by utilizing IP audio and video technology such as Cloud, SIP/VIOP, and ONVIF camera streams. This not only allows for visual communication between parties from almost anywhere in the world. It also creates a technology that complements a facility’s or campus’ security solution.
Author: Adam Reed, Director of Sales Western Regions
A: For those of us breathing intercoms day in and day out, what I’m about to say will not be a unique response. However, for many security professionals, it’s a common misconception to think that intercoms are not essential when presenting an access control solution. It was so wisely put to me many years ago, no access control solution should ever be presented to a customer without having had a serious discussion about intercoms. What should be done when their security credential fails? Who should a visitor call when they do not have a security credential? Whether this should be called a common misconception, or a common oversight, it remains staggering to hear how many access control providers often forget, or just do not bring up intercoms, in their access control conversations. Like water nourishing the body, intercoms complete the access control conversation.
Author: Joy Sweet, Senior Manager Technical and Customer Service
A: Having worked in the intercom business for over three decades, there are many misconceptions about what an intercom is. It might seem old fashioned, outdated, and unnecessary in today’s connected world. Yes, there are legacy analog intercoms that still serve a function and work well, but with designs from the 80s, they have their limitations. Because of the restrictions of traditional systems, it may seem like intercoms have outlived their usefulness, much like the typewriter.
Modern-day intercoms are nothing like their predecessors of 30 or 40 years ago. No longer are they limited in size, distance, and functionality. I remember the days of being limited to 3 entrances and 40 tenants in a video multi-tenant application. We used to be limited to one or two master stations and up to 80 audio only remote stations in a school or commercial application. Now pretty much the sky is the limit!
At their core, modern-day systems are still intercom systems, meaning a closed system not relying on external infrastructure to operate. However, the limits in size and distance are virtually gone. The advantages of using intercoms in today’s world multiply exponentially because of this, as limitations dissipate allowing applications and opportunities to flourish. With no monthly recurring costs, an intercom can provide needed communication between points where other forms of communication are not ideal. Adding to the security of a home or business, intercoms allow you to secure your location, which adds security for the people inside. They provide quick visual and audio communication with someone outside, or even the ability to just push a button and view various areas to make sure it is safe to go outside. Intercoms are a natural partner with video security and access control systems, all working together to give peace of mind to the people inside the secured area.
With the modern use of networks and the internet, I think there is a healthy and robust future for intercoms. Typewriters, not so much!
Author: Bob Fallon, Regional Sales Representative
A: Just how misconceptions are out there regarding video surveillance and access control the same holds true with intercom systems.
Throughout my many discussions with security integrators, A&Es, and especially, end–users of the equipment, there are four which are most common.
1) That intercom systems are just audio only and do not have video capabilities too. Just the name intercom, as defined, an electrical device allowing one-way or two-way communication, pretty much lends itself to some people thinking it is just for audio purposes.
2) That intercom systems do not have the ability to unlock doors, which indeed they can, and do so very effectively via a door strike or a maglock triggered by an output on the intercom system.
3) That intercom systems just provide entry security (2–way communication) to let in a visitor. At Aiphone, we have systems that not only provide this function with video and door release, but can also provide internal communication functionality (audio/video), paging, bell scheduling, and emergency/assistance capabilities.
4) Many still do not realize how robust and scalable an intercom system can be through integration/registration with other key security platforms that an end–user utilizes, such as VMS systems, access control systems, and even IP PBX (SIP) technology.
What this tells us as security experts, in trying every day to make an impact for a safer and secure world, is to not make assumptions on what is truly known about intercom technology.
Question of the Week: What does secure/security mean to you? What defines security?
Author: Paul Hefty, Technical Sales & Support Engineer II
A: What is security? Security is peace of mind. It is being aware of your surroundings and knowing everything is as it should be. To maintain this, we lock up our buildings and yards. We install cameras and alarms so to stay alert for intruders. To allow access for our coworkers, friends, delivery people, andcustomers we do business with, we install video intercoms. The video intercom allows us to securely identify who is at the door and determine their intentions. While having a secure location is important and provides peace of mind, it is also important to know when the pizza is delivered.
