Intruder Test: Wireless Alarm Panels
The use of wire free technology in intruder detection systems is nothing new. Historically such systems were aimed at the low risk market, and were often considered as DIY options by installers and integrators. However, today’s wireless technology is credible, reliable and robust. Benchmark considered the leading options to see what is on offer.
Across a wide range of industrial and commercial sectors, and throughout the consumer market-place, wireless technology is king. It’s no longer a sought-after benefit; it’s an expectation. Modern wireless technology is secure, reliable and effective if the right solution is implemented.
In recent years, the intruder alarm sector’s use of wire-free technology has undergone something of a sea change. One-way links are typically ignored in favour of two-way and mesh-based radio, supervision is pivotal, and functionality delivers benefits that end users demand.
Eaton I-On 16
The I-on 16 wireless control panel is a Grade 2 blank end-station control panel; our test unit was supplied with the Key-KP01 remote keypad. The panel supports up to 16 wireless inputs. Other panels in the range include input counts of up to 160 devices. The I-on 16 features four hardwired outputs. It can support up to four remote keypads; two of these are hardwired and two can be wireless. At least one hardwired keypad is required for operation.
The system supports one full-set and three part-set options (with the latest firmware). It does not allow partitions.
The system supports up to 16 users, and the Key-KP01 keypad includes a proximity reader for ease of setting an unsetting. An optional external prox reader is available and can be connected via the keypad.
The 868MHz radio element has programmable supervision, jamming detection, and has a quoted transmission range of up to 200 metres in free space.
The system has a good range of peripheral devices including motion detectors, smoke detectors, shock sensors, door contacts, remote control devices and PA buttons.
The I-on 16 has been around in various stages of development for a good few years now. Whilst this delivers a good degree of proven heritage, it also means that the functionality is ‘old school’.
Once the control panel and remote keypad are mounted, the necessary cabling connections between the panel and the RKP can be made. Power is also run to the main control panel. The panel will support up to 4 remote keypads (two hardwired and two wire-free), and at least one hardwired keypad is required for operation. Connection is simple and addressing is carried out via a jumper.
Settings for the remote keypad can be carried out using local programming mode. This is simple, and includes control over backlighting and LEDs. RKP tone volume is set via a potentiometer.
On power up, you can start commissioning the system. A UK specific profile is loaded as default. Adding wireless peripherals is again a simple process. From the installer menu you simply select ‘add detectors’, activate the tamper on the specific device (inserting the battery will create a tamper signal) and the panel will ‘learn’ the device. The installer menu will also give the signal strength for the learned product.
With regard to functionality, the I-on 16 covers the typical intruder alarm feature set. These include part-set options, 24-hour active alarms, hold-up alarms, user management, zone omission, etc.. Communications options are available via optional plug on boards.
The system is both simple to install and easy-to-use, predominantly because it is the most basic system on test. In some applications, this may not be a significant issue.
The Pyronix ENF32GB-WE is a part of the Enforcer range. It is a Grade 2 control panel with integral keypad which supports up to 32 wireless inputs, as well as two hardwired inputs; zone expander modules can be used to increase this capacity. It also supports three hardwired outputs, and these can be expanded up to a total of 19.
The system supports up to 4 areas; this is made up of one partition with four level sets. The panel is equipped with a digital communicator, and other comms options are available. It can also deliver SMS messaging.
The Enforcer supports up to 80 users via codes. The control panel also supports the use of proximity tags. If required, an additional remote keypad or prox reader can be added to the system. For ease of use, there is an option to use wireless key fobs. However, a maximum of 32 fobs are supported.
The 868MHz two-way radio element features jamming detection, 128 bit encryption, instant device control technology and signal strength indication.
A wide range of peripheral devices are available including PIR and dual technology motion detectors, shock sensors, door contacts, wireless external sirens, a GSM digital communicator, smoke sensors and wireless key fobs.
The Enforcer has been around for a few years now, and has proven a popular choice with many installers and integrators. It was designed to deliver credible and robust wireless intruder detection, with an emphasis on ease of installation. As such, the functionality tends to concentrate on the delivery of consistent performance.
Installing the Enforcer is a very straightforward process, with the only required hardwired connection being the power input. Once this is done, and the backup battery connected, the remaining tasks are to add any optional plug on boards, and to connect any hardwired peripherals.
