Enterprise Intercom System Selection Guide

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Jun 20, 2014

While the surveillance market is crowded, the intercom space is relatively sparse. In this note, we survey manufacturers specializing in enterprise intercoms including Commend, Stentofon and Aiphone, contrasting their various strengths and weaknesses.

Unlike simple two to four station intercom 'kits', enterprise systems have hundreds of stations and integrate with other security systems. Here are key characteristics that enterprise systems have that small systems lack:

  • Multisite Communication allows separate intercom systems to function as a single system at a central administration point.
  • Mass notification: In some cases, enterprise intercoms are also PA, or 'public address' systems, where a single point can broadcast messages to multiple areas, even different sites, at once.
  • Door Access/Gate Operation: A core feature for enterprise intercom systems is the ability to unlock doors or operate gates remotely, based on intercom requests.
  • Video Surveillance integration: pushing an intercom terminal call button servers to trigger a camera to record video, and sometimes audio, of the exchange. This integration serves to aid communication and record significant activities in a way that video motion detection alone cannot.

Integration with other systems is done via relay outputs on intercom stations or through Input/Output cards/ external modules. Specific integrations vary according to the system involved, but at a minimum the four functions listed above are available in the systems described in the following section:

IP Intercom Market Snapshot

Each system mentioned below is an IP-based intercom system, ideal for use in enterprise environments where a well developed LAN is present. Even though wireless intercom systems are available, privacy regulations and interference from external sources exempt them from being considered in every application.

In general, the product series mentioned below are designed for general purpose and if specialty applications or integrations are desired,the information may change.

Commend IS 300 [link no longer available] Series:

  • Supports up to 64 IP stations in a 1U form factor
  • 8MB capacity for pre-recorded Audio Messages
  • Analog stations are integrated via external ET901 encoder
  • 16 kHz audio quality
  • Licensing on a per-intercom basis
  • 12-24VDC power

For multi-site functionality, Commend sells additional management servers that type in 'stand alone' IS implementations, as show to the right:

Stentofon AlphaCom XE1 [link no longer available] Series:

  • Support up to 552 IP intercom stations in a 4U form factor
  • 64 MB capacity for pre-recorded Audio Messages
  • Analog station integration not possible with XE1, must upgrade to XE7 or higher
  • 7 kHz audio quality: wide band detection
  • Licensing on a per-intercom basis
  • 12-24VDC power

Stentofon offers the greatest capacity, by default, with over 500 stations supported from a single unit. This may include IP stations located remotely from, but still network connected to, the primary AlphaCom server. The cost of migrating existing analog terminals into Stentofon's offering should be carefully considered, as no external analog encoder exists. Different, more expensive, AlphaCom servers must be specified based on total number of analog stations to retrofit existing installations.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Aiphone IS Series:

  • Support up to 32 discretely addressed IP intercom stations in a 4U form factor
  • 10 MB capacity for pre-recorded Audio Message
  • Analog station support up to 30,720 total units
  • No specification given for audio quality
  • No intercom licensing is required
  • Central Communication Unit is 48VDC powered, however most intercom stations are PoE Powerable

Aiphone does not support full-scale network addressing. The IS Series is limited to 32 IP addressed units, while the total system population supports tens of thousands of analog stations designed to use CAT5/5e/6 cabling for transmission. However, the IS series supports widespread use of video at the intercom terminals.

System Comparison

Because Commend and Stentofon are dealer-only product lines, system pricing is difficult to accurately estimate. Addiitonally, both lines feature a variety of integration options that the Aiphone line does not tightly support. However, the Aiphone line is considerably less expensive than the dealer lines, and does not include added expenses like product licenses.

Commend: While Commend is generally the most costly of the three options, it includes the tightest integration options:

  • Milestone VMS [link no longer available]: Out-of-box platform support within XProtect, including recording of video intercom stations.
  • Tetra Mobile Radio [link no longer available]: Integration with 'walkie-talkie' mobile radio system.
  • ComWIN: [link no longer available] A maps based 'building management' platform including 'panic alerts', logging, and access control.

Commend is a good choice when the intercom system is intended to be a part of a converged, multi-system platform. Commend's pricing structure is complicated, and determining exact project pricing requires a deep understanding of the company's product and upgrade plans.

