US 20060192668 A1
Digital audio sensors receive and digitize audio signals and transmit the digitized signals to a central monitoring station for monitoring by an operator. The system can allow load balancing and other improvements.
1. A security system for monitoring security at a premises comprising:
at least one audio sensor located at the premises that receives audio signals;
a digitizer at the premises that receives the audio signals from the at least one audio sensor and converts the audio signals to digitized audio signals; and
a central monitoring station located remote from the premises that receives the digitized audio signals and converts the digitized audio signals into audible audio for an operator that is monitoring the premises.
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18. A method for monitoring security at a premises, which comprises:
converting an audio signal at the premises into a digitized audio signal;
transmitting the digitized audio signal along a communications network to a central monitoring station; and
converting the digitized audio signal into audio for an operator that is monitoring the premises.
20. A method according to
21. A security system for monitoring security at a plurality of premises comprising:
at least one audio sensor located at each of the premises that receives audio signals at the respective premises;
a digitizer at each premises that receives the audio signals from respective audio sensors at the premises and converts the audio signals to digitized audio signals;
a server located remote from the plurality of premises that receives the digitized audio signals from each of the premises; and
a plurality of clients in communication with said server, wherein said server is operative for selecting a client for receiving digitized audio signals for a selected premises, and said client is operative for converting said digitized audio signals from the selected premises into audio for an operator that is monitoring the premises.
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29. A method for monitoring security at a plurality of premises, which comprises:
converting audio signals received from a plurality of audio sensors at each of the plurality of premises into a digitized audio signal;
transmitting the digitized audio signals along a communications network to a server;
selecting a client in communication with the server for receiving digitized audio signals for a selected premises; and
converting the digitized audio signals into audio for an operator that is monitoring the selected premises.
This application is based upon prior filed copending provisional application Ser. No. 60/628,357 filed Nov. 16, 2004, the disclosure which is hereby incorporated in its entirety.
This invention relates to alarm systems, and more particularly, this invention relates to alarm systems in which audio is forwarded from an audio sensor to a central monitoring station or server.
The assignee of the present invention, Sonitrol Corporation, provides security solutions using audio intrusion detection, access control, video monitoring and fire detection. These security systems allow 24-hour monitoring and are integrated into a single, easy-to-use system that is monitored by highly trained professionals at a central monitoring station. The security system incorporates verified audio detection, which allows a central monitoring station to monitor what is happening at a premises using sound detection.
Small analog audio sensors are strategically placed throughout a premises to allow an operator at the central monitoring station to hear the sounds of abnormal activity in the monitored premises or facility. When the security system is activated, the sounds of the break-in initiates a code that describes the location of the activated analog audio sensor, e.g., a microphone. Audio is transmitted to the central monitoring station. When activation occurs, a skilled operator hears the live audio from the monitored premises while pertinent customer data can be displayed on a computer screen for the operator to review and report.
Monitoring can occur 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The system can also include devices that permit ID badging with card readers, door contacts to indicate when doors are open at a time when they should not be open, for example, by unauthorized entry, and similar devices. In some systems, video cameras and fire detectors have been included in the overall security system. Audio signals are transmitted as analog signals from the audio sensor, e.g., microphone, through a wired control panel, and over the public switched telephone system to the central monitoring station. The analog system suffers drawbacks and is not always efficient.
In one non-limiting aspect of the present invention, a security system monitors security at a premises and includes at least one audio sensor located at the premises that receives audio signals and converts the audio signals to digitized audio signals. A central monitoring station is located remote from the premises and receives the digitized audio signals and converts the digitized audio signals into audible audio for an operator that is monitoring the premises. In one non-limiting aspect, the audio sensor includes a processor that is operative for determining whether any digitized audio signals are indicative of an alarm condition and should be received at the central monitoring station. A memory can store digital signatures of different audio sounds indicative of an alarm condition. The processor can be operative for comparing a digitized audio signal with digital signatures stored within the memory. The audio sensor can also be operative for receiving data relating to audio patterns indicative of false alarms allowing the processor to recognize audio signals indicative of false alarms.