Pyronix has designed the Enforcer to allow the addition of wireless devices via a very simple and fast ‘learn’ process. This is carried out via the Wireless Device Control menu. Is a simple case of selecting Learn Devices, before identifying the relevant input. Once this is done, the installer need only open the relevant device and hold down the Learn button for around five seconds. Once the LEDs in the device cycle, followed by the green indicator flashing, the device has been learned. All attempts at learning devices were successful.
If you are using wireless bell devices, there is a separate menu to add these, although the process is equally as straightforward. Deleting devices from the system is also a simple task.
The Engineer menus are pretty standard and don’t include anything that will faze a competent installer or integrator. The expected functionality for a Grade 2 alarm system is all present, and the system also includes a number of features specifically designed to ensure continuity of protection.
Signal strength indication can be checked at the device and the control panel; the latter can give a system overview or detailed information on a specific device. It will also deliver battery level indications. In order to preserve battery life, the panel includes instant device control which ensures that peripherals wake when the unit is set.
Core functionality includes four independent areas, dedicated inputs for fire and similar events, hold-up alarms, user management, zone omission, etc.. Communications are carried out via a digital communicator; other options are available. The two-way radio functionality not only ensures that supervision messages can be sent between detectors and the panel, but also enables a double knock feature which can be used to enhance overall security.
The Enforcer delivers ease of installation and a user-friendly interface, without compromising on performance or security. The level of protection meets the expectations of users and installers alike. The system is well built, performance is good and it raises no concerns with regard to credibility.
Risco Group Agility 3
The Agility 3 is a Grade 2 blank end-station control panel; our test unit was supplied with the Agility 3 wireless remote keypad. Up to three remote keypads can be supported. The control panel supports up to 32 wireless inputs; wired zones can be supported using an optional input/output board.
In addition, the system can support up to eight wireless PIR cameras. Video is supported via the Risco Cloud; this functionality is dependent upon the optional IP communications module being fitted. The panel also supports four hardwired outputs, again with the input/output board. For ease of installation, the system uses a voice-guided menu system. It also supports two-way audio communication.
The system offers three partitions, as well as up to 16 Follow-me destinations to allow event notification. Our test unit was supplied with an IP communicator module, although this is an optional extra. Other communications modules are available. The control panel also delivers SMS messaging and X-10 connectivity for home automation.
The Agility 3 supports up to 32 users, with control via the remote keypad, prox tags or remote control devices, of which up to eight are supported. The user can also communicate with the panel via smart phone apps and the Risco Cloud.
The 868MHz radio element features indication of signal jamming, programmable supervision, and low battery detection for peripheral devices.
With regard to peripheral devices, there are a wide range of options including internal and external motion detectors (PIRs, dual technology detectors and active infrared beams), shock sensors, door contacts, wireless sounders, smoke and heat detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, elderly care call buttons, PA buttons and remote control key fobs. Additionally, PIR cameras and IP cameras can be added to the system.
The Agility 3 system is aimed at residential and low-risk commercial applications, but the main emphasis with regard to features, functionality and peripheral devices seems to be placed upon home automation and smart living. This is no bad thing; the sector is growing, and end-users are willing to invest in devices that deliver everyday benefits.
It does, however, mean that a number of the headline benefits require optional extras. That said, the Agility 3 does deliver basic intruder detection functionality. For some installers and integrators, this will be enough. If they wish to then further explore the automation segment, the potential is available.
Installing the Agility 3 is – as with all the units on test – a simple process which should not cause any concern for competent installers. Mounting the panel makes use of a bracket, designed to simplify the process. Configurations can be carried out via a wireless keypad, or a temporary Engineer Keypad can be used. Alternatively configuration software is available, or an existing profile can be loaded to the panel.
The panel includes a voice-based system to inform of system status. It’s mildly irritating, but it does allow you to receive confirmation of certain tasks without watching LEDs or counting beeps.
When adding wireless devices, this can be done via the panel, keypad or configuration software. The options allow for zones to be automatically and sequentially allocated, or they can be manually selected. For many the latter will be the preferred option.
The process is carried out via the menus using the Allocation and the Zone Allocation screens. The first stage is to select the zone number, followed by the method of allocation. The latter can be carried out via an RF signal from the device, or by entering its serial number. The method of creating the RF transmission is dependent upon the specific device; most involve either triggering the tamper or inserting a battery.
