Power to the System
Inconspicuously out of sight, power supplies are always critical to security solutions
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Jan 01, 2012
Power supplies are a vital system component but are not always considered
to be mission critical. Often situated in a utility area, power
supplies are essential to continuous, trouble-free operation. End users
require systems that will provide security 24/7, as well as the
best return on investment (ROI). The same holds true for integrators. The last
thing any integrator or end user wants is to deal with costly service calls as a
result of unreliable products or a flawed system design.
A variety of power supply options are available in many configurations.
Selecting the correct power solutions matched to specific products and their
locations ensures trouble-free operation and adds a high degree of reliability.
The complexities of choosing and installing power supplies extend beyond
merely providing the appropriate voltage. Variables such as cable size, length
and current draw will affect voltage drop. Voltage drop can result in devices not
functioning properly, or at all, and shorter operational lives. The power supply
may be correct for the device but the wiring may not be, so the selection of all
the components in your power solution should be made hand in hand.
System devices carry various power ratings, and installers need to ensure
that adequate power is actually being supplied to the device. A variety of online
tools is available to calculate voltage drop based on variables such as load
current, cable gauge and distance. Another important design consideration is
the specific amount of battery back-up required to keep the system running
for a set period of time during power interruptions.
The industry’s transition to networked systems using Internet Protocol
has created a paradigm shift in the design and deployment of power supplies.
Today, many IP system components are powered using 15 watts of power
that travel over the same cable that connects to the network using PoE technology.
Network switches may include integrated power supplies that provide
PoE but may not provide enough power in systems with large numbers
of PoE devices. There is a misconception that if a PoE switch is used it also
can power the devices, which isn’t necessarily true, but the use of a mid-span
power injector will ensure there is ample power. Some PoE switches may
not provide PoE+ (IEEE802.3AT), which is specified for certain devices that
require higher power. Mid-spans are available that provide both PoE and
PoE+ injecting mid-span power onto a network cable, maintaining power to
the device even in case of a network outage; for example, a network camera
capable of recording to an onboard SD card would continue to operate and record locally even if the network connection is out.
Professional security integrators and designers prefer to standardize their
choices of system components such as power supplies using best-of-breed
security manufacturers they are familiar with and that have a proven track
record, especially where special features are required,.
Adapting to Customer Needs
For integrators, designing the correct power solutions contributes to maximum
efficiencies and cost savings that will have a positive impact on the bottom
line. A case in point: Comtel Systems Technology, a low-voltage electrical
contractor and security systems integrator in the heart of Silicon Valley in
Sunnyvale, Calif., was looking for a power solution to reduce the number of
power supplies and labor required for a large installation. It provided input to
Altronix during development of an all-in-one power solution called Maximal
that combines multiple components in a single enclosure.
Comtel’s 76 employees provide access control, video, intercom, paging,
nurse call systems and other types of intrusion and communication solutions
for a variety of end-user markets, including high-tech, healthcare, education
and government. Comtel has been a leader in the market’s transition to IPbased
systems, driven largely by its clientele in high-tech and healthcare industries.
For the last half-dozen years or so, all new installations have been
IP; the only analog business has been based on accommodating a customer’s
existing infrastructure and small additions. Rick Corr, Comtel sales manager,
describes the integrator’s approach as “progressive but cautious.”
Comtel has developed a team from the sales and operations department
to seek out best-in-breed product solutions for its customers. Corr regularly
meets with manufacturer’s reps like Somerville Security Associates Inc., who
keep them informed of the latest products, including Altronix’s wide range
of power solutions. When a manufacturer has something new, it often goes
to Comtel as one of the companies to provide feedback and evaluate how the
product meets the needs of the market. In fact, Comtel evaluated a prototype
of Altronix’s Maximal product during development. Comtel sales engineers
worked in tandem with SSAI and the Altronix design team to put together a
solution to meet their specific needs.
Corr says specializing in fewer product lines in both access control and
video surveillance helps Comtel personnel stay up-to-date on the latest products.
The “supermarket approach” of carrying virtually all product lines reduces
profitability and customer satisfaction.
In the case of Comtel, these Maximal power supplies include pre-wired
and pre-installed components combined in a single integrated solution that
uses less space in the data closet. Corr says Comtel has realized the following
advantages when deploying Altronix’s Maximal solution:
- Smaller footprint conserves valuable real estate wherever it’s installed.
- Reduces installation labor in comparison to conventional power supplies
and other necessary related devices.
- Reduces costs of licensed electricians to connect one power source versus
In all, for a 16-door access control panel installation, Corr estimates a 17
percent total savings on equipment and labor using the Maximal solution. Efficient
execution of system installation is another big emphasis for Comtel. The
company’s operations manager—who has been with Comtel for more than 20
years—and six project managers ensure efficient and timely execution of projects.
Components such as Maximal contribute to these efficiencies, Corr said.
Tibco Software, a provider of infrastructure software in Palo Alto, Calif., is
one of Comtel’s customers that uses a Software House access control system
at its company headquarters. The system is powered by Altronix’s Maximal
solution and employs more than 100 doors at its local campus, with additional
sites throughout the United States, according to Haig Kambourian, a Comtel
senior security sales engineer. Comtel has already deployed four Maximal
units at Tibco’s facility and has additional units already scheduled to accommodate
system expansion. According to Corr, Maximal power solutions are
the standard on all new Comtel installations because of their benefits.
Changing Technology Mix
Power requirements are constantly changing. For greater efficiency, integrators
should work closely with companies like Altronix, as well as manufacturers
of security and surveillance devices, to ensure seamless compatibility. Altronix
is in contact with integrators every day, fielding tech support questions
and specifying power solutions.
In general, quality feedback from industry experts in the field is invaluable
for future product development.
New technologies drive new product development, and vice versa. In the
case of power solutions, it’s critical that integrators and end users keep power
requirements top of mind because unreliable power will compromise their
systems. Although most power supplies are typically out of sight, they should
never be out of mind.
This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Security Today.