In yet another aspect, a premises controller can be located at the premises such as part of a control panel and operatively connected to each audio sensor for receiving the digitized audio signals and transmitting the digitized audio signals to the central monitoring station. Each audio sensor can include a transceiver for receiving a communications signal from the central monitoring station and transmitting a communications signal to the central monitoring station, such as a signal representing a voice, such as for voice instructions and reply. The central monitoring station can include a server. A client can be in communication with the server for accessing the server and receiving data regarding the security system. The communications network can interconnect the client and server and be formed as an internet or local area network (LAN) or incorporate elements of both. The central monitoring station can also include a first receiver for receiving digitized audio signals generated by the audio sensor and a second receiver for receiving analog signals a security system that does not generate digitized signals because it uses an analog audio sensor. A data bus can interconnect each of the audio sensors and receive the digitized audio signals thereon. Each audio sensor can include an identifying data address on the data bus.
A method aspect is also set forth.
Other objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the detailed description of the invention which follows, when considered in light of the accompanying drawings in which:
Different embodiments will now be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which preferred embodiments are shown. Many different forms can be set forth and described embodiments should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein. Rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope to those skilled in the art. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout, and prime notation is used to indicate similar elements in alternative embodiments.
Digitized audio can now be used with sufficient processing capability at the audio sensor, typically a microphone and associated components as explained below. With the system and method as described, franchisees, clients or other customers can operate their own central monitoring station and have the capability to allow a more centralized service to incorporate its monitoring capability. Also, some type of sound analysis at the audio sensor as a microphone or other local device can be provided. Processing can also occur at a premises controller, for example, as part of a control panel, or processing can occur at the remote central monitoring station.
A digital audio sensor as a microphone can include a processor for processing digitized audio signals, a memory for storage, and a transceiver that transmits digitized audio signals across a telephone line, or some other wired communications network or a wireless network to the central monitoring station or server. Separate central monitoring station receivers can receive either analog audio signals from an existing system using analog audio microphones, or digitized audio signals from the audio sensors or both.
The security system as described can monitor security at one or more premises and typically includes at least one premises located audio sensor that converts analog audio signals to digitized audio signals and transmits the digitized audio signals to a central monitoring station at a remote location from the premises. The central monitoring station receives the digitized audio signals and converts the digitized audio signals for playback to an operator that is monitoring the premises. The digital audio sensor can include a processor for recognizing digital signatures of sounds and determine whether any false alarms occur and whether the digitized audio signals should be transmitted to the central monitoring station. A premises controller, for example, as part of a control panel, can be located at the premises and receive any digitized audio signals from one or more audio sensors located at the premises through a data bus in which audio sensors are addressable. The digitized audio signals could be multiplexed for transmission to the central monitoring station or analysis can occur at the premises controller to determine which digitized audio signals should be transmitted or stored.
In this type of existing security system 20, typical operation can occur when a sound crosses a threshold, for example, a volume, intensity or decibel (dB) level, causing the control panel 26 to indicate that there is an intrusion.
A short indicator signal, which could be a digital signal, is sent to the central monitoring station 30 from the control panel 26 to indicate the intrusion. The central monitoring station 30 switches to an audio mode and begins playing the audio heard at the premises 21 through the microphone at the audio sensors or modules 22 to an operator located at the central monitoring station 30. This operator listens for any sounds indicative of an emergency, crime, or other problem. In this existing system, the audio is sent at a 300 baud data rate over regular telephone lines as an analog signal. The 300 baud transmit rate is commonplace in the industry.
In a more complex control panel 24 used in these types of systems, it is possible to add a storage device or other memory that will store about five seconds of audio around the audio event, which could be a trigger for an alarm. The control panel 24 could send a signal back to the central monitoring station 30 of about one-half second to about one second before the event and four seconds after the event. At that time, the security or alarm system 20 can begin streaming live audio from the audio sensors 22. This can be accomplished at the control panel 24 or elsewhere.
