From POTS to PANS

I admit that “PANS” is a bit forced, however if you are still installing burglar alarm panels using telephone dialers only you are forcing a square peg into a round hole. That hole, the marketplace, has changed over the last few years and installing the same old square peg is going to get harder and harder.

The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) announced that for 2008 on average 17.5 percent of homes in the U.S. did not have a POTS line. That number is growing at roughly 3 to 4 percent per year. That means on average today in the U.S. one in five homes will not have a phone line for connection to your burg panel. Furthermore I find it interesting that some states have a much higher prevalence of wireless-only households. In some areas it is over 25 percent, nearing 30 percent.

This time of year everyone is doing strategic planning for 2010. Some dealers around the country need to calculate that in 2010 they could see one out of every three homes will not have a phone line. (See the details for your state by putting this link in your browser: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr014.pdf.)

Morgan Hertel, director of Central Station Operations for MACE said, “Society is moving to a wireless world and the alarm industry needs to follow. I have three children in their late 20’s all with their own homes, none of them have land lines they all use cell phone and services like Google voice. They don’t need or want hard lines and we as an industry need to adapt to it in order to remain relevant to the Gen X and Y coming up.”

At a recent Central Station Alarm Association meeting, it was reported that carrier Verizon didn’t think there would be any POTS lines in another eight to 10 years.

The Consumer Electronics Association reported in late 2007 that nearly 72 percent of all Americans have access to broadband Internet and 75 percent of homes in the U.S. with Internet have broadband access (http://www.901am.com/2007/us-broadband-use-up-says-ce-trade-group.html.) Pew Research Center reports that home broadband adoption is growing from 15 to 28 percent per year for the last three years and it has not been slowed by recent economic factors. Furthermore 85 percent of those with broadband in their home have a cell phone. (See http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2009/Home-Broadband-Adoption-2009.pdf.)

We all have witnessed the IP revolution over the past 15 years. IP communication continues to expand for burg panels, and looks to be the preferred method for many applications. It has been widely adopted and is the hands down best method for transmitting alarms to a central station. IP communication comes in a few different flavors but for the purposes of this article we’ll simplify them down to two: wired and wireless. As we know from the above data, wired IP is found in a high percentage of homes and businesses. Wireless IP is also growing exponentially and is a part of our lives every day in the form of our cell phones, credit card machines and dozens of M2M communication devices that we come in contact with unknowingly each day.

Hertel added, “We used to rely on dial up almost exclusively, if high security was required RF or multiplex was used. Now, with POTS going away or becoming unreliable we need to move with technology, just like in the late 70s and early 80s when the phone company said no more McCullough loop and direct wire, and then in the 90s with no more multiplex. So here we are today with the same thing, no more POTS. It’s just another evolution in alarm transmission.”

Wired or wireless: Which is best for my application?

In the past few years we have seen some rather distinct trends appear that really start to define some market segments as far as wired and wireless IP communication. Wired IP communication works best when it is part of a managed network or Internet connection that has battery backed up routers and some type of routine IT maintenance, like what you would find at a typical business or larger commercial environment. Since most of us don’t have that type of service in our homes, combined with the fact that we like to occasionally change DSL or Cable provider for the best service and rates available, wired IP may not be the most reliable method for these environments, which is why wireless IP is becoming the favorite method for residential burg installs.

Derric Roof of Central Alarm in Tucson, Ariz., stated, “We started in 1939 so we have seen a great deal of changes in communications. It is nice to now have panels that all we have to do is plug in a transformer and communicate over the cell network directly to our receiver. As people are continually dropping phone lines, Central Alarm Inc. has almost switched to 100 percent cell only to service our residential clients. It doesn’t get any easier than using a panel with all that built right on it to get it done fast!”

Wireless IP alarm communications have come a long way. It’s not just for back-up anymore. The ability to fully remote program over the cell is available and advances in user interfaces that exploit the built in SMS capability of these panels are becoming very popular providing the end user with the ability to arm, disarm, receive opening and closing reports, check status and even cancel alarms from their cell phone. In fact it’s these very cell phone features that provide this new kind of customers with peace of mind and a feeling of staying in touch with their homes and families, while being able to see added value in having a home burglar alarm.

By no longer being tethered to a phone line, all kinds of new possibilities are now available. Minimal installation time is now required, saving significant dollars in labor costs.

No matter what your preferred alternative network service is, one thing is certain. POTS are going away at an alarming rate and if you don’t address it in your company, you will be passed over by someone that has.

Mark Hillenburg is Product Architect for Digital Monitoring Products Inc. (DMP), Springfield, Mo.

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