FST21 SafeRise Overview

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Apr 10, 2012

FST21 has hit the industry with much fanfare, winning the 2011 ISC West Best In Show, surrounded by much hype and promises that the future of security was here. Like many of these award winners, however, points seem to be awarded for potential and ambition. Does FST21's SafeRise make sense operationally and competitively? In this note, we look at SafeRise's components, potential applications, and key limitations, and provide our recommendations for deploying it, as well as alternatives.

Overview

The FST21 SafeRise system is essentially an entry control system, which integrates the following components, managed by a central server:

  • Facial recognition: Facial recognition is the core of FST21 SafeRise. When building occupants enter a SafeRise-equipped lobby, the system instructs them to look at the camera. If they are a registered and recognized user, the door is opened. FST21 is currently integrated to Arecont, Axis, and Sony cameras for this purpose, and recommends at least 3MP resolution.
  • Voice recognition: Should facial recognition fail, the system attempts to recognize the occupant by voice, having them recite their name and apartment/suite number.
  • "Emotion detection": One of the most dramatic claims of SafeRise, FST 21 claims to be able to detect whether occupants are under duress based upon voice recognition. This is used to deny access or summon assistance if the subject is with an unknown visitor.
  • License Plate Recognition: LPR is used to open gates for registered occupants and visitors. LPR functions may be performed by standard IP cameras or specialized license plate capture cameras, but are intended to be used at slow speeds, not on fast-moving vehicles.
  • IP intercom: SafeRise is integrated with IP intercom stations from Code Blue (Commend support is in progress), which are used for audio input and output in the lobby.
  • Visitor management: SafeRise allows occupants to register visitors, who may be recognized by voice when they enter. FST21 also recently added QR support, called SafeVisit, allowing visitors to be sent a QR code when pre-registered, which is shown to the lobby camera upon entry, opening the door. For non-registered visitors, SafeRise contacts the party they are attempting to reach, to allow or disallow access.

Note that cameras, intercoms, and installation are provided separately, by local integrators. FST21 performs programming, commissioning, and training on-site, however.

In addition to these functions, SafeRise may also be monitored by central stations, to provide live concierge and emergency response to users. This allows tenants to forward unexpected visitors to an operator, if they do not wish to speak to them, or repairmen to enter the building when the occupant is not home. It also provides response in case the system detects a subject in distress. 

For more information, users may see videos of specific functions from FST21. Below is their corporate overview video that gives their basic pitch:

Cost

SafeRise has a base MSRP of $19,200 USD for the server, and on-site professional services for the first entry. This cost does not include cameras, intercoms, door hardware, or other field devices. Subsequent are lower cost, but may vary, depending on options. 

Applications

FST21 is targeting SafeRise at two main verticals:

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  • Multi-tenant housing: Most of FST21's marketing is aimed at high-end multi-tenant facilities. This vertical makes the most sense, as lost or forgotten keys/cards may become a major nuisance, especially in high-rise buildings. High tech security features such as those presented by SafeRise may also increase the perception of safety, and therefore make the building more attractive to tenants, and/or allow higher lease rates. The bulk of the multi-tenant market, however, will likely not have the budget for SafeRise, and rely on keys or, at most, more basic access control systems.
  • Government: Government agencies are most likely to have the larger budget SafeRise requires. However, it is most likely impractical for most facilities, as most often, multiple doors are secured. This can almost certainly be accomplished at much lower cost with traditional access control systems (normally $1,500-2,000 per door). Those with existing access control systems in place are unlikely to see the additional security benefits potentially provided by facial and voice recognition as worth the increase in cost.

Limitations

Most of the technologies FST21 has brought together in SafeRise have important limitations:

  • Facial recognition accuracy: Facial recognition suffers from accuracy problems created by any number of factors: changing lighting conditions, facial hair, eyewear, and more. FST21 even demonstrates this in their own videos, as a known user is not found simply because he is wearing sunglasses, forcing the system to resort to voice recognition. These issues may be mitigated slightly by camera choice, as FST21 recommend 3-5MP cameras, applied across a small field of view, but resolution cannot overcome most of these issues.
  • Voice recognition accuracy: Voice has not been widely used as a biometric, due to common issues such as background noise, illness, or natural changes in the voice. Voice biometrics also have one of the worst error rates among biometric technologies, leading to false acceptance or rejection. Any of these may cause a subject to not be recognized, resulting in a call to an operator for verification.
  • Emotion recognition accuracy: We believe this is the most suspect claim in FST21's marketing. Given the above factors in voice biometric accuracy, detecting duress in the voice on top of these issues seems doubtful, at best. Additionally, even if these analytics are accurate, non-security related events (grief, illness, general stress) may cause the same issues in the tenant's voice.

Recommendations

As we discussed above, most users are likely to turn to more traditional, tried and true access control methods, in most cases keys or cards. Those seeking to increase security and convenience in the lobby are likely better served by other biometrics, such as fingerprint. Even more expensive finger biometrics, such as Morpho's recently-released VP series fingerprint/finger vein reader are far less costly than FST21's offering. 

In addition to the access control aspects, there are a number of remote video/intercom options may be used to accomplish the bulk of FST21's concierge/emergency response functions in conjunction with a central station. Users may see our door intercom and remote video monitoring tutorials for more information on these topics.

For users dead set on FST21, we recommend that a thorough evaluation be performed. This will allow the user to see what issues exist in all factors: video quality, voice recognition among their tenant population, and more. Controlling light in the lobby as best as possible and selecting a quality camera (likely Sony with WDR or Axis 5MP) are also key, as this will allow facial recognition the best odds of accuracy.

2 reports cite this report:

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FST was one of the hottest startups of the decade, selected as the best new product at ISC West 2011 and backed with tens of millions in...
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ISC West's "Best In Show" has failed. For more than a decade, it has become increasingly irrelevant as the selections exhibit a cartoon level...
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