The existing security system 20 transmits analog audio signals from the microphone in the audio sensor or module 22 to the control panel 24. This analog audio is transmitted typically over the phone lines via a Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) line 28 to the central monitoring station 30 having operators that monitor the audio. The central monitoring station 30 could include a number of “listening” stations as computers or other consoles located in one monitoring center. Any computers and consoles are typically Underwriter Laboratory (UL) listed, including any interface devices, for example phone interfaces. Control panels 24 and their lines are typically dedicated to specific computer consoles usually located at the central monitoring station 30. In this security system 20, if a particular computer console is busy, the control panel 24 typically has to wait before transmitting the audio. It is possible to include a digital recorder as a chip that is placed in the control panel 24 to record audio for database storage or other options.
The audio sensor 44 is typically formed as an audio module with components contained within a module housing 44 a that can be placed at strategic points within the premises 42. Different components include a microphone 46 that receives sounds from the premises. An analog/digital converter 48 receives the analog sound signals and converts them into digital signals that are processed within a processor 50, for example, a standard microcontroller such as manufactured by PIC or other microprocessor. The processor 50 can be operative with a memory 52 that includes a database of audio signatures 52 for comparing various sounds for determining whether any digitized audio signals are indicative of an alarm condition and should be forwarded to the central monitoring station. The memory 52 can store digital signatures of different audio sounds, typically indicative of an alarm condition (or a false alarm) and the processor can be operative for comparing a digitized audio signal with digital signals stored within the memory to determine whether an alarm condition exists. The audio sensor 44 can also receive data relating to audio patterns indicative of false alarms, allowing the processor 50 to recognize audio sounds indicative of false alarms. The processor 50 could receive such data from the central monitoring station through a transceiver 54 that is typically connected to a data bus 55 that extends through the premises into a premises controller as part of a control panel or other component.
The transceiver 54 is also connected into a digital/analog converter 56 that is connected to a speaker 58. It is possible for the transceiver 54 to receive voice commands or instructions from an operator located at the central monitoring station or other client location, which are converted by the processor 50 into analog voice signals. Someone at the premises could hear through the speaker 58 and reply through the microphone. It is also possible for the audio sensor 44 to be formed different such that the microphone could be separate from other internal components.
Although the audio sensor shown in
Door contacts 61 and other devices can be connected into an audio sensor as a module. The audio sensor 44 could include the appropriate inputs as part of a jack 60 for use with auxiliary devices along a single data bus 55. Some audio modules 44 can include circuitry, for example, the transceiver 54 as explained above, permitting two-way communications and allowing an operator at a central monitoring station 62 or other location to communicate back to an individual located at the premises 42, for example, for determining false alarms or receiving passwords or maintenance testing. The system typically includes an open wiring topology with digital audio and advanced noise cancellation allowing a cost reduction as compared to prior art systems, such as shown in
It is possible to encode the audio at the digital audio sensor 44 and send the digitized audio signal to a premises controller 66 as part of a control panel in one non-limiting example, which can operate as a communications hub receiving signals from the data bus 55 rather than being operative as a wired audio control panel, such as in the prior art system shown in
One problem that occurs in current phone systems is the use of digital phone devices that multiplex numerous signals and perform other functions in transmission. As a result, a “pure” audio signal in analog prior art security systems, such as shown in
As shown in
It is also possible to separate any receivers at the central monitoring station 62 away from any computer consoles used for monitoring a premises. A portion of the product required to be Underwriter Laboratory (UL) approved could possibly be the central station receiver 78. Any computer consoles as part of the central monitoring station could be connected to the local area network (LAN) 82. A central station server 94 could be operative through the LAN 82, as well as any auxiliary equipment. Because the system is digital, load sharing and data redirecting could be provided to allow any monitoring console or clients 90,92 to operate through the local area network 82, while the central station server 94 allows a client/server relationship. A database at the central station server 94 can share appropriate data and other information regarding customers and premises. This server based environment can allow greater control and use of different software applications, increased database functions and enhanced application programming. A firewall 96 can be connected between the local area network 82 and an internet/worldwide web 98, allowing others to access the system through the web 98 and LAN 82 if they pass appropriate security.
At a central monitoring station 62, an operator typically sits at an operator console. The audio is received as digitized data from the digital audio sensors 44 and received at the central station receiver type II 78. Other analog signals from the analog audio modules 22, control panel 26 and telephone line 28 are received in a central station receiver type 180. All data has been digitized when it enters the local area network (LAN) 82 and is processed at client consoles 90,92. The clients could include any number of different or selected operators. Load sharing is possible, of course, in such a system, as performed by the central station server 94, such that a console typically used by one client could be used by another client to aid in load balancing.
