In the last 100 years, the burglar alarm has evolved dramatically. From dogs to electro-mechanical, then transistor and integrated circuits to Internet-based, it bears little resemblance to its antecedents today. Aesthetically packaged and simplicity itself to install and operate, it has attained a level of such intelligence that it can differentiate between real and false alarms; it can tell the difference between human and animal intruders and it can make allowances for a range of environmental factors.
Hardwire releases its grip
For many decades the industry standard was the hardwire system, where every wire from every device led back to the control panel. The installation process was both time-consuming and messy, with the end result inevitably being a nest of wires hidden in the walls, which greatly hampers future repairs to the system or home improvements.
The advent of wireless technology has revolutionised the burglar alarm, says Zane Greeff, technical director of Elvey Security Technologies, emphasising the symbiotic relationship between control panels and the safety of family and premises.
“Wireless comes with a host of benefits. Not only is it reliable but it is also quick to install, with none of the mess of its predecessor,” he points out. All that is required for a trained installer is to enrol the device on the control panel, allocate zones, check signal strength, attach the bracket to the wall and insert the device.
Another huge advantage of a wireless system is that it can be easily moved if the home owner is relocating. In addition, devices operate on batteries that only need replacing every three to four years, which provides home-owners with great peace-of-mind.
The control panels, which can be hidden in a secure area, communicate with the two-way wireless keypad. Products such as the Alexor and the NX10 can connect up to four keypads per system, which offers home owners more choice in terms of the location of keypads, a safety feature and a convenience not commonly encountered among the older systems.
Other cutting-edge features of the modern-day wireless system include 868 MHz frequency technology which operates off two-way independent transmission to ensure conflict-free functionality for sensors, keypad and sirens – all totally wireless.
Bridging the communication gap
The control panel of a wireless system can communicate with an external host, which in most circumstances is the control room of the security provider paid to monitor the premises. This allows for round-the-clock, real-time alarm monitoring and has the ability to bypass the traditional PSTN (public switched telephone network) which, as a result of ongoing and increasing cable theft, is unreliable. Says Greeff: “The theft of telephone cabling can leave home owners without phone lines for weeks if not months, thereby jeopardising their safety and security.”
On the back of ongoing research and development, IP (Internet Protocol) and GSM communication technology provides back-up methods that eliminate the need for dedicated phone lines. This, he points out, not only safeguards against communication failure but also saves money.
Often asked whether, as a result of ongoing upgrades to the country’s telecommunication infrastructure, existing alarm systems will become obsolete, Greeff replies: “While there is a steady move in the suburbs from PSTN to IP and VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) it will not undermine the ability of installed alarms to continue to function. Our company has aligned itself with leading manufacturers of communication modules in order to ensure that residential and commercial security is not compromised.”
To this end, Elvey’s preferred communication modules can connect to any brand of alarm control panels, he avers. These universal modules integrate to the alarm control panel via the PSTN line connection and in so doing, deceive the panel into believing that it is communicating with a PSTN line, while in reality it is actually using an IP line. There are also modules on the market capable of sending status update texts to end-users’ cellphones and notifications to control rooms.
Signal clearing house for your alarm system
“People do not always realise that an alarm system, no matter how sophisticated, is only as effective as its ability to transmit a signal to the control room,” says Greeff. “And without a dependable signal routing service, you and your property could end up becoming another crime statistic.”
Sites that do not have access to PSTN lines would do well to install a wireless universal GSM/GPRS alarm communicator. A system like this will, via cellular network, deliver reliable, secure, high-speed communication from the site to the monitoring station. It will also send SMS alerts to pre-determined destinations.