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EXCLUSIVE: Alarm transformation through technology

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Eric Jackel, Vice President, Remote Monitoring Division at Prosegur explains how technological progress has enabled the use of more effective alarm systems.

Alarm development

There are about 2.5 million burglaries across the US each year. Overall, a break-in occurs in the country once every 26 seconds.

The typical first line of defense against this type of crime is a fully functional intrusion alarm system.

The components of such a system, though, have changed significantly in the past few years.

A couple of decades ago, before modern security tools came into play, an intrusion system usually consisted of various position switches tied to doors and windows.

Motion sensors were also prominently used, providing a “second line of defense” for interior protection in the event entry points were breached.

The downside of using this type of system, however, was that they tended to generate false alarms.

With no way to verify activity, central monitoring stations would have to contact police, tying up resources and causing repeated trips to properties with shaky systems.

Eventually, municipalities across North America started charging businesses fines for false alarm dispatches.

As technology evolved, camera systems started to become an integral piece of the intrusion prevention puzzle, as the concept of “video verification” changed the industry.

The process of using camera systems to visually confirm whether an actual intrusion or crime was in progress made it possible for central station operators to resolve the majority of all alarms without having to engage police, private security or public resources.

By simply tying alarm points to camera system relays, operators could now see in real time what was happening at the site and if it required an immediate response or not.

In cases of legitimate alarms, operators could now vector responding officers or security personnel to various areas of any given property, providing up-to-the-minute details and constant live updates during the most critical moments of any response.

Technological progress

Over time, security cameras became the most effective and commonly used tool against intruders and trespassers.

It all started with motion detection, a simple platform by which pixel disruptions are measured and an alert is triggered if a certain threshold is reached.

This was a great innovation for its time, but the shortfalls of motion detection are self-evident. Take an auto dealership, for example.

Typically, auto dealers use all sorts of promotional items – balloons, banners, inflatables, etc. – that sway easily in even the lightest wind.

All these items can disrupt enough pixels within a camera’s field-of-view to trigger a motion alert.

In short, motion detection-equipped systems knew they were seeing something, they just didn’t know what it was.

The next technological advancement that transformed the industry was the advent of video analytics.

Unlike motion detection, video analytics algorithms look specifically for people and objects, such as vehicles.

Alarms aren’t predicated on pixel disruptions, but rather are focused on regions of interest (ROIs) where all programmed analytic rules apply.

These rules can be tweaked for sensitivity, set with a time threshold and programmed to follow an arm/disarm schedule to match hours of operation.

Most recently, AI-based analytics have hit the security scene, further transforming the industry through technology.

AI analytics not only detect the presence of people, vehicles and other objects, but they provide a platform where behavior-based analytic rules can be programmed.

Detecting intruders

Most developers have an analytic application that will detect humans fighting or exhibiting aggressive behavior.

There’s also facial recognition, the ability to detect specific types of vehicles and vehicles by color as well as software that will look for various anomalies.

AI analytics perform these tasks with a greater degree of accuracy than any previous generation and most also have an AI “filter” that can be applied to alerts from less sophisticated systems running older motion detection platforms.

This can help reduce the number of false alarms by 90% or greater.

The commonality with most monitored sites is that there is some variation of the perimeter protection concept in place.

When you talk about identifying intruders and trespassers, the “layered” concept – having layers of security around the assets you wish to protect – applies.

Let’s go back to our example of an auto dealership. Typically, these sites all share the following characteristics:

  • Large in overall area, several acres
  • Fairly open, no physical barriers such as fences or gates, except in secure areas
  • High-value assets in the form of inventory vehicles
  • High-risk and susceptible to auto and parts theft

For the best chance of detecting and deterring intruders on this type of site, a modern, well-equipped camera system is usually the clear and obvious choice.

Due to the typically large area, thermal cameras can be used in conjunction with traditional HD cameras.

Though thermals don’t discern many details, showing only the heat signature from a person, they have superior detection capabilities and much greater range when paired with a strong video analytics platform.

While they’re generally a bit more expensive than normal cameras, they work perfectly under low light conditions and often allow site owners and managers to avoid having to install expensive lighting.

This outer layer of protection can then be augmented by cameras placed inside the perimeter, strategically aimed at critical areas, points of entry or in high-value asset areas.

As a last failsafe, an intrusion system with video verification provides the final layer of protection in this example.

When it comes to alarms and intruder detection, an investment in technology and services often provides the most cost-effective and impactful security solution.

New advancements such as wireless systems, keyless entry doors and biometric-based access control are changing the landscape in security almost every year.

As intruders become more sophisticated, the technology used to stop them will inevitably follow.

This article was originally published in the September edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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