Problem accounts are also accounted for and software services provide greater client control, for example, for account information, including a client/server application at the application host 112, which can be a web-based product. Customers can access their accounts to determine security issues through use of the worldwide web/internet 98. Data can pass through the firewall 96 into the local area network 82 at the central monitoring station 62 and a customer or local administrator for a franchisee or other similarly situated individual can access the central station server 94 and access account information. It is also possible to have data back-up at the application host (ASP) 112 in cooperation with a client application operated by a system operator. Outside technical support 114 can access the central monitoring station 62 local area network 82 through the internet 98, through the firewall 96, and into the local area network 82 and access the central station server 94 or other clients 90,92 on the local area network. Technical support can also access equipment for maintenance. The system as described relative to
There may also be central monitoring stations owned or operated by a franchisee, which does not desire to monitor its site. It is possible to have monitoring stations in secure locations, or allow expansion for a smaller operator. With a web-based, broadband based station, it is possible to monitor smaller operators and/or customers, franchisees, or other clients and also locate a central monitoring station in a local region and do monitoring at other sites. It is also possible to use a virtual private network (VPN) 130, as illustrated in
It should be understood that some pattern recognition can be done at the audio sensor 44 as a microphone with appropriate processing capability. For example, if common noises exceed a certain threshold, or if a telephone rings, in the prior art system using analog audio sensors 22 such as shown in
In the security system of the present invention, there is sufficient processing power at the audio sensor 44 with associated artificial intelligence (AI) to learn that the telephone is a nuisance as it recognizes when the phone rings and does not bother to transmit a signal back to the central monitoring station via the premises controller.
There are a number of non-limiting examples of different approaches that could be used. For example, intrusion noise characteristics that are volume based or have certain frequency components for a certain duration and amplitude could be used. It is also possible to establish a learning algorithm such that when an operator at a central monitoring station 62 has determined if a telephone has rung, and resets a panel, an indication can be sent back to the digital audio sensor 44 that an invalid alarm has occurred. The processor 56 within the digital audio sensor 44 can process and store selected segments of that audio pattern, for example, certain frequency elements, similar to a fingerprint voice pattern. After a number of invalid alarms, which could be 5, 10 or 15 depending on selected processing and pattern determination, a built-in pattern recognition occurs at the audio sensor. A phone could ring in the future and the audio sensor 44 would not transmit an alarm.
Any software and artificial intelligence could be broken into different segments. For example, some of the artificial intelligence can be accomplished at the digital audio sensor 44, which includes the internal processing capability through the processor 50 (
In another non-limiting example of the present invention, an algorithm operable within the processor of the premises controller 66 can determine when all audio sensors 44 went off, and based on a characteristic or common signal between most audio sensors, determine that a lightning strike and thunder has occurred. It is also possible to incorporate an AM receiver or similar reception circuitry at the premises controller 66 as part of the control panel, which receives radio waves or other signals, indicative of lightning. Based upon receipt of these signals and that different audio sensors 44 generated signals, the system can determine that the nuisance noise was created by lightning and thunder, and not transmit alarm signals to the central monitoring station 62. This could eliminate a logjam at the central monitoring station and allow intrusion to be caught at the more local level.
The field equipment shown in
The digital audio sensor 44 could include different types of microprocessors or other processors depending on what functions the digital audio sensor is to perform. Each audio sensor typically would be addressable on the data bus 55. Thus, an audio sensor location can be known at all times and software can be established that associates an audio sensor location with an alarm. It is also possible to interface a video camera 68 into the alarm system. When the system determines which audio sensor has signaled an alarm and audio has begun streaming, the digital signal could indicate at the premises controller 66 if there is an associated camera and whether the camera should be activated and video begin from that camera.
