Why not take control? - smartly through Cellsecure

September 2002 Infrastructure

The Pretoria-based company Cellsecure has been in the wireless security business since 1986, when it was founded by Julian Fine. While possessing an in-depth knowledge of radio and telemetry applications Julian always believed that the future lay with wireless and the introduction of GSM and the later SMS service was the answer to his dreams.

Cellsecure was substantially restructured and refocused on GSM during 1997 with five partners/directors joining Julian. Since then the business of the company has simply mushroomed and earlier this year it moved into new premises in Centurion with its now 46-member staff.

The initial focus for Cellsecure was home security although broader opportunities have opened up today. In home security the traditional approach is to install wired sensors that can monitor intrusion, for example, and notification of such an event would be relayed to a control room using radio transmission or a standard telephone line. Suitable response is then initiated by control room staff independently of the homeowner. In high-density residential areas such as Gauteng, radio transmissions can be unreliable with frequency limitations and channel congestion. If one relies on a normal telephone for alarm transmission the intelligent thief will merely cut your telephone or power line before intrusion. Both radio and telephone links are susceptible to outage in the event of our ever-common lightning strikes.

GSM is of course immune from all these problems and instead of voice, data can be sent in the form of an SMS so as to reduce cost. Cellsecure use the MTN network as a result of its ability to handle large numbers of simultaneous SMS messages. It has also come to a special arrangement with the service provider where they have a special rate of just 15c an SMS message.

Home security solutions

The home security solutions offered by Cellsecure are based on their locally developed range of SMS alarm systems and communicators as well as wireless sensors. All devices in the Cellsecure range are battery powered to provide continued operation in the event of mains power failure. Although the SMS communicator is connected to the mains power supply this only charges an internal battery in the device. This battery is capable of powering the communicator for a four to seven day period.

Lithium batteries power all of the PIR detectors and entry detectors manufactured by Cellsecure with typical lives in excess of five years. The Cellsecure system, being totally wireless allows easy location of movement detectors in the grounds of a property. The major advantage of this 'first line of defence' is that as soon as an intruder comes over the wall he will be detected. This initial detection sets off the siren and can turn on lights so the thief immediately knows that he has been detected. In the vast majority of cases this deters any further attempt to penetrate the physical property. Note that the external PIR detectors are easily adjustable to ensure that animals in the garden do not provide false alarms.

Inside the house both short-range PIRs and door guards are supplied by Cellsecure. The latter are used for both doors and windows and doors could include that of your gun safe. Naturally the system operates in zones, and interior areas like the bedrooms can be deactivated whilst maintaining full security on access from outside.

The SMS communicator can be programmed to report to up to five different numbers of the householder's choice. One of these naturally is the control room where software developed by Cellsecure allows a PC to forward the SMS to up to another 250 numbers. The other calls from the communicator could be the homeowner and his wife and could include friendly neighbours or a colleague if the householder is on leave outside of the home area. Access to the control panel from a cellphone is protected by a four-digit PIN number. This number is fully alphanumeric and allows use of upper and lower case for added security. In the highly unlikely event that the PIN falls into the hands of an unauthorised cellphone user the home owner is informed by SMS that a certain phone number tried to access his control system, so even the identity of the hacker can be obtained. An additional novel feature of Cellsecure communicators is that they have built in microphones. This allows you the ability to call into the communicator and listen to the sounds inside your house. For additional security all communications between sensors and the control panel uses virtually unbreakable rolling code encryption.


While providing a total security solution for the homeowner, the Cellsecure system offers many more features. This comes from the fact that the controller can be used to turn on or off any electrical device. As regards security this feature allows you to turn on outside lights just before you arrive home at night, minimising the risk of being hijacked. But you can also use it for your comfort or convenience to switch on airconditioning or underfloor heating, geysers, irrigation system or your pool or borehole pump. You can even switch on the microwave to heat up your evening meal in time for your arrival home.

Naturally, the innovative security solution offered by Cellsecure has been snapped up by other security businesses and banks in particular. After a comprehensive evaluation First National Bank (FNB) is now rolling out the system to protect their ATMs nationwide and the other major banking groups are expected to follow this example. The bank has reported that it lost R10 million last year through ATM break-ins and conventional alarm systems using telephone lines or radio had proved unreliable due to tampering or line cutting. FNB views the SMS alarm system as tamper proof, as any attempt to interfere with it will generate an alarm signal and a fast response unit will be despatched.

Farmers are putting the system in to control their irrigation and borehole systems and through using special sensors to protect their electrical cable from theft. The V7 telemetry tool from Cellsecure can be used to convert an existing wired alarm system into an SMS one, and it can also be used in the industrial or farming areas to monitor outputs from any type of sensor, be it for temperature, pressure, level or whatever.

The average family may not want to provide cellphones to all of their children and domestic workers and this is catered for through the provision of wireless keyring remotes. These provide all basic functions and when used to deactivate the alarm a special key tone will warn the user if there has been attempted intrusion. The activation of the remote also sends an SMS to the homeowner. The remote controls come complete with a panic button that can be operated in two modes. The first is the traditional one where the siren and strobe lights are activated. The second mode is unique in that intruders are not alerted but a 'panic SMS' is sent to both the control room and the designated cellphones.

Cellsecure is a vertically integrated company and is wholly self-sufficient. The R&D division develops new electronic hardware and software. The in house manufacturing facility (certified to ISO 9001) does the surface mount and through-hole population of the PCBs, and there is a facility for testing, packaging and despatch. As of this year Cellsecure is manufacturing even the GSM engine. All the products manufactured by Cellsecure are SABS and CE approved.

For the time being Cellsecure is focusing on the local market and it has appointed Tradefast 77 as its national distributor. Tradefast also holds the franchise in Gauteng for Trellidor. Although there is no direct export drive at present the innovativeness of the product has seen installations in countries throughout Europe, the Far East and the rest of Africa. The USA is one market not yet penetrated but this is because GSM is not yet in widespread use there. Of course Julian Fine points out that the products themselves are readily adaptable to other mobile standards such as code division multiple access (CDMA).

For more information: Cellsecure, 012 663 5123.

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