Another Industry Turns to Wireless

How large and small retailers use the technology for monitoring and intrusion detection


Retail businesses have traditionally relied on an array of security sensors for intrusion detection systems, including motion detectors, door and safe contacts, glassbreak detectors and fixed-location panic buttons. “Physical security systems are essential in creating the secure environment on which retail businesses rely,” says Larry Halpern, president of Safe Systems Inc., a monitored security company in Louisville , Colo. “Without proper detection systems, the security of customers, employees, the store and its inventory can be put at risk.”

Wireless security systems have been used successfully for more than 20 years in nearly every environment, from financial institutions to government agencies. Offering more flexibility and functionality than a hard-wired system, wireless systems maintain the same sensor options and integrity, but are installed without the cumbersome wiring costs. The added benefits of wireless systems make them an ideal solution for retail applications, large and small.

Why Cut the Cord?

Security systems that rely on wired connections perform adequately in static locations, but once the wire is fixed in place, changing floor plans or making seasonal display adjustments are difficult and costly. Likewise, when a security system is upgraded — during a store remodel, for example — a wireless system is significantly cheaper to install

Hardwiring a security system can be cumbersome and time-consuming, often leading to an unexpectedly large invoice due to unpredictable labor costs. “Many times the expense of wiring a building is not cost effective, and sometimes due to a facility's building construction, it's next to impossible to run the wires,” Halpern says. “In many instances, because of the disruption to employees and the business, you just can't wire it.”

A wireless installation reduces installation costs and ensures a timely completion, while maintaining the secure environment necessary for the success of the business. For example, a large warehouse retailer with a fuel island does not have to trench over to the gas station from the main building. Wireless devices are simply mounted where they are needed.

Every security system requires maintenance, but a wireless system has fewer points of potential failure than its wired counterpart. Wiring can present long-term issues. “Broken wire can be caused by a nail driven into a wall or even a rat chewing through it, resulting in countless wasted hours searching for the failure point. A wireless system, on the other hand, only has its endpoints — making troubleshooting a simple matter of a systematic check,” Halpern says.

The current generation of intelligent wireless systems monitors the integrity of the link between the transmitter and the receiver, ensuring the system is operational without manual intervention.

Of course, periodic manual testing is recommended to ensure system reliability. That holds true for wireless or wired systems — the difference is that the testing is much easier to conduct on a wireless system.

Wireless systems offer additional functional advantages, such as security pendants and adaptability. Security pendants give employees the ability to trigger an alarm from anywhere in the store, lobby or parking lot — an impossibility with a wired system.

A wireless system also allows a retail store to easily adapt to seasonal rearrangements or display changes. “Wireless systems give us more flexibility to deal with changing environments and difficult installations. Because of its inherent benefits, we're installing more and more wireless systems all the time,” says Halpern.

The Economic Advantages of Wireless

No matter the size of the retail operation, a wireless platform is going to provide economic advantages over a wired configuration, whether in a retrofit or a new installation. The following examples examine the cost-savings of small retail, large retail and warehouse superstore wireless installations vs. similar hardwired installations.

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