As wireless uptake gains momentum in the commercial and private sectors for ease of communication connectivity, are we seeing the same adoption of this technology in the security sector? Hi-Tech Security Solutions chatted to four industry representatives about the cost versus performance factors that come into play when making the decision to opt for hardwired or wireless.
Lee-Ann Andreka is a director at RDC, a company that supplies wireless products used to communicate a signal from a remote installation to a central control room environment. “VHF as a means of communication for intrusion detection has been used for many decades. In recent years RDC has designed, manufactured and supplied, with the help of a national base of distributors, the latest in communication equipment such as GPRS and SMS technology. All RDC communication devices, whether they are VHF transmitters, GPRS transceivers and TX SMS transceivers, connect seamlessly to wired or wireless devices installed at remote sites.
“Dual monitoring is fast becoming a much more affordable option as the control room base stations are very affordable, making it easy for security companies to install different types of cost-effective solutions,” she added.
Ingo Mutinelli is the sales director at Elvey. The company is a distributor and integrator of electronic security equipment. “There is a large and growing range of wireless products on the market that complement the hardwired versions. Elvey distributes the premier brands DSC and Visonic, which are intruder detection technology on a wireless and hybrid platform.”
Matt de Araujo is head of products at IDS, a company that locally manufactures a range of electronic intrusion detection equipment and distributes international CCTV brands. “The range of Duevi wireless outdoor and indoor intruder detection and alarm systems is comprehensive and includes passive infrared detectors, door detectors, pet friendly PIR for indoors, curtain lookdown detectors for outdoors and outdoor volumetric PIRs. All of these products are fully supervised, that is, they report back to the control panel which in turn communicates to the control room if programmed for conditions such as low battery, tampering, missing detector and RF jamming.”
GPRS makes the difference
Andreka said that wireless products, as a means of communicating alarm type signals from a remote site to a central control room, have been used for more than 30 years in South Africa and Africa. “However this practice has been localised to an area of 50 km due to ICASA licensing regulations. Wired products as a means of communication, such as land lines, were used for installations both inside and outside of the 50 km radius.
“With the latest in wireless communication technology, security companies can increase their monitoring area nationally within the borders of South Africa and cross border too. Now that GPRS and TX SMS products are available and are very affordable, we are finding that the industry is making use of the latest technology,” said Andreka. “We have also noticed that the end-user is much more aware of what is available and they want to control what is happening at their homes and businesses. In essence, wireless communication products are becoming more popular because they are reliable and cost-effective.”
Ernest Mallett is Tyco Security Products’ regional sales manager for sub-Saharan Africa. The company is a supplier of integrated security management solutions. “Wireless is gaining ground because systems can now be pre-commissioned on the bench before arriving at the installation premises. This reduces the installation time required at the home or business.
“The systems are very end-user friendly, thus reducing the need for strangers to enter the facility to provide maintenance. Maintenance and configuration changes can be done remotely. Many businesses and homes run wireless Internet and this adds to the safety and security of the home. There are no isolation faults or any other problems more commonly found with a traditional wired system.”
“We are seeing low communication costs when systems use IP communications over broadband and GPRS. Greater RF range can work in almost any application without the need for a repeater. Detection devices can be moved around when required, and systems can be added to at any point. Indoor and outdoor wireless solutions including sirens, strobes, smoke and gas detection are all wireless with long battery life,” he continued.
Mutinelli said that previously wireless products had earned a bad reputation as they were both poorly made and misunderstood. “Unfortunately, homes with double brick skins and large metal gates make wireless communication more difficult. We now find that hybrid solutions are the trend. Typically you would find a hardwired panel combined with some wireless components. This provides the best of both worlds.”
“Wireless technology is definitely improving and the understanding of its benefits and limitations has also grown. Visonic is using more sophisticated frequency hopping wireless signals, which means that the signal is much harder to jam and provides excellent encryption. By improving the resistance to jamming, wireless products will continue to gain popularity,” Mutinelli added.
De Araujo said that wireless technology is popular for a number of reasons. “Firstly, one can finish an installation in a much shorter time period than with hardwired systems, thus allowing installation companies to do more installations with fewer resources.
“Wireless detectors can often be installed where it is difficult to install a hardwired version. This would typically be where buildings are remotely situated away from other buildings in the business’ cluster, where there is a multi-level environment, where there is no available power supply or where the ceiling void is too small for accessibility.
“Wireless can be used as a temporary security system prior to complete approval of a permanent solution. Because it can be deployed quickly, it is also ideal for rapid installation before busy holiday periods. In outdoor detection, because no expensive trenching and conduits are required, it contributes greatly to cost savings for customers.”
Not the only option
Another advantage that Mutinelli noted is the price of the consumables used in hardwired systems. “Typically these would include the wire itself, the glue and copper. Unfortunately, some installers are taking shortcuts to reduce costs by using inferior tin core cable and cladding. Installations are therefore being compromised. In addition, the increasing cost of labour is a big factor to consider. A wireless installation could take approximately two hours whilst the same hardwired installation takes a day or more. While wireless is still more costly in some ways, costs are coming down and making it ever more competitive.
“Wireless is not foolproof and there are installations in certain environments that will not work well. This would include instances where the installation is close to power lines, due to magnetic interference. In addition, close proximity to military bases and police stations might also be problematic due to radio communication interference. In other areas it could be mainly due to poor communications coverage, much like losing cell phone signal in some areas,” Mutinelli explained.
“Most environments are conducive to wireless communication products as long as there is a frequency spectrum available and/or mobile network availability and reliability,” added Andreka.
De Araujo said that because hardwired solutions are immune to RF jamming and interference, they are often the installation of choice. “Additionally, there is no requirement for battery changes. However, wireless is a good alternative where aesthetics are important. It is also easy to enrol wireless devices onto other systems.”
“I do believe that for the foreseeable future there will be a place for hardwired solutions. However, wireless technology will continue to gain market share as more repeaters are made available and transmission becomes cleaner. At the moment the overriding issue is cost, as wireless is currently approximately three times more expensive on the product side. It must be noted that some of these costs are absorbed by the reduced installation costs,” said Mutinelli.
“It is important that installers are educated on the benefits and limitations of wireless technology. They must be made aware that by simply moving a detector a couple of centimetres one way or another, the reception could be either improved or hindered.”
Elvey Security Technologies: www.elvey.co.za
Tyco Security Products: www.tyco.com
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