Wireless Alarm Transmission Gathers Steam With Demise of POTS

TORRANCE, Calif. — As use of the traditional digital dialer continues to wane – hastened by lifestyle changes and consumer expectations for connectivity – alarm signal transmission is progressively becoming a wireless procedure.

Manufacturers, also spurred on by the demise of AMPS in 2008, have responded to the rapid wireless adoption by providing the marketplace with cellular-based and mesh network communications.

Security dealers such as Atlanta-based Ackerman Security Systems are reaping the benefits of the shift away from traditional methods of signal transmission by installing Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), a cellular phone technology.

Using Honeywell’s GSM radio line, which includes an Internet-enabled version, Ackerman is taking advantage of customers who want to stay connected to their homes and businesses using Web-enabled cell phones, PDAs and computers. New services made possible by the wireless technology allow dealers to create recurring revenue by selling remote alarm control using text messaging, real-time mobile video and more.

“We are picking up to anywhere from $5 to $15 a month extra for this product and service,” Ackerman COO Jim Callahan tells SSI. “We’ve designed some different plans to make it easy and affordable for whichever end of the market we may be talking to.”

Callahan says about 25 percent of Ackerman’s new accounts are adopting GSM and the trend seems to be growing thanks to tech-savvy younger buyers and customer’s who want to stay connected with their security system.

The technology not only meets customer needs today, it allows dealers to evolve to meet needs in the future, says Gordon Hope, general manager of Honeywell’s AlarmNet services.

“Dealers and integrators who want to sustain and grow their businesses must keep up with the lifestyle and technological changes their customers are making,” he says.

Wireless alarm communications is also filling the void left by the diminishing use of POTS as households give up their landlines for cell phones and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. The economy is also being blamed for the accelerating shift away from POTS.

According to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of U.S. households opting for cell phones exclusively has for the first time surpassed those that use only landlines. The report, released in May, suggests the growing number of cell-only households is due in part to the recession, which has many families pinching pennies wherever possible.

Twenty percent of households had only cell phones during the last half of 2008. That was an increase of nearly 3 percentage points over the first half of the year, the largest six-month increase since the government started gathering such data in 2003. Six in 10 households have both landlines and cell phones, according to the federal survey.

While GSM service is performed with a combination of alarm product and cell service, and in some cases a signal processor, wireless mesh technology operates independent of signal carriers.

Ed Bonifas, vice president of Alarm Detection Systems (ADS) of Aurora, Ill., has overseen the building of an extensive wireless mesh network in the Chicago area using AES-IntelliNet equipment by manufacturer AES Corp.

“I have 7,000 AES radios inside of a 30-mile radius. Because I have a sizeable customer base in a compact market, I was able to build a very good network and have it completely proprietary and not pay anybody else for service on it,” he says.

Among its attributes, Bonifas says wireless mesh networks provide flawless reliability and redundancy since each radio node provides a path to the monitoring center. If one radio breaks down, the network by design finds another radio to forward the signal.

GSM and wireless mesh technologies will serve dealers and their customers well going forward based on individual market demands, says Bonifas, who is a member of SSI‘s Editorial Advisory Board and a first vice president of the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA).

“There are huge advantages in the world at large to have these technologies,” he says.

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