Stentofon: The company's pricing is close or fractionally beneath Commend. Stentofon has focused on audio quality and product development rather than tight integration. In general, Stentofon focuses on design features like redundancy and rugged component design. Stentofon is competitive, or fractionally less expensive than Commend, although final dealer discount varies. Stentofon is a good choice when high-quality audio is desired.

Aiphone: Far and away, Aiphone is the least expensive of the three options. In some cases, pricing is as much as 50% less than rivals plus the IS series does not require the cost of licensing compared to the other options. However, integration into other systems is much more difficult than the other two options. Aiphone is a good choice when a simple, minimally integrated intercom system is desired.

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

CES 2019 Show Report on Jan 10, 2019
IPVM was at CES 2019 for the second year (see our CES 2018 Show Final Report) and is reporting on announcements and interesting news from the show...
Bad: Dahua Villa Video Doorbell Tested on Jan 11, 2019
Doorbells are one of the hottest segments in the residential market but Dahua's Villa Video Doorbell is the worst we have tested.   We bought and...
Dahua Intercom Tested on Feb 07, 2019
Video intercoms are a growing market with video surveillance manufacturers expanding into this niche. IPVM is continuing its series of video...
Camera Disruptor Wyze Enters Sensor / Security Market on Mar 28, 2019
Wyze, the company that has disrupted consumer IP cameras, combining American marketing and Chinese manufacturer, has just announced its expansion...
Axis Door Station A8207-VE Tested on Aug 07, 2019
Axis newest door station, the A8207-VE, claims to deliver "video surveillance, two-way communication, and access control" in a single device. But...
ZK Teco Atlas Access Control Tested on Aug 20, 2019
Who needs access specialists? China-based ZKTeco claims its newest access panel 'makes it very easy for anyone to learn and install access control...
Commend ID5 Intercom Tested on Sep 12, 2019
Commend touts the new ID5 intercom as 'timelessly elegant' and the slim body, glass front touchscreen indeed looks better than common, but ugly,...
Aiphone Video Intercom Tested (IX Series 2) on Nov 05, 2019
Aiphone was one of integrator's favorite intercom manufacturers but how well do their products work? The company's newest offering, the IX Series 2...
Disruptor Wyze Releases Undisruptive Smartlock on Dec 06, 2019
While Wyze has disrupted the consumer IP camera market with ~$20 cameras, its entrance into smart locks is entirely undisruptive. We have...
Hikvision DS 2nd Gen Intercom Tested on Dec 12, 2019
With its newest IP intercom, Hikvision proclaims users can 'get full control over an entrance' regardless of where it is installed, home or office...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Intersec 2020 Final Show Report on Jan 21, 2020
IPVM spent all 3 days at the Intersec 2020 show interviewing various companies and finding key trends. We cover: Middle East Enterprise...
Vehicle & Long Range Access Reader Tutorial on Jan 21, 2020
One of the classic challenges for access control are parking lots and garages, where the user's credential is far from the reader. With modern...
Clearview AI Alarm - NY Times Report Says "Might End Privacy" on Jan 20, 2020
Over the weekend, the NY Times released a report titled "The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It" about a company named...
Favorite Camera Manufacturers 2020 on Jan 20, 2020
The past 2 years of US bans and sanctions have shaken the video surveillance industry but what impact would this have on integrators' favorite...
"Severely Impacted" Mercury Security 2020 Leap Year Firmware Issue on Jan 17, 2020
One of the largest access controller manufacturers has a big problem: February 29th. Mercury Security, owned by HID, is alerting partners of the...
Apple Acquires XNOR.ai, Loss For The Industry on Jan 16, 2020
Apple has acquired XNOR.ai for $200 million, reports GeekWire. This is a loss for the video surveillance industry. XNOR.ai stunned the industry...
Installation Course January 2020 - Last Chance on Jan 16, 2020
Thursday, January 16th is your last chance to register for the Winter 2020 Video Surveillance Installation Course. This is a unique installation...
Halo Smart Vape Detector Tested on Jan 16, 2020
The Halo Smart Sensor claims to detect vaping, including popular brand Juul and even THC vapes. But how well does it work in real world...
PRC Government Entity Now Controlling Shareholder of Infinova / March Networks on Jan 16, 2020
A PRC government entity is now the controlling shareholder of US security manufacturer Infinova as well as its wholly-owned subsidiary March...
Network Cabling for Video Surveillance on Jan 15, 2020
In this guide, we explain the fundamentals of network cabling for video surveillance networks, how they should be installed, and the differences in...