The Quest for Idiot-Proof Products

False alarm problem? Don’t blame the equipment. The latest research by Security Sales & Integration shows that dealers cite equipment malfunction as the culprit in just 2 percent of instances. Although these findings may not reflect too favorably on alarm dealers and, especially, their customers, they are a tribute to the electronic security industry’s manufacturers.

But it wasn’t always this way. There was a time not so long ago when sensors and control panels were as prone to sensitivity and discrimination errors, and outright equipment failure, as the Boston Red Sox were to watching the World Series from home.

Considering the number of alarm systems installed today, imagine how out of control the false alarm problem would be – not to mention the compromise in public safety – if security products had continued along this path.

Fortunately, manufacturers learned from their mistakes. They faced these shortcomings with a vigorous commitment to incorporating the latest advances in technology, production techniques and quality control into their businesses. As a result, alarm system products became much more reliable, durable and affordable.

Unfortunately, in the process of ensuring the integrity of the electronics, some vendors became too removed from their customers and preoccupied about surpassing competitors with increasingly elaborate, and often overly complicated and unnecessary, features. This phenomenon contributed to the high percentage of alarms due to human error that continue to plague the industry today.

Manufacturers now recognize one of their core directives is to create products that are reasonably foolproof to install, program and use. It’s great to enhance functionality, but features must also enable equipment and people to interface as seamlessly as possible to truly make sense. The recent trend toward IT-security convergence has made user-friendliness even more paramount.

Electronic security product suppliers can’t afford to rest on their laurels. They are embracing these challenges by continuing to refine existing technology and products while researching, designing and marketing superior new ones. In addition, they are taking a proactive role in establishing performance standards. Meanwhile, some installing and monitoring companies are excelling by combining advanced technology with outstanding service.

Honeywell Glassbreaks, Keypads Combine Reliability, Ease of Use

Honeywell’s purchase of the Pittway Corp. a couple of years back gave it several of the most established product brands in the industry, such as Ademco and Intellisense. Today, one of the lines of devices Honeywell touts as its most reliable is the Intellisense FG-1600 Series of glassbreak detectors, which were introduced in 2000 and are currently in their third generation.

According to the company, the FG-1600 is the industry’s only glassbreak that incorporates hardwired, wireless and two-wire V-Plex polling loop technology to achieve a high level of installation flexibility. It also features multiple sensitivity selections to best match sensitivity to the application environment.

Honeywell is also high on its new 6270 TouchCenter keypad, which is compatible with all its Vista security controls. Features of the device include an intuitive, easy-to-read touchscreen display; single-button arming; message center; centralized, fingertip control of lighting, appliances and garage doors; and an event log.

Bosch Units Can Detect CO as Well as Smoke and Heat

When Bosch Security Systems picked up Detection Systems and Radionics a few years ago, it gained a couple of manufacturers with rich histories of producing highly regarded, award-winning products.

That proud history has continued with introductions such as the F22 Series of smoke detectors, which received the New Product Showcase (NPS) Product Achievement Award during the International Security Conference and Exposition (ISC) West in Las Vegas April 1.

The smoke detectors are unique in that they also detect carbon monoxide (CO) and, according to Bosch, feature new and better cleaning methods, with drift compensation in all chambers. The F220 uses a sophisticated algorithm to sample smoke, heat and CO in the protected space to determine if a real alarm exists. The addition of the CO element allows the device to discriminate between real fires and possible unwanted alarms.

NAPCO Motion Sensors Discriminate Assorted Stimuli

NAPCO’s Adaptive® dual-microwave/ PIR sensor technology helps set its alarm system products apart from the competition. First developed in the mid-1990s, the company now offers several second-generation detectors for both residential and commercial applications.

The units are embedded with microprocessors and include algorithms for analyzing signatures of false and valid alarm sources, wherein each is defined by size/amplitude, sequence, characteristics, etc. This allows the sensors to assess a signal from a target and determine if it is a human, animal, heater, wind or any one of a number of elements. The device recognizes any threat to its stability and monitors when that threat no longer exists, adjusting itself accordingly.

Upon installation, the units initialize in the first of its 12 sensitivity modes, enabling them to sample prevailing environmental conditions. Faced with hostility or tranquility, the detectors automatically select the most appropriate detection mode.

Optex Guarantees Accuracy of Its PIRs in Outdoor Settings

Optex is a company that has been on the cutting edge of sensing and detection technology for a number of years. Its VX-Series of false alarm-resistant outdoor PIR detectors incorporate “multiple detection pattern (MDP)” technology and cover areas up to 40 feet by 40 feet.

The devices utilize “nonmeshing” detection patterns that require movement of a human-sized target to generate an alarm. The company guarantees false alarm immunity against animals and other sources of false alarms.

According to the company, MDP technology is so stable that it permits 100-pound pet immunity in outdoor applications. Optex management’s goal is to educate the industry about how stable and reliable outdoor systems can be and how they can help differentiate an integrator’s or dealer’s business.

Nascom Switches Offer Departure From Traditional Reed Devices

Technology that helps reduce false alarms is not limited to major system components such as detectors and control panels. Today, breakthroughs are even being seen in contacts and switches. A leading example of that are the high security switches with Magnasphere technology being produced by Vancouver, Wash.-based Nascom Inc. They are designed for doors, windows or anywhere else that might call for a magnetic reed switch.

Traditional reed switches are somewhat fragile and can be defeated with an external magnet. Nascom’s switches use a small 3⁄8-inch press fit or an industrial style that can’t be defeated when placed in the zone area of the switch, going into alarm if a magnet is used to defeat it. The devices are also resistant to lightning and high current, working like a reed but acting like older mechanical switches as far as high current is concerned.

OzVision Is Spearheading Use of Video to Verify Alarms

In addition to providing products that reduce the likelihood of a false alarm, manufacturers are delivering solutions that help minimize the potential damage incurred through user error, one of the most promising of which is using video surveillance to verify alarm signals. Lynn, Mass., OzVision is at the forefront of this growing market segment.

The company’s product provides central monitoring stations the ability to visually verify alarms. The OzVision unit has a built-in modem and onboard memory. It dials off site to a monitoring station when triggered by an e

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