Perimeter Detection Gets Closer to Home

Contractors usually ask their customers what kind of system they want, where they want it and when they can install it. They don’t always ask their customers why they need electronic security.

It’s not likely an installer would hear that customer say they want a system to catch a wrongdoer in the act. More often than not, a government agency, company or family wants a security system to keep an intruder from getting inside in the first place, which is the concept behind perimeter detection.

“Why do people put in security systems? They don’t put in security systems to catch people,” confirms Rob Blair, president and CEO of sensor and CCTV system manufacturer Optex Inc., based in Torrance, Calif. “All of the sirens going off and police responding is nice, but what I really want is just to keep them out completely.”

However, because of previous false starts for some sensor technologies, the biggest skeptics to convince when it comes to installing aren’t customers – it’s contractors.

However, they might be persuaded by the benefits of installing an outdoor sensor system, like giving the end user a more complete security solution, increasing recurring revenue through additional service calls, and increased peace of mind for the customer.

While perimeter detection has long been a concept saved only for large industrial and government customers, advances in technologies are allowing small commercial and residential customers to tap into the benefits of offering perimeter detection as part of their overall security system. In turn, that’s allowing smaller dealers to gain a new form of revenue while providing security that goes beyond the front door.

Stopping the Criminal Before the Crime Takes Place

It’s common sense that a crime cannot take place without a criminal present. With all the internal sensors, CCTV systems or links to monitoring a security system may have, that system will still likely fail to prevent a crime if an intruder has gotten past the outside walls.

There are nonelectronic means of preventing an intrusion before it happens like fencing, security guard services and physical barriers (see sidebar on perimeter barriers on page 48 of the August 2004 print edition of SSI). Even a simple “Protected by XYZ Security” alarm company sign can give a potential intruder second thoughts. However, one who intends to trespass may not be intimidated by any of these intrusion protections. Worst of all, if the intruder breaks down the fence, sneaks past the sleeping guardsman or thumbs their nose at the sign, there is no way to know an intrusion is about to take place until the building’s internal alarm system kicks into gear. By then, the intruder is already nearly finished committing their crime.

That’s where a perimeter intrusion detection system has an advantage. Using several different types of sensors (see “Making Sense of Sensors” sidebar on this page), it can instantaneously detect when someone is where they are not supposed to be. From there, the premises’ owner can take whatever action deemed necessary to stop the intruder, whether it’s an alert to a monitoring center, a call to the authorities, an audible warning or the dispatching of security guards.

“Some people will sell systems and to save money, they say they’ll put PIRs [passive infrared sensors] in the house,” says Tab Hauser, president of New Hyde Park, N.Y., magnetic switch maker Tane Alarm Products. “You’re inside the perimeter, and that’s not the greatest security. Why wait for the alarm to go off inside when it can go off before?”

Home Could Be Sweet New Market for Detection Systems

Perimeter detection has long been thought to be something only meant for large-scale facilities, usually owned by the government or multinational corporations. Most people think of perimeter security systems as those surrounding defense facilities, nuclear power plants or large factories. However, the same kind of advancements in technology that made security systems more accessible for small business and residential customers are coming into play for perimeter systems.

That includes perimeter systems for the home. Up until now, perimeter security for a home was an outdoor light with a motion sensor that lit up if someone entered the front yard at night. However, manufacturers are now looking to bring sensor-driven perimeter detection to the home.

Just two decades ago, the concept of any home security system was thought to be attainable only by those in the highest tax bracket. Lee Travis, CEO and chairman of the board of Bellevue, Wash., residential integrator Home Technologies Inc., says installers will latch onto providing home perimeter detection when Middle America homeowners can install perimeter systems that function the same as those surrounding Beverly Hills mansions, but at a much lower cost.

“There will be more middle-market users when some of the cameras and DVRs become a less expensive way to accomplish the same thing,” Travis says.

However, Howard Richardson of Honeywell Home & Building Controls in Mercer Island, Wash., warns that now may not be the time to expect much more than a high-income clientele for residential perimeter systems. “Perimeter protection is more of a luxury extreme,” says Richardson, a member of Security Sales & Integration‘s Editorial Advisory Board. “The higher end of homes put sensors on fences and gates, but the everyday Joe doesn’t because there’s not much value. The financial barrier is what keeps them from doing it.”

Despite that, there are some for whom the home market is already the basis of their perimeter detection business.

Tane Alarm Products specializes in magnetic contacts for doors and windows that can act as a low-cost perimeter detection to alert an alarm owner of an intruder before they get in. Because of the cost – which can be marked in cents rather than dollars – and the ease of installation, magnetic contacts are an attractive perimeter solution for homeowners (see sidebar on page 46 of the August 2004 print edition of SSI).

Richard Crist, who works sales for contractor Security Concepts-National Alarm of Harrisonburg, Va., says that window and door protection has become a viable perimeter protection solution for homeowners. “Unless you have a large fenced-in area, I would frown on putting outside sensor protection,” says Crist, who estimates 25 percent of his customers go with some kind of perimeter protection.

However, the push toward residential perimeter detection hasn’t reached much of the market yet. Fred Leonardo, president of systems integrator and central station operator Electronix Systems CCA Inc. in Huntington Station, N.Y., says 75 percent of his perimeter installations are commercial and that’s where the revenue still is. “I can do one commercial job for $100,000. It takes a while to raise that in a residential environment.”

Best Solution Needs to Be Decided on a Case-by-Case Basis

Just as there isn’t one way to secure the inside of a building, each perimeter that needs detection offers its own set of challenges.

A high-rise building in a metropolitan downtown may have little perimeter to protect, with other high-rises crowding around it and a sliver of sidewalk in front of it. A facility in a rural area might need to balance detecting intruders with not raising an alarm by deer walking through. A homeowner doesn’t want their teenager coming home late to trigger an all-points bulletin.

“It’s absolutely on a case-by-case basis,” Leonardo says. When he hammers off the types of perimeter systems his company has installed, Leonardo shows the variety of solutions. Electronix has set up outside electric beams across fence lines, deployed combination PIR/microwave units as well various outdoor PIRs shooting in all directions. He has even used the buried sensor system, called Perimitra

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