Mention the Internet of Things (IoT) and many people immediately think about internet-connected fridges or household devices that can be turned on and off via a smartphone app. However, the reality is that despite the marketing hype, IoT has a lot to offer businesses and industry. One area that the security market can take advantage of is environmental monitoring to add data when site-specific decisions are being made.
To some degree, environmental monitoring is not new in the security industry. Indeed, it has existed for many years, but has not been embraced by large numbers of installers and integrators. In reality, if you subscribe to the theory that security is a ‘grudge purchase’, then there is a reason to not add extra devices, which is what environmental monitoring will do. However, for those who understand that end users want extra business management benefits, the idea of environmental monitoring is a sound one.
In it’s simplest form, environmental monitoring is built in to professional intruder alarm control panels. Dedicated fire zones allow smoke and heat sensors to signal when conditions indicative of a fire exist!
The inclusion of 24 hour zones also allows the use of an appropriate zone type to permit non-alarm messages to be sent regarding other environmental conditions.
Environmental monitoring is not limited to the intruder alarm sector. Increasingly video surveillance, access control and perimeter protection systems can make use of simple inputs from a wide range of devices to deliver real-time data which is of value to the end user. Environmental monitoring elevates security to offer a more complete risk mitigation solution.
Environmental monitoring covers fire, flood, temperature (including the temperature of appliances such as freezers), air quality, humidity, light levels, etc.. It can also monitor important and critical business operational systems covering pressure, fuel levels, server temperatures and so on.
It is worth considering that statistics show the average loss for a small business due to burglary is just over £1,000. However, losses due to fire average at just under £7,500 whilst flood losses are averaged at £30,000.
Failure of business systems can also result in significant losses due to operational downtime, order backlogs, accounting and billing delays, etc..
In short, environmental monitoring is a security issue, in that it could help to mitigate the long term security of a business or organisation. The risks are well understood by users, but the solutions aren’t always offered.
The right sensors?
It is fair to say that a flood sensor isn’t going to help with many of the catastrophic floods that some businesses in the UK have experienced in recent years, but the losses are still significant with issues such as burst pipes or localised flooding which isn’t discovered until it is too late. As well as damage to fixtures and fittings plus stock and equipment, often electrical systems need replacing, as does plaster and other parts of the building fabric.
However, the security sector doesn’t have a wide variety of flood sensors available to installers and integrators. They are out there; Benchmark tested one a few years back and it worked well. Despite this, it’s fair to say that many manufacturers don’t place great emphasis on the various technologies.
For those installers and integrators who see the potential, there is a growing market offering solutions, and that is the world of IoT sensors.
It’s important not to limit your thinking with regard to the Internet of Things. It’s true that some of the sensors are gimmicks, many are aimed at the lifestyle market and some are too unreliable to be considered credible.
However, the IoT is also growing fast in the industrial sector, and this is one area where environmental monitoring is being taken extremely seriously.
Many of the sensors being developed, and those that are now available, are as far removed from the general world of consumer IoT as security systems are. In anything, they are an ideal fit for advanced integrated security solutions. Equally, the security sector can deliver the typical system infrastructure that those seeking environmental monitoring demand.
The always-on, secure communicating and redundant nature of security systems makes our industry a natural match for the companies developing and delivering environmental monitoring. The sensors are designed to allow flexible connectivity, and for installers and integrators used to delivering bespoke solutions the addition of these devices – and their reporting mechanisms – should not be a challenge.
The variety of use-cases for environmental monitoring highlights just how seriously manufacturers of IoT sensors are taking the technology. This isn’t a case of telling homeowners that they might be low on milk or that the washing machine has finished! The levels of performance which are currently available involve critical applications such as the monitoring of national infrastructure for performance and structural issues, sampling air quality in inner cities to prove compliance with legislation and prevention of landslides and avalanches.
The technology also enables businesses to identify wastage, making them more efficient. Sensors can be used to monitor workflows, power and water usage, gas and fuel usage, etc..
Safety concerns can also be addressed with a wide range of IoT solutions available designed specifically to ensure adherence of Health and Safety guidelines. These are the sort of use-cases that highlight how IoT deployments are not something to push aside as gimmicks.
The new wave of smarter alarm systems in the security sector is already seeing more development into building and business monitoring options. Flood, temperature and light level detection is starting to be widely offered, and many of the larger companies have industrial divisions or partner companies who are adding capabilities to the available sensors.
Environmental monitoring is becoming a vital part of many businesses’ systems, and the security sector – and specifically forward-thinking installers and integrators – is best placed to help deliver the benefits.
Environmental monitoring offers a varied and bespoke approach, and adds much value for businesses and organisations. Fire and flood detection are obvious starting points, but the ever-expanding diversity of credible IoT sensors on offer shows just how flexible companies offering security solutions can be to help protect their customers.