Two-Way Versus One-Way

Undoubtedly, wireless security systems have come a long way since their first introduction more than 40 years ago. Today these systems are recognized as being reliable, cost-effective and easy to install, providing systems integrators with access to a larger customer base when compared with the number of customers they can reach by just installing a traditional hardwired solution.

Significant technology advances in the wireless sector include the introduction of hybrid systems, improved range and reliability and the ability to test the signal strength of the system before installation. One advancement in particular that has begun to resonate throughout the security market are two-way wireless communication systems, an innovative approach that security manufacturers once viewed as too expensive to incorporate into products and too costly for the consumer.

That view changed a few years ago, in part because installers wanted greater ease of installation and wireless diagnostic capabilities, as well as consumers demanding quicker installs and flexibility with mounting locations of devices.

Bi-directional path provides status

With two-way wireless, the control panel and remote devices bi-directionally communicate with each other, meaning that it works like a phone conversation where the devices are able to pass information back and forth. This is critical because without this bi-directional path, it would be difficult to know the health or connection status of wireless sensors or other devices.

This is also the type of technology that serves as the foundation for keyfobs and the ability to remotely arm and disarm a security system using a keyfob. With two-way, when the user presses a button on the keyfob to arm the alarm system, the panel can go back to the keyfob and tell it that it received that message and display that information on the graphical display. One-way communication does not provide that bi-directional path, which provides constant communication with the control panel about the status of the alarm system.

In addition, the installation community recognizes the time and money-saving benefits of two-wire wireless communication systems. This type of system provides installers with the ability to remotely service systems, which can save valuable time by enabling installers to solve problems remotely instead of having to visit each customer individually for minor issues or software upgrades. Also, two-way wireless communication systems provide continuous supervised communication between devices, which enables the control panel to send notification to the monitoring station in the event a device is tampered with, improving the reliability and overall security of the system.

Because of these benefits, many manufacturers are beginning to introduce more two-way wireless communication systems as part of their product portfolio, either by taking a hybrid approach to wireless or through developing a purely wireless-based solution with two-way communication as a foundation for the system.

Some figures show that 15 percent of the security market today has deployed two-way wireless communication systems, a penetration rate that is expected to continue to grow given the positive cost-saving benefits to installers, improved system reliability and automation capabilities these systems provide.

Tim Myers is the senior product manager for Tyco Security Products, focusing on the development and launch of the company's wireless portfolio.