Leaders in Perimeter Protection: An Exclusive Security Dealer Roundtable

Oct. 27, 2008
Panelists discuss outdoor protection technology advances and applications

Susan Brady: The sale and installation of outdoor perimeter security equipment often requires a different skill set than interior protection. Can you offer dealers some tips and pointers that they should follow to ensure that all components of the installation work to the correct specifications and are the right solution for the customer?

Bill Evenson, Vice President, Future Fibre Technologies: Historically, the outdoor perimeter intrusion detection systems (PIDS) business has always been one of some risk to the installer if not approached carefully and of great value-added reward when done well. History has also shown us that simply taking the technology solutions and installation techniques more widely used for interior applications and applying them outdoors rarely results in a successful project.

Three major developments have really revolutionized the outdoor sensor space. Interestingly, all three are direct responses by the sensor manufacturers to the higher demands and expectations of the users; and, as always of course, to the quest for lowered labor and infrastructure costs.

The most meaningful development to date is probably the application of sophisticated software algorithms to the signal processors. They analyze the myriad of “normal” outdoor events such as rain and wind and are now able to classify these signals as non-alarms. In some systems, these constantly evolving software techniques have now significantly lowered the rate of dreaded “false” or nuisance alarms to very acceptable levels and in some cases even eliminated them. This evolution alone has given some of the more mature outdoor technologies such as outdoor infrared and microwave (which suffered for years from a poor outdoor reputation) new life.

In the case of fence mounted cable-type sensors, military applications of these algorithms set the stage for a whole new class of fiber optic fence mounted sensors that require virtually no power or electronics infrastructure anywhere along the perimeter with all of the obvious benefits. As costs have lowered, these technologies have become more affordable and mainstream.

Gary Buth, Director of Technical Sales, Security Sensor Division, Takex America, Inc: Understanding the primary threat or concern a customer has is crucial to system design and specification. What types of weather will the sensors need to endure?

Each sensor has a specific function and detection capability, stay within the product's recommended range of operation. Each product or technology has its own strength and weakness, choose the best performance value of a sensor or technology based on the application.

If the customer wants to detect vehicle or equipment movement in or out of a specific area then a simple photo beam system may be sufficient. If there is a strong need for detection of people then a combination of perimeter devices may be required, such as outdoor motion sensors and photoelectric beams, even a fence system.

Verify all wire and cabling requirements as well as acceptable power supply voltage. Make sure that each sensors relay outputs meet the needs of the system type and control panel they are to be integrated with.

Scott Simmons, Eastern Regional Manager - Outdoor Solutions, Optex Inc: The most important thing to find out is what the customer wants to protect and what they expect the system to do. Similar to an interior system, there is no “cookie cutter” solution that fits all outdoor perimeter applications, but there are some things that need to be decided before proposing a system.

Is there a defined perimeter border that needs to be protected, or is area coverage more suitable? Are there elements within the area that might restrict the ability to use certain technology (i.e. inability to get a clear line of sight for photobeams, moving items which might affect motion detectors, ability for animals to enter the area, etc.)? Is the system going to be responded to by the police, or by a local/on-site guard? Is there CCTV which can be integrated to provide video verification of what caused the alarm?

All of these, and more, need to be addressed before a suitable solution can be suggested. I also recommend that sales and installation professionals who are interested in providing outdoor perimeter security attend accredited training classes to learn more about the different options and what to be aware of when offering outdoor solutions. Most of these are offered free of charge and many will earn the attendees CEU credits.

Larry Tracy, President/CEO, Aleph America : An outdoor photo beam installation must be analyzed to ensure that the proper product is being used. When using photo beams there are fundamental questions that need to be addressed:

a) Detection Distance - To determine which detection distance beam should be used.

b) Alignment procedures - Should be followed completely. Some 90% of photo beam false alarms are related to alignment.

c) Detection environment - What type of surroundings are within the detection pattern? Growing trees, shrubs, grass will affect an installation.

d) For multi-unit installations - Plan TX / RX placement carefully to ensure optimal wire usage & minimize any possibility for crosstalk.

Brady: Outdoor motion sensors, card access and other security integrated with alarm and video monitoring technology has become more cost-effective today. Once dealers complete a risk assessment how do they get the customer to put more emphasis on perimeter security when they have a limited amount of money to spend? Describe what you envision as a viable solution that covers interior and exterior security at the mid range system cost?

Evenson: Outdoor perimeter systems are really the only means available to provide any kind of an “early warning” for a property or facility. Even the best interior IDS and access control systems still potentially puts intruders only a window or a door away from the assets you are trying to protect.

