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Understanding the role of audio surveillance



Note: This post was updated on February 2024 with new information.

This is a comprehensive guide to the importance of audio surveillance and how its professional implementation and adequate utilization can boost the security environment of any enterprise.

A missing opportunity

Misinformation, lack of knowledge, or even an inexperienced security partner can lead to the waste of positive possibilities audio surveillance can offer.

Generally, when people think of surveillance, they usually only think of video recording and don’t consider audio. In addition, concerns about privacy laws can keep organizations away from deploying a video surveillance system that includes audio capabilities. As technology continues to evolve and adapt to society, it is important to recognize the different ways in which it can benefit the security of a business.

Think of video monitoring without audio as a big silent movie. Without it, it is unfeasible to get the full picture of what is going on at your premises. Increased situational awareness is, of course, paramount to protecting people and assets and detecting threats before it is too late. Therefore, a holistic approach is required to elevate the situational awareness of your site and the peace of mind of decision-makers.

Having audio as well as video surveillance gives more detail on whatever situation is being recorded, which can be critical in cases like a break-in or an assault. The demand for audio surveillance is gradually increasing as security leaders realize it is just as important for safety and security as video technology is. In reality, it can be the difference between knowing a fight broke out versus knowing who started the fight—and why.


Although audio is not new to the security industry, devices like two-way radios, intercoms, and loudspeakers typically don’t offer crystal-clear data.

However, when sophisticated audio is used in conjunction with video surveillance, it can provide a plethora of benefits worth discussing:

  1. Just like cameras can be your eyes on your premises, audio devices can become your ears. By adding advanced audio, your security system automatically becomes more interactive. Once your security team sees or hears something that requires their immediate attention, all they have to do is push a button and speak directly to criminals. Defying and confronting lawbreakers unexpectedly alters human behavior, deters crime, and ultimately enhances the protection of your business.
  2. Reducing false alarms is a perk of introducing audio surveillance into the mix. Live audio can be utilized to analyze the veracity of alarms and decrease the chance of false positives and expensive penalties.
  3. When audio is part of a comprehensive surveillance solution, security awareness can be amplified by gathering data that otherwise would be entirely ignored. Audio can catch names, accents, and call-to-actions; data that is crucial to conducting investigations.
  4. Embracing audio elevates the protection of your site as incidents can often occur in areas out of the view of cameras. Hearing a scream or a fight can be as effective as noticing an issue live on a camera.
  5. Audio improves the performance of security and video systems by increasing the level of accuracy in detecting events and adding a layer of information that can be integrated into video analytics to produce more actionable insights.

In addition to being able to hear what you are seeing through cameras, audio surveillance also gives the option of sending pre-recorded messages or even live announcements. These capabilities can be very useful in several ways.

For instance, it can prevent crime as it is about to happen, such as stopping a robbery in its tracks. Or it can prevent chaos from occurring in an emergency, such as instructing the public where to go to evacuate.

With all of the added benefits of audio surveillance, it only makes sense to make it a part of your security system. Audio surveillance can come in two different forms: built into a camera or as a separate solution (in many cases this can be the superior quality option). Either way, the investment is generally outweighed by the positive results.


Some of the most important applications of audio surveillance are in the vertical of education, which traditionally relies primarily on video monitoring.

Integrating microphones with cameras gives staff access to more details about a suspect or scene and provides first responders with vital information about the suspect’s intentions and threat level. Data can be aggregated from other physical security sources to timely detect and deter violence on campus and prevent a shooting.

It is also normal for schools to have only a few cameras installed across campus, creating blind spots and hard-to-calculate security gaps. Moreover, schools often don’t have the resources to monitor live feeds 24/7.

A solution that can relieve these pain points is audio surveillance as it can automatically flag accidents not caught on camera, alert security teams of abnormalities, and through audio, eliminate blind spots.

Audio can also help schools with:

  • Conflict resolution and reduced bullying by documenting interactions and making students accountable when they are verbally hostile against others.
  • Aggression detection by recognizing in real time the patterns leading to a fight, like the duress in a person’s voice.
  • Crime deterrence by offering school officials the ability to speak directly to trespassing students with a two-way audio surveillance system.

Audio can also support security in healthcare facilities. Deploying audio analytics with other security technologies can offer security staff a means to better recognize potential incidents in a vertical that constantly faces workplace violence.

For instance, one of the many capabilities audio monitoring offers is vocal aggression detection technology, which is gaining traction in security system installations, as it offers staff better situational awareness, additional information about an event in progress, and faster opportunities for intervention.

Aggression detectors are capable of accurately recognizing stress and duress in a person’s voice, automatically and objectively detecting the presence of aggression, anger, or fear, and warning staff by sending a visual alert or an audible notification.

Although the healthcare sector has mostly depended on video surveillance as a means of monitoring an environment or incident, this strategy has proven insufficient and ineffective when it comes to preventing attacks against healthcare professionals.

Contrastingly, technologies such as audio surveillance and audio analytics not only offer an additional layer of evidence for responding to incidents, but also allow hospitals, clinics, and specialized care centers to assess the tone of a situation, in real-time, and take immediate action before circumstances deteriorate.

Privacy concerns

Audio might be taking a backseat in many security systems out of fear of violation of privacy rules and regulations.

Because audio surveillance is subject to strict laws that vary from state to state, the easier way to get around this and benefit from this advanced technology is to work with an expert security integrator, well-versed in eavesdropping and its regulations in each state.

However, learning what is permissible and what isn’t, generally speaking, before making any decisions, can facilitate the process to protect your site, while abiding by the law.

Firstly, audio monitoring can be legal as long as there is no expectation of privacy among those being monitored. Hence, audio devices should never be installed in areas such as bathrooms, bedrooms in rental units, locker rooms, washrooms, showers, or rooms designated for the change of clothes, where people expect their privacy to be respected.

Other best practices include:

  • Installing cameras and audio devices in visible places, with clear and explicit signs indicating that audio is being monitored.
  • Documenting the reasons for implementing audio surveillance. A legitimate reason is security. In addition, this purpose should be explicitly communicated to employees and other stakeholders, preferably in writing.
  • Have meetings with your staff to address possible questions or concerns. Surveillance, either video or audio, can send a message that employees are not trusted, create resentment, and lead to employee morale issues. It is key to discuss which areas of the workplace employees should not expect to be private and why that can benefit them and the organization as a whole.

These general guidelines can work in one-party consent states, where it is a crime to intentionally intercept or secretly record any wire, oral, or electronic communication without the consent of at least one party.

There are currently thirty-eight (38) states that have the “one-party consent” statute, which means that if you take part in the conversation or gain the consent of one of the parties, you may legally record the conversation in these states.

However, in all-parties consent states, recording cannot be legally done without the consent of every member involved in the conversation. Recording another individual’s words without the individual’s knowledge or consent is a felony in these states.

In this case, audio surveillance can still take place ONLY IF you avoid secret recording and you inform all parties that you are using audio surveillance.

You could say that what was once a bonus to surveillance—is now more of a necessity for effective and efficient security. Relying on video recording alone is not enough to be fully aware of what’s happening, and audio is the missing link. Audio surveillance is an obvious next step in security to aid in the prevention of crime.

Stay vigilant, stay secure.

Ready to elevate your security to the next level? Contact us today to learn more about integrating audio surveillance into your security infrastructure. Don't wait until it's too late—secure your premises with advanced audio solutions now!