While many in the security industry think the move to IP (Internet Protocol) is the only technical change they will have to deal with, the emergence of wireless technologies is making inroads into almost every aspect of security.
Of course, wireless communications is not new to the industry, as armed response companies have been using radio to transmit alarm signals for years. The new kid on the block is the ability to avoid the cost and hassles of cabling when setting up a network for sensors, cameras and so forth. And this extends into industry as well where cables are being avoided in favour of wireless connections.
Paulo Da Silva, Honeywell Field Solutions’ regional sales leader says the drive to wireless is not so much a matter of saving money on cabling or simplifying the network. In the right environment, the wireless option will help improve safety, optimise the environment and assist in ensuring compliance. Da Silva does note that wireless is not the silver bullet as it is a “complex enabling technology that requires deliberate consideration before broad deployment.”
One of the positives is maintenance. If a wireless router is down, it is easy to identify and replace it; there is no need to check cables. Similarly, upgrading to new technology is also easier as you do not have to ensure your cables are capable of handling the traffic. And then there is the freedom of movement; if you need to move a device you simply move it without worrying whether there is an access point nearby or gluing cables to the wall.
From a security perspective, cutting a cable can disable a traditional network, while a broken wireless router is easy to spot and fix. In some instances, a business may require that specific emergency messages get through to control rooms or equipment immediately and these situations could see some technicians more comfortable with wired networks.
Another potential benefit of cabled systems is Power over Ethernet (PoE), explains Da Silva. PoE means your UPS or generator can power your network switches and the attached devices when Eskom switches off. Naturally, many wireless devices can run off batteries as well, but this can add the hassle of battery management to someone’s schedule.
Another benefit of wireless networks is it is also possible to have separate networks in the same area without infrastructure hassles. For example, one network could be reserved for critical communications and prevent any non-crucial business data from hogging the bandwidth. Of course, the cost of a wireless system is rather high and this is the current disadvantage of these solutions.
Finally, the question of the security of the network itself must be considered. It is possible to hack wired systems, but you have to have a connection to the system (if your network is connected to the Internet this is another aspect to consider). On the other hand, wireless systems can be compromised from a reasonable distance away, opening them to additional security issues.
While wireless is certainly an option that more companies in a variety of industries are getting comfortable with, it is a new technology that offers significant cost and time saving advantages that requires serious consideration by industry players. They say change is as good as a holiday and as always, intelligent design and careful planning will determine the right solution for each situation – as change is what drives progress.
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