Communicating the Value of Intercoms

The emergence of mass notification systems, Cloud-based access control, IP and video is expanding intercom uses and opportunities. Discover the latest developments and how they can solve end-user needs.

Communicating the Value of Intercoms

The market perception of an intercom is that it’s a basic communication tool; a simple push of a button and you can communicate through a speaker system.

In schools it interrupts teachers to make general announcements. In older television shows and movies, it’s often shown as the communication device by which parents summon children down for dinner, or the classic doorway conversation between two main characters, where one uses an intercom to make a grand speech to the protagonist inside.

That is the headspace the intercom has operated in, but with the emergence of mass notification systems, Cloud-based access control and IP, intercoms have transformed into sophisticated, easy-to-install solutions. Today, they’re tasked with solving critical issues for a variety of industries.

Intercoms are no longer just a button and speaker system. If today’s intercoms were used as part of a grand romantic gesture, they would allow for face-to-face communication — which is much less dramatic, but more effective.

Changing the perception that intercoms are a basic solution for simple uses has not only been aided by technological advancements, but by their expanding role in a variety of markets. Any good physical security system should consider adding a video communication tool into their system architecture to incorporate both trusted and current trends in access control.

Intercoms fit into any system as a logical solution to a variety of pain points, by allowing for crucial two-way communication and visual confirmation. Intercoms today are being given a seat at the table at the beginning of the process. They are a vital tool to strengthen security and optimize building communication both onsite and offsite.

In this article, we’ll illustrate how intercoms can be used as a strong piece of the security puzzle — a comprehensive and robust solution meeting today’s needs.

Mobile & Touchless Solutions

Access demands continue to reflect the current state of the world, with a shift to mobile applications that offer a touchless way to gain access. A mobile application can remove the need for a physical key card, as it eliminates the potential of loss or theft of an access credential.

This optimized and touchless method of identity management is why more than 50% of customers are expected to move to mobile-based access control solutions the next few years. In multitenant commercial buildings and residential spaces, there are major concerns of potential hotspots developing and spreading illness throughout the facility. This has prompted a migration to more touchless devices and sensors to help control resident and visitor traffic.

By installing an intercom equipped with a sensor, an individual can request access by simply gesturing in front of the device to initiate communication with the person inside. For a truly touchless experience, an electric hinge integrated into the door system eliminates the need to touch a door handle.

A general theme in security and technology this past year has been the reinvention of existing solutions for new uses. For example, QR codes have become more heavily utilized to grant and then limit access credentials. If you are at the office and have a dog walker stopping by, or expect a grocery delivery, you can easily send the delivery person a QR code directly from your mobile phone to allow access into the building.

Changing the perception that intercoms are a basic solution for simple uses has not only been aided by technological advancements, but by their expanding role in a variety of markets.

Remote Monitoring & Contact Tracing

One way access control solutions and intercoms are being used is for contact tracing. Especially as more commercial buildings and office spaces reopen, controlling access to previously open-lobby buildings is imperative, as is having an audit trail in case of an outbreak.

For example, if several employees at an office all use a mobile app to gain access through an intercom system, and if someone tests positive for COVID-19, the business would be able to contact all employees or visitors who were on-site during that time.

Access control and visitor management systems are all part of the same bubble, in this respect, and can work together to mitigate risk. Remote access and monitoring have been in high demand for a few reasons, but one of the most obvious is that it allows eyes on a facility, while personnel are not physically present. These abilities are crucial to federal or government buildings where entire divisions might be offsite.

For example, due to COVID-19 restrictions many government buildings only allow select people onsite. If a visitor accesses the building and uses an intercom to call the office, it is immediately rerouted to the individual working remotely with no lapse in communication.

This seamless connectivity directly improves the visitor, or customer experience. This also gives the appearance the building is more occupied than it seems, therefore also acting as a crime deterrent.

Managing Occupancy With Video

Just as important as managing who is entering a facility is managing the number of people gathering in one place. Minimizing opportunities for large groups to gather in open spaces has been a priority for many during the pandemic, and that is unlikely to change any time soon.

In an educational setting, for example, it is critical for campus staff to see how many people are requesting access at the door — as well as who is at the door. If a person is requesting access into a science laboratory where only limited occupancy is allowed, a video intercom provides a safe way to confirm there are not too many people entering at once.

This is also critical in other campus scenarios, public spaces, or government buildings, where visitor access might be limited, or not allowed at all. Through a video intercom, staff will be able to confirm the identity of an individual, as well as confirm their access rights. They can also determine how many visitors might be accompanying them.

This eliminates the chance that another individual could be requesting access with a key card that is not their own. For communal areas where employees and visitors might gather, such as lobbies, gyms and other recreational facilities, additional social distancing and occupancy management might be necessary — enabling staff to further leverage the capabilities of an IP intercom system.

Apps from firms like Aiphone connect with a user’s video doorbell while they’re on the go. Missed calls can be also be seen via the app.

Changing Perceptions

Intercoms have evolved to become a vital tool for environments that need to provide more comprehensive and robust monitoring. Yes, your customer’s security infrastructure might have an access control system, as well as video surveillance, but an intercom is different as it provides a two-way communication path. A camera only takes a picture and sends it to a video management system.

An intercom allows for a conversation between the caller and an individual who is centrally located to answer calls. With an increase in mass shootings, pandemic-related risks and general crime, many industries have been challenged to adapt to growing security concerns with more integrated systems.

Intercoms are a cost-effective, simple solution that can be used to easily notify security personnel if a disgruntled employee or customer is trying to gain access after being removed from a business. They can allow users to have a full conversation with individuals requesting access before allowing them in the doors, as well as visually confirm identity and the presence of visible anomalies — such as suspicious behaviors or weapons.

These capabilities lend themselves to any industry, making intercoms a classic solution to the challenges of an ever-changing world.

Providing Better Access for All

As we look forward to the last few months of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, trends will likely be similar to what we’ve experienced the past year. We continue to see high demand for mobile applications, and touchless or contactless solutions, as well as demand for more physical security technologies in everyday scenarios.

The events of the past 18-plus months catalyzed a perspective shift in access control trends, toward addressing more specific end-user needs. This includes technologies, such as a video intercom that integrates with t-coil features for the deaf and hearing impaired to improve audio feedback. Or a two-way video solution for those who use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate and request access, as well as better positioning of call station buttons to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Driving this change is a greater sensitivity and awareness that all systems are not the same and they need to be tailored for individual customer needs. Often, we’re seeing architects and engineers request these solutions as well, reinforcing the need for this perspective shift.


Sales Directors Adam Reed (West) and John Hemp (Mid-Atlantic and New England) represent Aiphone.

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