Think Beyond Video Surveillance for Building Security

December 5, 2018 Collaboration, Security, Trends

Building safety can be particularly difficult to prepare for. When considering securing a building, many people instantly think of video surveillance. While video surveillance is certainly important, another focus at the core of any safety plan should be communications and notification.

Typically, a solid communications and notifications safety plan this requires a call control application (i.e. Cisco CallManager), a mass notification application (i.e Singlewire InformaCast), endpoints such as Cisco IP Phones and IP speakers (i.e Advanced Network Devices, Wahsega, Atlas) and mobile phones and digital displays.

In a Cisco Unified Communications environment, Cisco CallManager provides the call control for Cisco endpoint and SIP device registration. While Cisco CallManager allows for one-to-one or multi-party conferencing of two-way communications, it does not have any mechanisms for the one-to-many one-way audio streams typically utilized for mass-notifications.

Singlewire InformaCast steps in to provide mass notification features and security functions tightly integrated with Cisco CallManger and Cisco endpoints. At its core, Singlewire InformaCast discovers Cisco registered phones, allows them to be added to a recipient group, and facilitates sending a one-way audio page with or without accompanying text that displays on the Cisco phone’s display. The underlying transport is called multicast and requires that multicast be supported and configured on all layer 3 interfaces between the InformaCast application and the recipient group endpoints; however, there is a way around all of that noise. Singlewire has an available physical paging gateway (or as a virtual machine, if desired) that registers to InformaCast using unicast and rebroadcasts the page locally, eliminating the need for most multicast configurations and eliminates the necessity of the WAN to support multicast.

InformaCast has multiple plugins that augment the core platform. CAP notifications (Common Alerting Protocol, used for weather alerting), CallAware (notifying recipients of 911 calls and recording them), Legacy Paging Interface (ability to integrate existing analog overhead paging systems) and Mobility (SMS or calling notification of an event) all compliment core InformaCast capabilities. With the exception of Mobility, all of the plugins come with the licensed version of InformaCast.

What really ties all of this together and what may be the most interesting from a deployment and integration viewpoint, is the devices that are now available. IP Speakers with and without displays, panic buttons, and strobe lights from Advanced Network Devices, Wahsega, Atlas, and others are available with InformaCast software built-in. This software allows for the device to find the InformaCast application without having to be configured first. Most of the IP speakers allow for dual-registration, where they are simultaneously registered as a third-party SIP device to Cisco CallManager for direct calling and as an IP speaker to InformaCast. What does that get you? It gets you mass notification and two-way calling in areas where deploying an IP phone is unfeasible. Couple that with an IP speaker with display and now the IP speaker serves three purposes in one device – it serves as a phone for inbound calls, IP speaker for mass notification and a NTP controlled clock – and all of that is off of one PoE port.

Panic buttons with included microphones can be deployed and integrated such that a button press notifies necessary personnel via audio or text notification, opens a conference bridge and joins the bridge. Others can dial into the bridge and hear the audio from the panic button’s microphone. If using a conference bridge is undesirable, then the device may be directly dialed and it will automatically answer the call. This can be ultra-useful in a hostage situation, allowing emergency personnel ears in a room that otherwise would be impossible.

In terms of IP speakers, Wahsega Labs has recently released with a 2×2 tile speaker that supports one auxiliary speaker. The pair can be configured as one speaker or as independent endpoints. Both have a built in mic for CallManager registration as a phone, and the pair requires only one PoE port. The primary speaker connects to PoE, and the second speaker is connected to the primary with a regular CAT6 patch cord. This eliminates the need for half of the long-haul cabling and PoE ports that are typically required.

With all of the devices available, rock solid Cisco call control, and InformaCast capabilities, Cisco Unified Communications has a ton to offer customers looking for a mass notification platform and can be tailored for each customer’s emergency preparedness plan.

Lud Fairchild brings decades of IT experience to the ABS Team and holds a myriad of certifications focused around collaboration.