The Past and Future of Wireless Connectivity

Wireless communication opens new avenues for security.

Fire Alarm
• Device to Field Controller. Emerging market product using lithium batteries with a three- to seven-year life for manual pull stations and smoke detectors. Acceptance outside the residential market is slow because of lack of acceptance of reliability and technical performance.
• 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 existing phone lines. Accepted by UL and AHJ, since product allows for dual monitoring signal paths.
• Controller or Host to World. Early emergent market with significant growth potential once data transmission issues have been resolved. Acceptance in market will be slow because of lack of approval by UL and AHJ and lack of full understanding of technical performance of portable devices.

Wireless technology in fire alarms is appealing in residential environments because smoke detectors are treated as just another wireless addressable device. When it comes to commercial applications, wireless technology comes into its own in the renovation of old buildings, where the running of conduits would be unsightly and expensive. The same applies to places like museums and ornate boardrooms.

Wireless communication also includes cellular backup monitoring, which is cost effective but does not offer continuous two-way communications monitoring.

• Device to Field Controller. Early emergent market with huge growth potential once data transmission issues have been resolved.
• Controller to Host or Controller to Controller. Used extensively where connectivity between buildings requires transmission of video images back to a central monitoring center and installing underground conduits is cost prohibitive or impossible.
• Controller or Host to World. Emergent market with huge growth potential once data transmission issues have been resolved.

Using wireless communications to transmit images from cameras to a switching or recording device is not a widely adopted practice, mainly because of cost, power and range limitations. However, in the area of mid-range (500 to 3,000 feet) and long-range (5,000 to 20,000 feet) communications, wireless has become a popular medium, especially between buildings on a college or business campus or where a property company has a number of buildings in a city center. In all cases the objective is to provide monitoring of all cameras from a central monitoring location when underground conduits cannot be installed.

Access Control
Access has been the one aspect that has moved the most slowly into the realm of wireless communications. In each of the three main categories of wireless transmission, access control capacities are currently limited.

Wireless access control presents issues in power consumption, since electronic door locks and readers have to be continuously powered, so the savings in not running communication cables is not always significant. Thus the area of wireless communication in access control has often been limited to single-door systems. Security of data is also an issue, but encrypted formats have opened up a higher degree of confidence in this area.

Wyreless Access from Recognition Source is the first major player in this sector to offer a comprehensive package for wireless communication between reader and controller. The 900 MHz spread spectrum technology has made this aspect of communications much more feasible, but none of the group manufacturers has yet made it an integral part of their product range. A number of application-specific wireless access control products have recently come on the market, such as QuickSignal Aircraft Systems from Access Controls International, self-contained units used to protect fighter jets at foreign airports.

The Future
The tremendous growth in laptop computers and PDAs has made portable computing a reality. Even in the traditional computer world tremendous advances have been made in the last few years in the realm of wireless communications. With the advent of the 802.11 wireless communications, the umbilical cable attaching the computing device to the network has finally been broken.

Security systems that are computer based or contain an embedded processor are typically coming ex-factory today complete with an Ethernet TCP/IP port and all the applicable software connectivity tools to allow for easy connection to networks, especially LANs, WANs, VPNs and the Internet.