Once considered too unreliable to deploy, wireless technology is as much a part of the vocabulary of today’s residential intrusion alarm dealers as recurring monthly revenue (RMR) or false alarms. Having been transformed during the past few years by both technology innovations and a sea change in how the technology is perceived, wireless intrusion is now proving it has what it takes to satisfy the wish lists of installers aWnd end users.
Overall, the introduction of wireless intrusion systems has greatly simplified the installation process for security systems of many sizes. The independence from cabling results in lower installation times and allows security installers to access a wider base of residential customers, rather than focusing solely on traditional hardwired systems alone.
Wireless technology provides the freedom to mount a device on nearly any wall or ceiling location, which is especially important in older homes and buildings where installing a wired alarm system could involve drilling through stucco or concrete cinderblocks. In addition, many wireless intrusion systems offer a quick enrollment installation feature that enables the security dealer to set the keypad in auto-detection mode to discover each device and add it to the system.
Innovations in areas such as range, battery life, built-in installation tools and signal robustness/reliability have all served to further the use of wireless intrusion in today’s market, making it an integral part of an alarm dealer’s offering. However, installers have always grappled with a few core issues that can make or break the success of a wireless installation. How this technology has evolved and, along the way, helped to alleviate many of these traditional pain points of wireless installation is nearly as important for alarm dealers as its future capabilities.
Tools for Proper Sensor Installation
The location at which a security installer mounts a device is one of the most important aspects of installing a wireless intrusion system. Where a peripheral is installed can impact that device’s ability to transmit information back to the panel. Placement testing is one way to ensure the panel can communicate with a particular wireless device, such as a keypad or motion detector. These tests are now as simple as pushing a button to test the device while it is held up near a specific location. Modern systems now come with an LED indicator designed to glow green to affirm mounting location or red if it is not optimal.
Without this feature, an installer would end up having to make multiple trips back and forth from the device to the panel to properly set up the sensor, move it to a better location and to retest the system. With placement testing, a device with this functionality built inside can remotely recognize whether the signal strength is strong enough to communicate with the control panel.
For installers this means placement of a device can be as simple as walking around with the unit in hand and waiting for it to light up. It also helps to lessen the likelihood of future problems, such as the security installer having to return to the property for a service call because the panel stops recognizing the devices all together.
Another helpful installation tool for security installers is the capability to quick enroll a keypad using automatic device discovery features of the panel. In quick enroll mode, the control panel can automatically detect a device, such as a keypad, and remotely grab the serial number and type of device. That information is then automatically communicated with the control panel. This feature can greatly reduce the time it would typically take to manually program a system, which would involve correctly entering the serial number of each device in the system without making an error.
Signal Strength and Avoiding Interference
In addition to the mounting location, if a device will be situated in a smaller home or in an area with an abundance of radio frequency signals, it is important to understand that additional radio frequency (RF) noise can impact the overall range of the wireless device.
Wi-Fi devices, such as smartphones and tablets, can interfere with a wireless security device’s ability to communicate back to the control panel. The alternating current of an electrical box can also interfere with the device if mounted too close or on top of the box, while the metal surface of the box can alter the characteristics of the antenna on each device, thereby reducing range.
If the placement test indicates the location is not ideal due to interference, then one option for an installer is to purchase and install a wireless repeater to increase the range and transmission capabilities of the wireless intrusion system. More robust systems available today can offer immunity from interference or drastically reduced “noise” from other appliances or systems, along with improved range that means increased distances between panel and sensor without the use of repeaters. Improved protection against signal interference, along with increased range, is also helping to pave adoption in commercial applications.
Some of today’s wireless systems also utilize the sophisticated 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to prevent the wireless signal from being “sniffed” or hacked, so the signal cannot be compromised through the air. This is another huge advantage when considering the overall robustness of wireless technology. Along with these other built-in functionalities, these advantages can result in reduced installation time, fewer system errors and improved profitability on the project.