Emergence of Wireless Alarm System Installations a Result of Reliability, Affordability

Executives say wireless technology has gotten so good, there’s almost no reason not to use it when installing alarm systems.

WIRELESS IS FAST becoming the preferred way to install alarm systems in residential settings as well as small- to midsize commercial buildings. According to Security Sales & Integration’s 2014 Installation Business Report, 53% of intrusion alarm installations presently include wireless devices, and nearly a third of all projects (28%) are exclusively wireless.

There are three reasons for this trend, starting with the advent of 802.11, panel-to-network connectivity where a total-wireless approach has its distinct advantages. The second reason is an enormous effort on the part of security managers to better control installation labor. The third aspect is an infatuation on the part of the general public with the everything-wireless approach, which is sure to originate from nearly everyone’s use of mobile devices.

Regarding the third point, mobile solutions and the wireless connective technologies used in security are tied together in a relationship that not only makes sense, but can make you money (see How to Ramp Up RMR With Remote & Mobile Video). In a similar manner, smartphone and wireless alarm systems also intercept broadband/Internet services, not only from a central station monitoring standpoint, but also additional recurring monthly revenue (RMR) opportunities where security dealers sell interactive video verification, cloud storage and cloud signal processing through third-party services, such as Alarm.com and SecureCom Wireless.

A Growing Preference for Wireless

During the past 40 years, the technology used to protect homes and businesses has taken some radical turns. Those who worked with the first Frequency Shift Keying (FSK) wireless systems are sure to remember the problems these systems created when troubleshooting a house full of transmitters without individual identities. Most alarm veterans surely remember swearing to never use wireless again. But as they say, “never say never.” Today, not only have veteran installers changed their minds about using wireless, but many believe that wireless is the only way to go.

“Wireless has gotten so good that it doesn’t make sense retrofitting wires when a quality wireless solution is available,” says Greg Peninger, president of ProTex Technologies of Cedar Park, Texas. “If there are wires already there, we’ll repurpose them if we can. If it’s a small business with a drop ceiling, for example, we might run wires, especially if it’s a retail store where the front door gets a hundred openings a day. It really depends on the situation.”

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There is no denying, with the steady emergence of new, reliable and affordable wireless equipment, the security industry is on fire for wireless. Not only does wireless make the installer’s life easier, but it reduces labor costs. Peninger adds that it’s also ideal because the skill-sets necessary to retrofit wires in a large facility are associated with a dying art. On the end-user side of the coin, the use of wireless means less mess to clean up and shorter installation times.

Not only does wireless make the installer’s life easier, but it reduces labor costs. On the end-user side of the coin, the use of wireless means less mess to clean up and shorter installation times.

Enhancements Can Entice Prospects

The many wireless features that panel manufacturers now offer include myriad options or enhancements that go a long way to convincing new prospects to purchase a wireless alarm system. This is especially true of home control and automation features that essentially turn a common, ordinary alarm system into a daily luxury. Many of these enhancements assist in making the home or business more secure while creating a safer place to be, not to mention a savings in energy usage.

“Most every manufacturer has utilized Z-Wave and/or ZigBee wireless for certain automation features, such as lighting control, thermostats and locksets. Also, with the advent of broadband communicators and advanced cellular communicators, dealers, installers and end users have further options to access a system remotely through the Internet and their smartphones,” says Mike Steffancin, inside security sales consultant with Security Source, a security and fire/life-safety equipment distribution firm in Parma, Ohio.

For example, there are thermostats capable of communicating with a wireless security panel via the Z-Wave or ZigBee protocol. Using a broadband connection, the end user can read and adjust the temperature in their home or office in real-time. They also can adjust the thermostat’s set-points using their smartphones.

“There’s a smartphone app for this that allows the user to control Z-Wave home automation devices,” says Brian Morgan, a security consultant with Allied Fire & Security of Spokane, Wash. “Z-Wave and ZigBee have an effective range of about 30 feet, but because this is a mesh technology, you can build your system out as you add devices.”

In other words, powered devices that use Z-Wave and ZigBee are engineered to retransmit signals, similar to a repeater, which is referred to as mesh technology. This can stretch 30 feet into 150 or more with a number of powered devices throughout a protected space.

RELATED: As Technology Becomes More Complex, Expect Alarm Contract Forms to Be Complex

Lighting control is also a valuable home control feature, and Z-Wave and ZigBee make that possible in conjunction with a wireless security system.

“The new deal for us is the LED lightbulbs with Z-Wave built into them. We un-screw the old lightbulb and replace it with a Z-Wave bulb,” says Peninger. “It enables our installs to go smoother with fewer people involved. It makes the job super easy.”

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