WANs, LANs and Wireless Mesh

When burglars broke into a jewelry store in Hemet , Calif. , they thought their entrance through the wall of a vacant business next door and destroying the burglar alarm control panel would give them carte blanche to the store's valuables. Ten minutes...


When burglars broke into a jewelry store in Hemet , Calif. , they thought their entrance through the wall of a vacant business next door and destroying the burglar alarm control panel would give them carte blanche to the store's valuables.

Ten minutes later, local police showed up, landing the men into the Riverside County Jail. The long-range mesh alarm communications system alerted police even after the panel had been destroyed.

"The control panel was taken out so fast that the digital dialer never made it through,” said Morgan Hertel, vice president of The Command Center Inc., Corona, Calif. “The thieves knew exactly where to come through the wall at the alarm panel site but they were not expecting to encounter the speed of the radio signal.”

John Lombardi, president of Commercial Instruments and Alarm (CIA) Systems Inc., Fishkill , N.Y. , also has success stories to tell. “Our AES-IntelliNet long-range mesh radio alarm communications system did not fail during last winter's ice storms throughout New England, even when electricity was lost for as long as seven days,” Lombardi said. “Frozen tree limbs came down everywhere wreaking havoc on the entire Northeast, including New York , downing electricity, phone and cable connections which left customers in the dark and seeking shelter with friends and relatives until their power could be restored.”

Lombardi has been using wireless for alarm signaling for about 22 years. He has seen the technology progress in reliability, coverage and signal strength.

“First generation wireless alarm communications were traditionally one-way radios with the limitation of having to be in range of the repeater, which would retransmit the signal to the base station,” commented Lombardi. “These radios were primarily operating on low band or VHF, consequently the antennas were larger than the antennas used for UHF. One-way radios also did not have the benefit of an acknowledgement or handshake signal ensuring the signal was received and to instruct the radio to stop transmitting and tying up the airwaves.”

 

Selling points

Lombardi said wireless gives the company an edge in offering peace of mind to subscribers. “The majority of security systems use telephone communications to transmit alarm signals, which are easily defeated,” he said. “With the new digital telephone technologies reliability becoming questionable, offering wireless communications restores the peace of mind concept by increasing reliability and the speed of alarm signals.”

Other questions over wireless reliability and security continue to be addressed through ongoing technological advancements. The acceptance of wireless for fire alarm monitoring by the AHJ has risen dramatically over the years and many governing bodies understand that the most important thing is for the signal to get out in a timely fashion to help secure the protected premises.

“With wireless technology now recognized by NFPA standards, AHJ's should start to accept radio telemetry as a primary means of communications and should become more widespread,” continued Lombardi. “Currently we use radio as backup simply because the majority of our fire alarms already utilize phone lines. We are now introducing radio technology as a cost effective alternative with the intent of increasing their reliance on radio as phone lines become more unreliable.”

The wireless infrastructure has been evolving at a very fast pace in the last few years: from a few independent (or fat) access points for guest access to ubiquitous wireless coverage of entire campuses using dependent (or thin) access points to support business critical applications. From IEEE 802.11b moving data at 11Mbps to IEEE 802.11n achieving 300Mbps over the air. There are now wireless solutions that offer uncompromised security with built-in firewalls, integrated intrusion detection and advanced encryption.

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