Control panels escape the phone line lasso
The intrusion control panel market hasn't escaped the industry-wide push into IP technology. The growth of VoIP, the desire for access to data from the intrusion system and the trend toward other IP-based technologies in the surveillance and access control markets has created a demand for IP-ready control panels.
"Today, IP is alarm communications," said Tom Mechler, product marketing manager-intrusion control at Bosch. "It means communication to the central station over IP."
This methodology, said Mechler, "is a very fast, convenient way to get the signal to the central station."
"The request comes up a lot" for IP-ready products, said Clint Rodenbush, sales manager for Paradox USA Security Systems, a Canadian-based manufacturer. "They say they want IP because they have IP cameras."
Rodenbush said traditional phone lines are giving way to VoIP for communications as the infrastructure becomes more secure. He said IP is becoming the first layer and phone-based systems are being added to that.
"It used to be it was less secure to go over IP, but that's not the case anymore with VoIP," said Rodenbush, who noted that another reason customers want an IP-based system is so they can do more on their own.
"People want to monitor via software," he said. "They want to be at home and be able to surf the Web into their control panel." He said Paradox is currently working on equipment that provides remote accessibility.
Both commercial and residential users are exploring IP connections, said Jim Paulson, general manager of intrusion and access products at GE Security.
He said the "overriding issue" in residential is VoIP. "How do you deal with it?"
Connectivity can be achieved via a TCP/IP module, he said, but end users need to think about battery back ups for both the control panel and the router.
Mechler of Bosch agreed that an issue with IP as the communications method is that the connection point has to have proper battery backup. "There are some challenges with programming and firewalls," he added, "but backup for the router is critical."
For now, said Paulson, "the cleanest option" is to communicate wirelessly. GE, through a strategic partnership with alarm.com, provides a wireless path "that takes phone and VoIP out of the picture" (see related story on page 30).
This secure connection, he added, is an affordable alternative to VoIP and provides the desired access via the Web or even a PDA.
"More people are tech savvy," said Paulson, echoing Rodenbush, "and this gives them the opportunity to get more active data."
IP means you can do more
In addition to creating panels that have IP capabilities, those who spoke with Security Systems News agreed that intrusion systems are just a portion of a greater system that can operate from a single panel.
Paul Martin, director of marketing-commercial products at Honeywell, said commercial users are interested in managing day-to-day operations more efficiently, which in these times means talking with other systems via a network or serial interface.
On the commercial side, said Mechler, the desire is for integration with CCTV and access control. "It's a very real-world request," he said.
Integration can be accomplished machine to machine, he noted, or via software. Building automation, climate controls and lighting are also coming into the intrusion system, he said, although not as much as the other security-related systems.
Rodenbush noted the combination of the burglar alarm system with access control. "They go hand-in-hand," he said, noting Paradox has created a "truly integrated panel" that addresses these areas.
"Integration through software is the key" with commercial users, said Paulson. He said especially among larger systems, security is integrating with access control and interfacing with fire.
"In the commercial community you still see a desire to see life safety and fire separate," he said, "but interfaced with the system so it can, for example, shut down the doors."
This is possible without making everything IP addressable, but as IP becomes an increasingly accepted standard for distributing digital information, more control panel manufacturers will move in that direction.