Author: Norbert Artur, Aiphone Corporation, Director of Sales Canada
A: Security for me is the ability to provide peace of mind to occupants in any type of environment: residential, educational, commercial, institutional, and more. It is the means we must provide everyone using a facility a way to feel secure and to conduct their activities without having to worry about the safety of their environment. In today’s world, having proper layers of security is paramount for the wellbeing of all. For me, what defines security is the ability to stop or deter crimes and to provide a safe environment for the occupants.
Author: Luke Romero, Regional Sales Representative Northwest
A: A place in which you have added total peace of mind and protection beyond your own senses, to detect and react to a concerning or dangerous event.
Question of the Week: What are common security gaps that need attention?
Author: Luke Romero, Regional Sales Representative Northwest
A: A common security gap is the ability to give someone temporary access to a building door, apartment, or residence for a designated period of time. Providing temporary access for a dog walker, house sitter, or delivery service is often requested to be time and date based, so even if you forget to remove access, the system will do it for you. Right now, while we can add access codes and give them out, this creates a huge security breach because those codes are permanent and will continue to work unless they are manually changed. Constantly updating a system can be inconvenient to owners and might include added fees (varies with their service contract).
Assigning temporary access is something I am constantly be asked for in mixed-use and multi–tenant buildings.
Author: Cody Graves, Regional Sales Representative, South Carolina, North Carolina
A: An all too common, but rarely addressed, security gap is clean system design or lack thereof.
Offhand this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but poor cable management, port labeling, hidden power supplies etc. can cause an end–user to leave malfunctioning or non-functioning system components untended resulting in a major security gap.
Many end–users have partially–functioning systems with cameras, card readers, intercoms, and other devices not working as intended. These go unrepaired because of the confusion regarding where the malfunction leads back to, where the power supply resides, or where to even begin troubleshooting.
This issue is more common with analog devices.
PoE IP devices can mitigate this challenge. All PoE stations cable back to a central switching location and can be pinged through the network to detect a malfunction. Without a power supply, and an infinite number of cable-pathways to search through, the process of troubleshooting a malfunction is streamlined.
Whether it be access control, video surveillance, or monitored entry via a video intercom device, IP options are available and will often lead to a more robust and easier system to service with fewer security gaps.
Author: Clark Landguth, Inside Sales & Support Manager
A: One common security gap is glass entryways that don’t control who comes in. Just because you can see who’s at the front door, do you really want to keep it unlocked or open? Even a simple audio–only intercom solution with a door release is a safer approach.
Question of the Week: What is the best approach to upgrading an existing intercom system? All or nothing?
How old is too old to upgrade?
Author: Luke Romero, Regional Sales Representative Northwest
A: I always start with the type of application, system, and wire being used. This will help determine the best system for their needs. If they need to reuse the cable, our choices are limited at that point. If they plan to repull, then I would recommend the best current system for the application.
Reusing existing equipment is always a possibility, but budget and customer needs will be paramount on the direction at that point. If the product is discontinued, we must start completely fresh with wire and product. However, even with older equipment, a lot of times we can reuse the cable and save much of the cost by just installing new equipment.
Author: Karlis Praulins, Regional Sales Manager Provinces covered: Ontario (Except Ottawa) and Nunavut Territory
A: The best approach I am finding here locally in the Toronto / GTA market is upgrading existing intercom systems in a “phased” approach. Phase 1 would be upgrading all the back-endequipment to IP using 2–wire convertors or running new cable. This will allow the customer to use an existing cable or equipment that can still be used in the field. Phase 2 would be upgrading the devices out in the field. This could be replacing an analog device with another analog device or putting in a new IP video intercom device, that has unique calling features or mobile app capability to help cut down on security guards. The phased approach to upgrading really relieves the “stickershock” to the customer and helps develop a long–term relationship.
Author: Sean Gaffey, Senior Sales Representative GA
A: Preferably, a site survey helps to confirm exactly what they currently have,and I note what the customer wants to improve. Often they want to improve everything, as they are updating from an audio only to a video intercom. I usually recommend updating to an IP system, like our IX Series, as this system can always be added to,and may avoid complete system replacement in the future. I then ask if they have a relationship with a security contractor. Sometimes they want recommendations, which I provide along with bill of material recommendations.
Question of the Week: What’s the benefit of using an IP intercom over analog?
Author: John Hemp, Director of Sales Mid-Atlantic and New England
A: There are multiple benefits to using IP over analog, and there are one or two benefits to going with analog in certain situations.
Deploying an IP solution allows for scalability and future growth. It also makes integrating with other IP security platforms possible. Most would agree that in 2020, intercoms fall squarely into the electronic security industry. They are not just for room–to–room communication in residences anymore. We are seeing the value of VMS, ACS, EMS, and even MNS integration from a software perspective grow year over year. Corporations, colleges, government agencies, and healthcare groups are using electronic security and visitor management systems to not only protect their assets and employees, but to help curb potential liability issues, and reduce the expenses of manpower and headcount. Understanding how these systems integrate and add value and profit to an overall business model for any organization is paramount—and working with IP solutions is a necessity to achieve those results.
Although on average an IP product is more expensive than an analog product, and on the surface may seem like a drawback, the total project cost including installation is often reduced. This cost reduction is due to the amount of labor hours required to run wires and the use of specialty tools such as lifts and scaffolding required for analog installations. The use of mobile apps and WiFi connections further reduces the amount of time and materials needed to deploy many IP solutions, and simultaneously allows for more customization for the end user. This opens up more RMR revenue streams for integrators who can now offer offsite management services and support contracts.
There are still a few situations where an analog solution may be preferred over an IP solution though. One application that comes up semi-regularly is in the healthcare and government markets. Ultra-secure network applications such as a SCIF or high–level classified access rooms may find it more valuable to go with a system that is not hackable and is not tied to a switch or network anywhere. It reduces the risk of sensitive information such as patient records being accessed by unwanted parties, or doors to certain areas being opened by unauthorized individuals. Although creating VLANs and firewalls are sufficient for most applications today, there are some organizations that will prefer an analog system as an added protection against outside security breaches.
Author: Paul Hefty, Technical Sales & Support Engineer II
A: There are several factors that make using an IP intercom more advantages than using an analog intercom. The biggest of those factors is that you can install an IP intercom anywhere. While an analog system is limited to a specific distance on a specific wire, IP intercoms can be installed anywhere. We have had IP intercoms installed in the middle of the forest protecting logging equipment allowing remote monitoring in the city by using a network satellite feed. We have connected buildings using wireless mesh networks without having to trench cable between buildings. We have connected remote offices together around the world. All this is possible because we no longer need to worry about wire distance, if we can get a PoE network connection, we’re good. Other factors such as integrating with third-party VMS providers, or tying into SIP systems, are just icing on the cake.
Q: Question of the Week: How do hardware improvements drive better physical security?
Author: Norbert Artur
A: Hardware improvements are as important as the physical security devices in a building, if the hardware is not efficient/durable then it could jeopardize the whole security solution. Improving the hardware around physical security increases the performance and reliability of the install, less vulnerability to failure and less down time.
Author: Marty Schutt
A: Hardware improvements drive better physical security in several ways. In today’s high-tech world, hardware is the most important piece of the puzzle. Everyone thinks that software is the driving factor, but let’s face facts—if the hardware that the software is interfacing with is inferior, it does not matter how good your software is. A fine example is camera quality. 1 HD cameras can do the job of several old analog cameras. Have you ever seen crime shows where they show camera footage from a crime scene using an old camera and VCR tape? Now, with hardware improvements, you can not only see there is a person in the frame, but you can see the knife or gun they are holding in their hand. This would not be possible without the first line of defense is a good solid piece of hardware.
With good hardware, software possibilities are endless. Remember the adage garbage in—garbage out. This applies to hardware across the board. Whether you are running a high-end physical security system or just trying to open a door, if the doorknob doesn’t work, nothing else really matters. Hardware improvements are the cornerstone of any security system.
In today’s climate with Protests, COVID-19 and crime on the rise, physical security has become more of a priority than ever before. The hardware deployed is being pushed to its limits. Software developers are working feverishly to come up with solutions utilizing old hardware and running into roadblocks due to the limitations of cheap or outdated hardware. The hardware is the origin of everything whether it is a simple sensor, switch, or keypad. If your hardware is old or inferior, so is your solution.
There is a psychological factor to hardware as well. New cutting-edge hardware sends a message to everyone—the customer in your facility and the criminal. The customer sees the hardware and feels confident and comfortable doing business at your location. The criminal, on the other hand, sees your new hardware and knows you are taking security seriously and will look for a softer target. Bottom line—don’t skimp on hardware whether you’re purchasing it or designing it. You can’t build a better mousetrap without good hardware.
See our contribution to the Security Informed Expert Roundtable here.