When a Chicago couple initiated their OnStar tracking system to alert of a recent ambush shooting, the case for global positioning systems (GPS) captured the public's attention. When the shooter was captured, the spotlight shined brightly on the value of satellite and wireless tracking.
While OnStar is not specifically a security application, it's the wave of the future. GPS is used in this way for crash notification, duress, etc. but it can also be another tool in an integrator's arsenal of recurring monthly revenue (RMR) allowing users to deploy it as a management tool to track vehicles and personnel and their mobile activities while on the clock. On the home front, it can protect against vehicle theft or the wayward teenage driver on the lam.
Much of the activity and interest in cellular for security and the migration to radio signaling for primary alarm and now fire signal transmission is tied to the demise of landlines in the home, cell-only homes and the move to broadband such as VoIP.
Commercial fire cellular as primary
Cellular for dedicated burglar alarm transmission and especially UL-listed fire signaling has been elusive, but not untouchable.
"Dealers are increasingly adding cellular communication paths between panels and the central station," said Mark NeSmith, DMP's vice president of Sales. (DMP, Springfield, Mo., announced that its 436G Digital Cellular Communicator achieved a UL Standard 864 listing and the product could be deployed as a standalone communicator for primary commercial fire alarm signaling installations.)
"The 463G was already being used as a back-up cellular link," NeSmith continued. "With this new UL listing, dealers can now make our digital cellular communicator the primary path without a backup."
He added that wireless is a simpler installation and provides dealers with new recurring revenue from monthly cellular service charges.
Security integrators continue the exodus from landlines to the GSM digital cellular radio network. Global Satellite for Mobile Communication (GSM) is one of the world's most widely used cellular networks. Alarm radios that communicate via GSM typically use General Packet Radio Service to transmit signals, according to AlarmNet General Manager Gordon Hope, Melville, N.Y.
Gordon advised central station companies and systems integrators to proactively approach customers and "get in front of the issue"-the demise of hardwired phone lines and the unreliability of VoIP as well as the dangers of cut phone lines. He said companies have to position their offerings as lifestyle and remote services and discuss the changing landscape with customers.
"Let them [customers] know that radio is independent of any other technology and it gives them the freedom to make changes. Once they invest in radio, they've made an investment in new technology and now the integrator can offer messaging and control and remote services," Hope said.
The future is now
"Dealers want to future-proof their businesses and certainly this is also being driven by the sunset of analog cellular and now POTS lines," commented Michael Gregory, vice president and general manager, Uplink, Addison, Texas.
"It's become clear that to try to put a signal on broadband might not be the best way to go as far as reliability," he said. "Cellular has its advantages; one is that the line can't be cut." Uplink has a cellular offering for both the residential and commercial market and also a GPS device called u-TRAQ that allows dealers and integrators the ability to offer a cost-effective and easy-to-install tracking solution to their customers (see related story on these pages).
More than security
GPS is a management tool, continued Gregory. "You know where technicians are, their travel time, and who is closest to the next dispatch location. There are so many things GPS tracking can do to help customers manage their business more effectively and it's become more than just for the vehicle; it's also smaller and less expensive and easier to install. It costs less than $200 to the end-user and in the residential market can be used to locate or monitor teen drivers as keep tabs on elderly drivers."