Cream of Crop RF Services Help You Rise to the Top

Do you remember when milk was delivered to your doorstep? The milk came in glass bottles with a generous amount of cream at the top of the milk. I can remember a small glass tube siphon device that could be plunged into the milk to allow easy extraction of the cream from the top of the bottle.

What does this have to do with security work? Probably not much, except it is an example of how the right tools and skills help security dealers provide both new and existing customers with today’s cream of the business — mobile radio monitoring services.

Most security installations today come with the offering of alarm monitoring. This is the lifeblood of the alarm dealer in that it provides a necessary base of recurring revenue. However, how many of you are providing customers and prospects advanced monitoring communications such as voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) or mobile radio? VoIP is a technology we have recently discussed in other articles and I am sure we will revisit soon. However, this month we are going to focus on some of the terminology and exciting mobile radio communication technology opportunities.

Know Your Radio Monitoring Terms Mobile radio monitoring systems and networks for the security industry have been around for several decades. Early adoptions of these systems were challenging in that alarm dealers were limited in coverage areas due to the availability of radio towers. Now, radio monitoring networks are supported nationwide by major telecom companies such as Cingular, Verizon, Sprint, Alltel and T-Mobile. In October 2006, Cingular completed its latest GSM national network system (3G/HSDPA) after first starting 23 years ago and recently merging with AT&T wireless.

As with any rapidly evolving and emerging technology, there are many new terms and acronyms. Let’s look at a few of the more common ones.
0/0.5 G (zero-generation standards) — Preceded modern cell phone technology with standards such as the half-duplex technology, PTT (push to talk) and MTS (mobile telephone services). Circa 1960s.

1 G (first-generation standards) — First analog cell phone standards such as popular AMPS (advanced mobile phone system) and CDPD (cellular digital packet data). Circa 1980s.

2/2.5/2.75 G (second-generation standards) — Represented popular, widespread usage of digital cell phone standards. Frequently referred to as PCS (personal communication service). GSM (global system for mobile communications) cellular networks operate in 900-1800MHz range. Also includes GPRS (general packet radio service) and SMS (short message service). Circa 1990s.

3/3.5 G (third-generation standards) — Simultaneous digital voice and nonvoice data transfer such as video. Not an upgrade of 2G networks because different frequencies (5MHz) are used. Includes WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access), HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access), HSUPA (high speed uplink packet access). Circa 2000s.

4 G (fourth-generation standards) — Referred to as “3G and beyond.” Will include variations of 1G and 3G technologies, such as WIMAX (worldwide interoperability for microwave access). Circa 2000s.

Mesh networking — A method for routing data between nodes. Allows for alternate paths and redundant confirmation. Multiple nodes in a network act as transceivers to improve transmission integrity.

Offering Clients RF Alternatives
Since the early 1970s, digital alarm monitoring over POTS (plain old telephone service) has been the basic communication standard. I can remember many years ago installing hundreds of universal alarm digital dialers such as the old Acron DD-2. While this method is still a very popular basic service, we all know its vulnerabilities to simple compromise. This is why we should look today at the variety of alternative RF monitoring technologies.

Remember, it is always a good idea to at least offer customers a full range of services. It is also very important to have this offering documented and signed by the customer. This way, if the customer comes back later after someone has compromised their system and claims, “You didn’t tell me that that could happen,” you can show them the signed documentation. I have found a simple checklist works nicely.

Radio frequency (RF) security equipment specialists, such as AES-IntelliNet, Tela-Link and Telular, and major RF-equipped alarm control manufacturers provide communication devices that can be programmed and placed on either a dedicated regional or national radio network. Monitoring on these networks is provided by most national alarm monitoring services. Is this currently a “cream” offering to your prospects?

Originally, radio networks had limitations and problems with direct line-of-sight reporting between the transmitter and the radio tower/receiver. Today, radio networks such as AES-IntelliNet provide what is called mesh network technology. Each alarm system uses a smart subscriber transceiver (SST) with all units acting as a transmitter, receiver, repeater and router.

Every SST in the system is a path to the central station (CS). If one path of communication is having trouble with reporting an alarm, the system network will automatically find another path to report through. Data finds the shortest and most reliable route to the CS and is usually received in 2-90 seconds. This is also completed by the technology task of redundancy in that signals are sent via several paths through the dedicated radio network. Systems like these are so reliable that they have UL-AA communication ratings for burglary and an NFPA 72 rating for fire.

Video Can Be Sent to Cell Phones When working with new digital transmission services, one should become familiar with the technology demands on services such as video frames out to cell phones. Management personnel love the idea of receiving real-time video out to their cell phones. Cell phone transmission providers typically have voice plans at less than 10kbps, or higher-priced data plans at 16-40kbps (see chart on page 22).

While much of this wireless video is transmitted in popular MPEG-4, some manufacturers, such as Comet Video Technologies of Mayfield Heights, Ohio, have proprietary codecs that can transmit frame rates as high as five frames per second (fps) in the voice cell phone range.

Currently, another popular area of wireless monitoring is the more common use of cell phone technology for alarm reporting. Quick and easy installations with systems such as the new GE Simon 3 GSM cell phone-monitored wireless alarm system are becoming very popular (see photo).

Keep in mind, however, that as these forms of advanced monitoring become more popular and commonplace, the art of jamming cell phone frequencies may become more common. You would be surprised at how easy it is to get low-cost jamming technology. Don’t forget your checklist.

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