Genetec Adds IP Telephony (Sipelia)

By Ethan Ace, Published Sep 19, 2014, 12:00am EDT

Why would one of the biggest VMSes get into Voice over IP?

That is the big question as Genetec has announced Sipelia, a "communications management" module for their Security Center platform, running a dedicated SIP server and integrating intercom calls with video and access. 

In this note we review what SIP is, Genetec's implementation, and how it applies to the security/surveillance market.

What is SIP?

SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol and is used in telephony for voice and video calls over IP. SIP is used by some business phone systems for call setup, and also by some instant messaging programs for video calls, though proprietary protocols are often used as well. It most often uses RTP (Real Time Protocol) for voice and video, and TLS for encryption.

Sipelia Overview

In previous releases, Genetec included support for SIP intercom devices from Commend and Stentofon, showing calls from these stations as system events and allowing operators to respond directly from the Security Center client. However, SIP was supported via a third-party add-on server and implementations handled by the professional services group, not offered as a modular feature.

With the introduction of Sipelia, Genetec has embedded the SIP server into Security Center, added as a role, making it an official optional module similar to Plan Manager or Mobile Server. This is intended to simplify deployment, instead of integrating to a third-party server, and make connection and operation of devices more fluid in Security Desk.

Licensing

Sipelia pricing is not yet available (expected in the next 30-60 days) but will be licensed similar to cameras, with a base server package and connection licenses per station, as well as connections to external servers. Advanced licenses allow failover and audio recording.

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Supported Devices

Sipelia officially supports SIP intercom devices from Commend [link no longer available], Stentofon, and Castel in this release. Unofficially, other standard SIP devices (intercoms, phones, emergency call stations, etc.) may be used, but with limited tech support from Genetec. Official integration requests for other systems depend upon project opportunities.

Note that this SIP license is for audio only. Video from stations with on-board cameras must be licensed and configured separately.

Why a SIP Server for Surveillance?

Integrating this SIP server via Sipelia has several advantages:

  • Integrated events: Adding intercom events to Security Center allows them to be tied together with video and access events. Calls may be linked with nearby cameras to verify visitors, attempted use of lost or stolen cards may trigger intercom response from guards, and more. These events were previously possible with separate intercom systems and Genetec's prior SIP support, but only through digital I/O and creation of custom events, more complex integration.
  • Single interface: Guards may answer calls from the same interface they are using to view video and/or access events, instead of picking up a phone or using a standalone desk mounted intercom station. 
  • Multiple answering locations: Using Sipelia and SIP intercoms, anyone running the Security Desk client may answer calls using a PC mic or headset. This allows more for more operators, remotely located operators, or simply easier coverage of calls while one operator is on break, sick, or at lunch. Standalone intercom systems are typically limited in how many inside answering stations may be used. Additionally, these devices are expensive, generally hundreds of dollar each. 

These advantages are most likely beneficial only in a few markets.

  • Campuses (both corporate and higher ed) typically have multiple intercoms at entrances for staff, visitors, and deliveries, call stations at gated entrances, and blue light emergency phones in public areas. These could all be managed by Sipelia as one system, instead of the 2-3 independent platforms normally used.
  • K-12 education has seen an increase in intercom use as visitor and delivery doors are typically locked. Though the number of intercoms per site may be low, some districts have moved to answering these calls and viewing video via the district security office instead of locally, which Sipelia may simplify. Additionally, flexibility in answering calls in each building may be useful, as other staff may cover for a primary receptionist without being tied to a hardwired master station at a single desk. 

Applications such as multi-tenant buildings, industrial, or small commercial facilities generally do not have large numbers of intercom call stations, making them less likely to see benefits to Sipelia.

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