Ask The Expert
This month's expert explains the evolution behind an ever-important product: the alarm panel
- By J. Matthew Ladd
- Oct 01, 2006
BURGLAR -- or intrusion -- alarms have been around for many years, and they are often overlooked, as excitement focuses on Internet protocol cameras, biometrics, video analytics and other technological marvels becoming part of the security industry.
But technology has not forgotten the alarm panel, which still serves as the basic building block for many security systems, ranging from a small apartment to a huge retail store.
In recent years, networking and the wireless boom that has driven growth in telephones and computers have lead to some of the biggest advances in alarm panel technology. For the first time, we are seeing the true integration of panels into access control and video surveillance systems.
ISSUE: How are alarm panels being integrated into other security systems?
SOLUTION: Alarm panels can now be plugged into a network port, and with appropriate software, be able to immediately communicate with other system components. With stronger wireless signals (and through the use of repeaters), panels can now operate in remote areas that only a few years ago would have been impossible.
The networking of alarm panels also is leading to the integration of fire and life safety and HVAC systems.
Today's panels also can communicate in a variety of ways to make them more efficient and easier to operate. For example, advanced panels go well beyond notifying the central station that an alarm system has been armed, disarmed or breached. Panels now use e-mail or cellular phone text messages to send that same information to a homeowner, store manager or security guard. Redundancy decreases the likelihood of a system being left unarmed or a missed alarm.
The cellular network also serves as a backup way for an alarm panel to communicate with the central monitoring station if the phone lines are cut.
One Internet-based application service provider now allows alarm users to access a Web site to turn a system on or off, switch on lights or review the system's history. This gives users the ability to remotely control their systems from virtually anywhere in the world.
Another recent innovation involving the Internet, VoIP uses the Internet to transmit voice communications. When used as the connection between an alarm panel and the monitoring station, there are some potential problems. Internet service providers often schedule network maintenance, during which time alarm signals cannot be sent. Also, many alarm panels now in use do not recognize the Internet signal as a telephone-line equivalent.
ISPs, monitoring station operators and equipment manufacturers are all working to allay these concerns. Solutions may include using cellular phone backup for network downtime. And manufacturers are beginning to introduce panels that can work reliably with VoIP. Once these and other related problems have been solved, VoIP should provide a fast and efficient way to communicate between alarms panels and central stations.
ISSUE: How are panels now using two-way communication?
SOLUTION: Many panels are now capable of providing two-way voice communication between a home or business and the central station. Hands-free communication with customers can greatly help to reduce false alarms that result from user error. This capability also can allow monitoring station operators to offer other services such as checking in on older or disabled customers.
Some newer panels also have the ability to communicate with users in their native language using a natural-sounding voice. This can be a major asset in helping people -- homeowners or employees at a business -- to learn the proper operation of the alarm panel.
Advanced stability and the lower cost of panel sensors have helped to reduce the number of false alarms while adding some exciting new and innovative capabilities to panel technology. For example, sensors can warn if the air conditioning fails or if the temperature in a computer room begins to rise to dangerous levels. Another sensor can monitor the pressure of fire extinguishers and also warn if the extinguishers are missing.
New technology will continue to drive higher performance levels and offer capabilities previously found only in science fiction novels. Today's alarm panels are much more than your father's old burglar alarm system.
This month's question from a reader asks:
ISSUE: I've got a question that I will be very surprised if you have a good answer for. The Alzheimer's Store sells products for people with the disease and those caring for them. For some time now, we have offered an alarm-enabled chain lock for doors. So people who might decide to leave home during the night would trigger the alarm opening the door. The company has recently discontinued the item, and for the life of me, I cannot find it offered by any other company. Would you know of a company that sells door chain locks with alarms? Or can you suggest another way to make sure to help keep these patients safe? (No keys -- people with dementia lose them or they just disappear.)
SOLUTION: Having a way to be notified if an patient wanders is an important requirement. Although the Alzheimer's Store does not sell the chain lock with alarm, there are other ways to detect if a door is opened.
There are many standalone door alarms. These are battery-operated devices and, if a door is armed and opened, a local sounder will be activated. Additionally, some units are able to have an exit button to allow you an exit time to leave a room,
Without endorsing any particular manufacturer, you can find such products at http://www.sti-usa.com or http://www.dimango.com. However, I would suggest you contact your local security alarm dealer for the best solution.
This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Security Products, pg. 14.
This article originally appeared in the issue of .