Cutting the Cord
How wireless is advancing the security industry
- By Paul Saldin
- Mar 02, 2021
Long before anyone coined
“Internet of Things,” the
security industry began to
lay the foundations for what
would become the 21st century
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
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
This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Security Today.
About the Author
Paul Saldin is vice president of engineering at Alula.