As indicated in
It should be understood that intrusion noises include a broad spectrum of frequencies that incorporate different frequency components, which typically cannot be carried along the phone lines as analog information. The phone lines are typically limited in transmission range to about 300 hertz to about 3,300 hertz. By digitizing the audio signals, the data can be transmitted at higher frequency digital rates using different packet formats. Thus, the range of frequencies that the system can operate under is widened, and better information and data is transmitted back to the central monitoring station, as compared to the older analog security system such as shown in
The described embodiments of the security system have advantages over prior art security systems, such as shown in
The enhanced operating efficiency includes load balancing, decreased activations, decreased misses, increased accounts per monitor, and integrated digital capability for the alarm system. Disaster recovery is possible with shared monitoring, for example, on nights and weekends. This enables future internet protocol or ASP business modules. The existing wired control panel used in prior art systems is expensive to install and requires difficult programming. It has a high cost to manufacture and requires analog technology.
The premises controller 66 as part of a control panel is operative with digitized audio and designed for use with field equipment having addressable module protocols. The 300 baud rate equipment of prior art systems, such as explained with reference to
There are many benefits, which includes the digitizing of audio at the audio sensors. Digital signal processing can occur at the audio sensor, thus eliminating background noise at the audio sensor. For example, any AC humming could be switched on/off, as well as other background noises, for example a telephone or air compressor noise. It is also possible to reduce the audio to a signature and recognize a likely alarm scenario and avoid false alarm indications for system wide noise, such as thunder. The digital audio sensors could record five seconds of audio data, as one non-limiting example, and the premises controller as a control panel can process this information. With this capability, the central monitoring station would not receive 25 different five-second audio clips to make a decision, for example, which could slow overall processing, even at the higher speeds associated with advanced equipment. Thus, a signature can be developed for the audio digital sensor, containing enough data to accomplish a comparison at the premises controller for lightning strikes and thunder.
Although some digital audio can be stored at the premises controller of the control panel or a central monitoring station, it is desirable to store some audio data at the digital audio sensors. The central monitoring station can also store audio data on any of its servers and databases. This storage of audio data can be used for record purposes. Each audio sensor can be a separate data field. Any algorithms that are used in the system can do more than determine amplitude and sound noise level, but can also process a selected frequency mix and duration of such mix.
There can also be progressive audio. For example, the audio produced by a loud thunder strike could be processed at the digital audio sensor. Processing of audio data, depending on the type of audio activation, can also occur at the premises controller at the control panel or at the central monitoring station. It is also possible to have a database server work as a high-end server for greater processing capability. It is also possible to use digital verification served-up to a client PC from a central monitoring station server. This could allow intrusion detection and verification, which could use fuzzy logic or other artificial intelligence.
The system could use dual technology audio sensors, including microwave and passive infrared (PIR) low energy devices. For example, there could be two sets of circuitry. A glass could break and the first circuitry in the audio sensor could be operative at microamps and low current looks for activation at sufficient amplitude. If a threshold is crossed, the first circuitry, including a processor, initiates operation of other circuitry and hardware, thus drawing more power to perform a complete analysis. It could then shut-off. Any type of audio sensors used in this system could operate in this manner.
The circuit could include an amplitude based microphone such that when a threshold is crossed, other equipment would be powered, and the alarm transmitted. It could also shut itself off as a two-way device. It is possible to have processing power to determine when any circuitry should arm and disarm or when it should “sleep.”
As noted before, there can be different levels of processing power, for example at the (1) audio sensor, (2) at the premises controller located the control panel, or (3) the central monitoring station, where a more powerful server would typically be available. The system typically eliminates nuisance noise and in front of the physical operator at a central monitoring station. Any type of sophisticated pattern recognition software can be operable. For example, different databases can be used to store pattern recognition “signatures.” Digital signal processing does not have to occur with any type of advanced processing power but can be a form of simplified A/D conversion at the microphone. It is also not necessary to use Fourier analysis algorithms at the microphone.
This application is related to copending patent applications entitled, “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR MONITORING SECURITY AT A PLURALITY OF PREMISES,” which is filed on the same date and by the same assignee and inventor, the disclosure which is hereby incorporated by reference.
Many modifications and other embodiments of the invention will come to the mind of one skilled in the art having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is understood that the invention is not to be limited to the specific embodiments disclosed, and that modifications and embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims.