Wireless Devices are Everywhere
Once unreliable, now part of everyone’s wish list
Wireless devices are everywhere. They are in our homes and
offices in the form of mobile smart phones, tablets and personal
computers, among other things. Without a doubt,
we now rely on wireless technology and devices as part of
our everyday life. The same is true in the security industry,
where wireless intrusion systems have evolved into an important system for security
installers to offer to their residential, as well as small, commercial customers.
Once considered a technology too unreliable to deploy, wireless residential intrusion
is as much a part of the vocabulary of today’s residential alarm dealers as
RMR or false alarms. Having evolved over the past few years through technology
innovations and a gradual change in how that technology is perceived, wireless
intrusion is now proving it has what it takes to satisfy the wish lists of installers and
end users. Qualities ranging from ease of use, to ease of installation, to reliability
and even the ability to integrate with other devices are appealing to all stakeholders.
Overall, the introduction of wireless intrusion systems has greatly simplified the
installation process for security systems. At its core, independence from “pulling
wire” results in lower installation times and allows security installers to access a
larger base of residential customers, when compared to their traditional, hardwired-
A Bit about Wireless
Wireless technology provides the freedom to mount a device on nearly any wall or
ceiling location, which is especially important in older homes and buildings where
installing a wired alarm system could involve drilling through stucco walls or concrete
cinder blocks. In addition, many wireless intrusion systems offer a quick enrollment
installation feature that enables the security dealer to set the keypad in
auto-detection mode to discover each device and add it to the system.
Innovations—such as range, battery life, built-in installation tools, signal robustness
and reliability—have served to further the use of wireless intrusion in
today’s market, making it an integral part of an alarm dealer’s offering.
However, installers have always grappled with a few core issues that can make or
break the success of a wireless installation. How this technology has evolved and,
along the way, helped to alleviate many of these traditional pain points of wireless
installation, is nearly as important for alarm dealers as its future capabilities are.
Tools for Proper Sensor Installation
The location at which a security installer mounts a device is one of the most important
aspects of installing a wireless intrusion system, because it can impact that
device’s ability to transmit information back to the panel.
Placement testing is one way to ensure the panel can
communicate with a particular wireless device, such as
a keypad or motion detector. These tests are now as
simple as pushing a button while the device is near a
specific location, and modern systems now come with
LED lighting designed to glow green to affirm mounting
location or red if it is not optimal. For installers,
this means that device placement can be as simple as
walking around with the device in hand and waiting
for it to light up. It also helps to lessen the likelihood
of future problems, such as the security installer having
to return to the property for a service call because the
panel stops recognizing the devices all together.
Without this feature, an installer would end up
making multiple trips back and forth from the device
to the panel to properly set up the sensor, move it to
a better location and then retest the system. However,
with placement testing, a device with this builtin
functionality can remotely recognize whether the
signal strength is strong enough to communicate with
the control panel.
Another helpful tool for security installers is the
capability to quickly enroll a keypad using automatic
device discovery features of the panel. In quickenroll
mode, the control panel can automatically
detect a device, like a keypad, and remotely grab the
serial number and type of device. That information
is then automatically communicated with the control
panel. This feature can greatly reduce the time
it would typically take to manually program a system,
which would involve correctly entering the serial
number of each device into the system without
making an error.
Signal Strength and
In addition to the mounting location, if a device will
be located in a smaller home or in an area with an
abundance of radio frequency signals, it is important
to understand that additional RF noise can impact
the overall range of the wireless device.
WiFi devices can interfere with a wireless security
device’s ability to communicate back to the control
panel. The alternating current of an electrical box can
also interfere with the device, if mounted too close or
on top of the box, while the metal surface of the box
can alter the characteristics of the antenna on each
device, thereby reducing range.
If the placement test indicates that the location is
not ideal due to interference, then one option for an
installer is to purchase and install a wireless repeater
to increase the range and transmission capabilities
of the wireless intrusion system. More robust systems
available today can offer immunity from interference
or drastically reduce noise from other appliances
or systems, and improve range, which means
an increased distance between panel and sensor
without the use of repeaters. In addition, improved
protection against signal interference along with increased
range is helping to pave adoption in commercial
Some of today’s wireless systems also feature sophisticated,
128-bit, AES encryption to prevent the
wireless signal from being “sniffed” or hacked so that
the signal cannot be overtaken through the air. This is
another huge advantage when considering the overall
robustness of wireless technology.
These conveniences can reduce installation time,
help avoid system errors and improve profitability on
Know the Environment
Home and small business owners tend to think creatively
when installing a security system. While the
traditional installation location has typically been inside
a main structure, these boundaries have expanded
to include additional structures, like pool houses, garden sheds and even garages.
Consider a home owner who might want to install a wireless intrusion system
inside his/her garage to protect a luxury automobile, or other possessions. The
installer needs to take into account the environmental characteristics of a device
and if it is rated for outdoor use.
For example, some devices are not rated to operate in extremely cold environments,
where a minimum temperature is not maintained. If a wireless motion detector
is not rated for use where the temperature drops to, say, 14 degrees Fahrenheit
(-10 Celsius), then it should not be installed in a garage without a heat source.
The same rule of thumb holds true for a wireless window or door contact. If
a contact is designed for inside installation only, mounting it on the exterior door
of a backyard shed, where it will be exposed to rain and moisture, will eventually
impact its ability to function properly, or at all.
Taking Advantage of Improved Range
While the overall range of wireless systems has increased significantly in recent
years, adding the ability to cover buildings of several thousand square feet, it is still
important to know the range limitation of the specific system you plan to install.
Can the system adequately cover the space of the installation? A wireless intrusion
system rated for an area of less than 3,000 square feet, for example, will not
be adequate for a 5,000 square-foot home.
Are there interference issues that need to be considered with the placement of
PIR sensors? If an installer mounts a PIR sensor and a large picture window is in
its field of view, the alarm could potentially sound if someone walks by the window
within the range of the sensor. This constant activity can also serve to drain
battery life of peripherals very quickly.
Finally, understanding peripheral opportunities is important to the success of selling
and installing wireless intrusion in the residential market.
One of the biggest demands for wireless products comes from lifestyle sensors,
which control energy management, lighting and other home automation functions.
These sensors not only satisfy the “cool factor” for end users, but also offer
dealers an opportunity to add RMR to their business by selling additional monitoring
and service opportunities. Of course, having the most up-to-date cellular
communicators, key fobs, and smoke and heat sensors—the core offerings of the
wireless life safety portfolio—remains extremely important.
The connected home will play a huge part in wireless technologies. Lighting
control, thermostats, and even refrigerators and dishwashers can now be connected
to a single management system. This is in addition to elements like wireless
door locks, WiFi camera systems and security systems, a trend that will only
continue to grow.
Security installers can reap many benefits from offering and installing
wireless intrusion systems as part of their security product portfolio.
By keeping a few points in mind, installers can ensure an
easy installation process and deliver a reliable system to their
This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Security Today.