Current trends in fire alarm communication technologies

As POTS becomes more rare, companies turn to IP and GSM connections

On the other hand, an IP network simply packs up all the analog information at the panel into a digital packet and sends it over the Internet or Intranet. Upon reaching its final destination, the IP receiver unpacks the file, acquiring all pertinent alarm information. The difference being a complete digital representation of the alarm tone information is correctly received at the central station digital receiver.

Lastly, the reliability of the Internet is often called into question when based on poor perceptions of server-based products such as email or web browsers. Slow-loading webpages and email server problems give the appearance of a lagging network communications path. In actuality, the network (the intranet or the Internet) and corresponding switches are as fast as ever. It is the servers supplying the users' requests upon hitting the enter key that give the perception that the network is slow. Ultimately, these servers play no part in IP communications between fire panels and central stations.

Evolving Advances

With IP, so much is possible. With wireless, anything is possible. Many manufacturers of IP communications equipment have already released or are working on new products that harness GSM (global system for mobile communications) wireless radio. A system which uses GSM would have a cellular radio modem connected to the fire panel. This cellular radio modem would then shoot out digital alarm transmissions over a common cellular provider's towers to a central station; all of this would be done via IP, not analog signals. While the primary communications path is a wired/shared IP connection, the cellular data connection can serve as an easily-accessible backup.

Looking past wireless possibilities, the next generations of alarm transmission technologies for fire and security systems could come from any direction. What breakthrough technologies lie past the ever-expanding Internet, land-based cellular towers or satellites floating in space are anybody's guess.

About the author: Nick Martello is a 25-year veteran of the fire alarm industry with roots as a central station owner, fire systems engineer/designer and marketing director. Martello recently retired from his position as Fire-Lite Alarms' director of marketing and intends to remain an active contributor within the fire alarm industry.