From simple chain link to decorative iron configurations fencing, a modern update on the acoustical cable sensor can be an unobtrusive and very cost effective solution. Low profile, fiber optic cables serving as linear “distributed” sensors are now playing a major role in these designs as they are immune to lightning, simple to install and in some cases do not even require any outside electronics or power making for very low maintenance and support.

Buth: Discuss with your customer the fact that earlier detection can minimize potential theft, vandalism or physical harm to people and even help in the apprehension of suspects. Security design should take into account whether the building or facility is occupied or not during the period of security system use. A physical barrier such as a fence is very common in perimeter security. The heart of a system is its security or access control panel; one that offers programming features such as cross-zoning is very desirable. Incorporate multiple perimeter based sensors such as photoelectric beams and outdoor motion sensors and create a perimeter detection layer or layers. These perimeter devices can specifically report activity locally and via a central monitoring station after multiple devices are activated. Sensors connected to event driven CCTV cameras in combination with a networked multiplexer are an excellent way to record and report movement of people and to verify alarms remotely.

Interior building security consisting of door /window glass breakage and motion sensor devices along with access control products help deter and detect intruders. Perimeter sensors combined with interior devices will provide valuable information as to movement of persons both outside and inside a building. Security and access control panels can store information regarding individual alarm and supervisory events relating to intrusion as well as authorized users who may arm or disarm the system or gain access to a restricted area.

Simmons: When it comes to security, outdoor or otherwise, cost needs to be separated from value. We have always been great advocates of “Zone Protection”...layered security that starts at the farthest perimeter and works its way inward toward the ultimate asset, usually a building or such. By including outdoor perimeter security as part of a total solution, you not only add protection to outside assets, but greatly limit the opportunity for a breach of the interior system by providing early detection of an intruder. It also helps to eliminate situations that interior systems are unable or slow to detect.

When integrated as part of a total solution, the addition of outdoor perimeter protection is a minimal cost, especially where other outdoor solutions (CCTV, access, etc.) are being utilized and installation costs can be combined, or when using wireless solutions to minimize labor costs. Also, by providing outdoor solutions you may actually be able to reduce the amount/type of other detection that is used, exchanging interior protection for exterior protection (a photobeam across a row of bay doors, rather then contacting each door individually) or replacing multiple fixed CCTV cameras with a single PTZ camera (using less-expensive motion detectors to cover multiple areas and triggering presets on the PTZ). The best solution for any system is on that it protects the assets of concern and more, if possible. But when working on a budget, be sure to focus first on what the end user wants protected, and offer additional protection as an option.

Tracy : The addition of perimeter security moves the “Front Line” of the installation outside of the actual protected area (and in many situations prevents a break-in at the structure itself). This allows for a less elaborate interior detection setup in the interior, therefore allowing overall install cost to ideally remain the same.

Brady: Describe some of the unique new applications that are coming online or are in the future design phase which dealers should be capitalizing on.

Evenson: Most manufacturers will agree that all outdoor sensor technologies benefit from some form of visual assessment such as CCTV. Fortunately, economies of scale have driven the costs for these subsystems down to the point where they have become affordable even for outdoor use. At risk users have an increasing need to accurately locate, image and archive intrusion events via video for more targeted, quicker, up close assessment and response and for evidentiary archiving of the intruder images. Just like in the real estate business, the newest name of the game in outdoor sensors today is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! Outdoor sensor products can now accurately locate and pinpoint an intruder and can then swiftly direct CCTV cameras to these very small sections of the fence (as small as 10 to 75 feet) for high resolution assessment. Virtual, software defined “zones” are now here!

Buth: Solar powered perimeter photoelectric beam systems and solar tower product improvements make for an improved product offering today. New towers disguise smaller photoelectric beams so they are not noticed and do not detract from the general surroundings. Combination photoelectric beam and microwave sensors perform well in all weather conditions including rain, snow and even dense fog.

Simmons: Interactive video monitoring is definitely the future of outdoor protection, especially as a guard augmentation or replacement solution. Utilizing off-site operators to monitor a site via an integrated CCTV and outdoor perimeter detection system gives the end user the best of all possible worlds, at a considerable cost savings from traditional protection methods.

Tracy : The photo beams can be used by integrating cameras to see the line of sight during an alarm. New technology has come out where you can wire a camera using the existing photo beam wire so you can monitor the photo beam line of sight—no coax needed to for the camera.