The Past and Future of Wireless Connectivity

Wireless communication opens new avenues for security.


Wireless connectivity is becoming one of the hottest topics in the security world. It is in many respects the answer to a multitude of issues across the spectrum of the electronic security marketplace, and it adds the benefit of convenience to many security procedures. For instance, if Jodi Smyth in her New York office realizes she has not made the required changes in the corporate access control database to allow her boss, who is en route to Los Angeles, to enter the company offices in California, she can use her PDA to wirelessly connect to the access computer and make the changes, averting a potentially embarrassing problem.

Wireless connectivity also allows Dick Smith to provide backup burglar alarm and fire alarm monitoring without having a second phone line installed at all the company locations. By going wireless, he saves money on additional phone lines and also provides the insurance company with a second independent monitored communications path to all the protected locations.

And when Gregory Norman receives an e-mail from a colleague at a remote location that consists of a picture of a former co-worker walking out the rear door of the facility with a box of merchandise, he uses his laptop with a wireless connection to immediately connect to the local hub at the facility and review the location's historical information without leaving his office.

All the above scenarios are examples of situations that were never before considered part of security wireless communication but are now becoming an integral part of it. For the past decade or so, wireless connectivity for security applications has stayed within the narrow confines of the security world, with specific application-oriented solutions, but in the past five years or so wireless connectivity has entered a whole new dimension.

Traditionally, wireless communication for burglar and fire alarms, CCTV and access control falls into three main categories: device to field controller; controller to host or controller to controller; and controller or host to world.

Burglar Alarm
• Device to Field Controller. Mature product using lithium batteries with three- to seven-year life for door, panic, motion and glass break sensors, as well as keypads and other initiation devices. Used in residential market, but slow in commercial market.
• Controller to Host or Controller to Controller. Mature product using custom transmitters and receiver network (e.g. Honeywell's AlarmNET). Provides central stations with a wireless connectivity tool. Especially popular in commercial and industrial market as backup for the existing phone lines. Also includes cellular transmitter units.
• Controller or Host to World. Early emergent market with significant growth potential once data transmission issues have been resolved.

The driving force for using wireless technology from the device to the control panel was economic, since the greatest cost in the burglar alarm installation process is labor. The ability to undertake even the most complex installation in hours rather than days is very appealing to security company owners. Installers are often paid on a per-unit basis rather than on an hourly basis to increase productivity.

Providing a wireless communication channel for alarm monitoring and reporting is not a new concept. The non-cellular network is expensive to set up, but once working provides for a solid and effective solution to monitoring. The only potential cloud on the horizon is the potential for failure in Internet-based monitoring. If the product relies on a DSL/T1/cable modem connection, it will be subject to outages beyond the control of the security company.

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