Cutting the Cord

Cutting the Cord

How wireless is advancing the security industry

Long before anyone coined “Internet of Things,” the security industry began to lay the foundations for what would become the 21st century smart home.

In the early 1990s, engineers working at ITI perfected a new kind of transmitter that, over time, catapulted the security industry into the future.

These wireless sensors were complex because they were designed with custom Integrated Circuits and discrete transmitter circuits. The transmission frequency was tightly controlled by a quartz crystal. This allowed them to have great range using narrow-band receivers.

Many forward looking security dealers began installing wireless sensors when it became clear they were reliable and much easier to install than pulling wires.

Wireless sensors made the first self-contained alarm panel possible, and soon we had the Simon panel by ITI. It wasn’t long before other security technology companies grasped the importance of this innovation, and came out with their own new sensors.

The self-contained panel--with its user interface on the front and battery and electronics on the inside--was an architectural innovation that proved to be a game-changer for the security industry. For the first time, security panels did not need to be installed in basements and utility closets. They could be placed on a wall near the front door, or on a kitchen counter -- a more convenient location for homeowners and installers alike.

This was also the dawn of a fundamental change to the industry: the gradual move by installers away from charging for a full day’s labor pulling cables and instead shifting to the recurring revenue model.

ADVANCING THE TECHNOLOGY

The quick installs of wireless systems changed the economics of the security business. While some dealers fretted over lost revenue from stringing wires, the scrappier among them saw the obvious opportunity to serve more customers and scale the business with RMR.

These are the installers who have gained the most in the past two decades as wireless interfaces have proliferated, cell connectivity has become ubiquitous, and home automation formats have become reliable.

Today, dealers who have cut the cord can also serve their customers more effectively. The remote control and access of security systems—including software and technology upgrades—enabled customer service without having to roll a truck every time someone needs a configuration change or an upgrade.

RMR and remote control have brought many benefits to the installer, but there is another advantage to wireless systems that’s crucial today and will only grow increasingly more vital in the years ahead: flexibility. Twenty years ago, consumers didn’t envision placing sensors in their front yards, hundreds of feet away from the porch. They couldn’t imagine small cameras attached to trees in their backyards.

But a series of technological advancements opened up a world of new possibilities.

Low-power microcontrollers and offthe- shelf wireless IC’s have simplified the design of wireless sensors and opened up new applications. Cellular and broadband communication paths have become widespread, reliable, and economical. Standardized wireless LAN protocols like Wi- Fi, Zwave, Zigbee, and Bluetooth LE have evolved to the point of being cost effective and reliable. These are just a few of the innovations that added flexibility, quality and reliability to wireless security systems.

Now that consumers know that longdistance signaling, and extending their security perimeters to include the yard and exterior reaches of their properties, can be accomplished without a major landscaping effort, it has expanded the addressable market for each installation. Today, multiple wireless technologies are used to address the various needs of a modern security and home automation system.

Now that wireless technologies have achieved superiority, they are being fully utilized in our continually-evolving systems. There are many advantages to cutting the cord, including the ease of install and remote system management. But one advantage towers above the rest: Now Security Pros can future-proof their customers in addition to keeping them safe.

This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Paul Saldin is vice president of engineering at Alula.

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