More than security

May 2011 Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection

Home automation can integrate security functionality.

Intruder alarm installers today face a highly competitive environment and a market not growing as fast as it could do. Intruder alarm integrators typically offer CCTVs, DVRs, access controls, automatic gates, intercoms as part of a total package. The intruder alarms available are not highly differentiated, all typically offering the same features and capabilities with little consumer brand recognition. As a result, price competition in established markets is fierce, as end-users know that any alarm installation company listed in the phone book is likely to be able to offer a similar system.

Cytech home automation systems provide an alternative and an additional source of revenue that is readily accessible to electrical engineers who have developed their interest in smart home technology and its intruder alarm capabilities.

A security system, or more accurately, an intruder alarm system is an essential part of most homes in most developed countries. Alarm systems typically have one or more keypads, magnetic sensors on external doors and windows and one or more motion sensors or passive infrared detectors (PIRs) within the house. When the alarm system is armed, any intrusion detected by the sensors causes the sounders to be activated, and perhaps the alarm monitoring company to be notified.

Many home owners install security systems to obtain the benefits of lower insurance rates. However the true benefits of home security far exceed any savings in insurance. When the alarm system is connected to a central home automation controller, or is part of a home automation system then an intelligent home becomes possible.

A basic means of integrating security with lighting is the signalling of events from the former to the latter. Most simple alarm systems have a few outputs that are triggered by say, an intruder alarm or the system being armed and disarmed. In this manner, the lights can be made to switch on in the event of an alarm or to switch off when the system is armed. In a practical home automation system, it is only necessary to control strategic lights so that they can respond to predefined events.

More sophisticated security systems are available that are well suited to act as the main controller in a home system or to communicate with another controller. Such systems have many programmable outputs as well as the ability to communicate via a serial interface like RS232 or Ethernet to lighting and other third party products. Events like the arming and disarming of the security system, movement in any zone, opening and closing of doors and windows and the occurrence of specific alarms like intruder, fire, and power failure can be linked to lighting and other subsystems in the home. This allows the security sensors to play a larger role in the intelligent home than just detecting intruders. Various sensors in the home include motion, doors, windows, temperature and light act as eyes and ears for the intelligent home.

Home automation is not just for the very rich, with full scene control of every lighting circuit, and entertainment systems with touchscreens in every room. It should be understood that it is not necessary to be able to control every light and appliance in the house, to have a practical home automation system.

Any reasonably sized house can be a candidate for automation. The key to practical and affordable automation is the integration of strategic appliances, lights, security and other subsystems in the home to create an intelligent home which provides comfort, convenience and energy savings for the occupants. I believe there is a large untapped opportunity to bring affordable home automation incorporating smart security systems to a much wider market.

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