IP: Take it Easy!

April 10, 2013
Web-based technology gets simplified

The continued move to IP technology is a bonus for end users and customers who can reap so many more benefits than security alone, such as human resources functions, time and attendance and even analytics for retail and other markets. But one of the drawbacks, according to the systems integration community, has been learning the technology and how to deploy it effectively without spending too much time configuring it in the field.

Well, the manufacturers of the world have recognized this potential shortfall and are responding, with IP devices and connectivity that is becoming more intuitive, simpler to use and best of all—easier to install.

This week at ISC West 2013 in Las Vegas, it’s evident that many suppliers have been hard at work the drawing boards trying to address the concerns of the installing contractor. They understand that time is money, and a contractor may decide not to offer a new technology if it proves to be a headache for their technicians.

Across the board, in IP fire systems communicators, intercoms and even storage devices, IP connectivity is getting easier than ever.

New forms of fire communications

In fire products, which continue to move to GSM (Global System for Mobile) communications for primary and secondary signaling, ease of use is tagging along. According to Ken Gentile, product marketing manager for Fire-Lite Alarms and Honeywell Power in Northford, Conn., the company’s new 4G version of its IP/GSM fire alarm communicator “seamlessly connects to the dialer of any fire alarm panel with no additional configuration required, resulting in shorter installation times,” which of course equates to an immediate labor cost savings. The IPGSM-4G, highlighted by Honeywell Fire Systems America at ISC West, eliminates the need for POTS lines and replaces them with cellular/4G or Internet/IP communications.

The product also lends flexibility to the central station or third party monitoring provider. The IPGSM-4G’s dual path technology offers central station communication via any of the three configurable communication paths including GSM only, IP only or IP primary and GSM backup. It can be configured for cellular only operation to provide a quick solution for installations where phone lines or Internet service are unavailable. This multi-GSM platform communicator is also capable of transmitting fire alarm events over any of the three (2G, 3G or 4G) cellular communication platforms, depending on signal availability.

“In the next few years, there will be a significant change in fire alarm communications that will have an impact on many installations across the country. For those having already upgraded their customers to IP or wireless-based communications platform, it will be no surprise. For those waiting until the last minute, a hectic period of transition could be in their future,” said Gentile.

Honeywell Power currently offers the IPGSM-4G to any existing fire alarm control panel that has a DACT. It allows the installer to configure the communicator to talk to a central station over any of the three communication paths. By utilizing IP- or GSM-based technologies, the installer can select the appropriate communication path that meets their needs and effortlessly configure their fire alarm system to begin transmitting events.

Keeping it simple and effective

Intercoms and paging systems are increasingly IP based and Barix released and is showing at ISC West a simplified multi-point paging and intercom, designed to connect fixed and mobile devices and “strip away the complexity of IP,” said Johannes G. Rietschel, chief executive officer and founder of Barix AG. “The new paging solution allows integrators to set up multi-point systems in minutes,” he said.

The plug-and-play solution combines fixed and mobile paging to extend reach and capability, while removing configuration hassles typically associated with IP.  Dedicated Barix paging firmware enables the paging master to automatically identify all zones and Barix IP hardware on the network, including other paging stations and receivers.  In addition, a Barix iOS paging app enables iPhones and iPads as paging devices—cleanly integrating mobile capability into the overall solution.

“We’re essentially delivering a solution where customers can plug in cables, connect loudspeakers and talk,” Rietschel said. The Barix IP Paging solution includes all pre-configured hardware, including paging masters and receiving devices equipped with the IP paging firmware. 

"Since our inception in 2002, we have focused on simplicity in the IP audio field, which manifests even in patents we hold. Those who have tried to set up an IP phone system and connect it to a paging system understand the challenges. Configuration and deployment of most IP-based audio systems is still way too complicated. Not every installer is an IP expert.”

The complexity often starts when an installer plugs a technical device onto an IP network. How do you get to its IP core to configure it?  

“One invention which all our audio products feature is the (patented) function of announcing the IP address the device acquired through the audio port. Another is a (patented) function which the device uses to determine a free address on a network without DHCP, (and without auto-IP), which then is announced and can be used for configuration by browser.”

“There is more on the application level as well.  For example, auto discovery and auto configuration of the available devices in the simple paging solution so it can be, under most circumstances, just be plugged onto the network and used.”

In the video storage market as well, network video recorders are getting easier to deploy and more fully suited for small and medium businesses. LenovoEMC, a joint venture between Lenovo and EMC that includes the Iomega network storage product business, unveiled a new line of NVRs embedded with the Milestone Arcus VMS solution at ISC West.

The new LenovoEMC NVRs are the first in the industry to feature Milestone Arcus, an open platform IP video management software. The integration of the VMS platform is just one way the company is making the NVRs simpler to deploy.

Easy set up, hybrid capability

The units provide power on simple installation that auto-detects cameras on the network and speeds their configuration in the system, said Bill Hansen, global product manager for LenovoEMC. Milestone Arcus also features an intuitive web client interface for viewing live or recorded video, searching and exporting evidence.

“It’s a ready to go, out of the box solution,” he continued. “Not only are the cameras plug-in and auto-detect, but it can also be used with analog cameras with encoders that can be easily detected and configured,” he said.

“The auto detect feature is very important to the systems integrator and we recognize that,” Hansen said. “The more NVRs the integrator can set up quickly enables them to move to the next installation.”