Where the IP connectivity is used, the control panel can be linked with the Risco Cloud. This allows IP cameras to be added, and these can be used for visual verification. The Cloud offering is basic, and uses a Risco-managed server for administration, but it is included without charge. It enhances the offering to those seeking a more ‘lifestyle-oriented’ system. This is further supplemented by apps for smart devices. A note here is that our test unit was network ready; the IP module is an optional extra, and subsequently this has been considered in the ratings for this system.
The standard security related functionality includes three partitions, dedicated inputs for fire and hold-up alarms, user management, zone omission, duress alarms, etc.. The two-way radio functionality ensures the alarm data is received by the panel.
The Agility 3 system delivers a good degree of intruder alarm and detection functionality, and in its basic state delivers stable performance, simplicity of installation and ease-of-use.
Texecom Premier Elite 24-W
The Premier Elite 24-W is a Grade 2 control panel with integral keypad. It uses Texecom’s Ricochet platform, which offers mesh-based wireless connectivity. This permits healing of any interrupted wireless links, and also allows a more diverse system design as all devices do not require line of sight with the panel.
The panel supports up to 24 inputs, of which four are hardwired, with the option to expand this number. Up to 16 Ricochet inputs are supported as standard. The panel also supports nine outputs. Other panel configurations are available, and these support up to 48 inputs.
Supporting two areas, there is the option for three part-sets per area. The panel is capable of delivering SMS messaging, and a choice of communication modules is available. These are supplied as simple plug-on boards. The Premier Elite 24-W additionally supports up/downloading.
Supporting up to 25 users, interaction can be carried out via the on-board keypad, or additional keypads can be added. Setting and unsetting can be carried out via the unit’s integral proximity reader. There is also a user-friendly remote control device, one of which can be allocated to each user.
The 868MHz radio system incorporates real-time diagnostics, and all communications are supervised and encrypted. Because of the nature of the mesh-based system, communication ranges are significantly enhanced. Also, via supplied Monitor software, it is possible to assess the performance of the wireless network in real-time. The system always seeks the most credible path to the control panel for transmissions.
A good range of peripheral devices is available, including motion detectors (PIRs and dual technology devices), shock sensors, door contacts, heat and smoke detectors, PA buttons, wireless sounders, smart remote controls and a Ricochet-compatible external detector from GJD Security.
The Premier Elite 24-W uses Texecom’s Ricochet mesh networking platform. This platform has previously been tested by Benchmark, and has been proven in the field to deliver a higher degree of reliability and flexibility. In 2014 the technology lifted a Benchmark Innovation Award.
Being a mesh-based platform, every device acts as a transceiver, thereby allowing alarm data to be rerouted if necessary, ensuring that signals always arrive at the panel. This ‘data hopping’ not only allows frailties in the wireless coverage to be healed, but it also allows disparate elements of the wireless system to be linked. This is because devices do not need line of sight to the control panel; they only require line of sight to another device!
The installation process is straightforward, with the only required hardwired connection being power if you opt to use a wireless bell unit. Once any optional plug-on boards are added, and with battery and power connected, you can start adding devices.
The process to ‘learn’ devices can be initiated on first power-up, or can be implemented from the engineer menus using a Hotkey from any top level menu. The process is straightforward and fast, and zones are allocated sequentially. Whilst the process is straightforward, the manual could be slightly better.
The Engineer menus are standard and as such won’t present a challenge to installers conversant with intruder detection. Core functionality includes two independent areas with three part-sets per area, dedicated inputs for fire and hold-up, user management, up/download, SMS messaging, etc.. Comms are carried out via plug-on modules.
The Premier Elite 24-W is a credible and robust intruder detection system, with ease of installation and operation. Build quality is high, performance is good and it will meet the expectations of both installers and end users.
The I-on 16 from Eaton Security is the oldest system in the test, and is also the most basic. When it was launched, simplicity was one of its major selling points. However, in today’s market, expectations for wireless alarm systems have changed. The system is left behind by the others. In low-risk domestic applications, it will have some appeal.
The Enforcer from Pyronix makes use of two-way radio communications to provide a credible intruder detection system. It has a number of features which deliver benefits to the installer. Added functions ensure reliability across radio paths, and for many that will be sufficient.
Risco’s Agility 3 takes a slightly different approach, in that it is aimed more at the customer who wants value-added benefits from their intruder system. It certainly plays more to the lifestyle consumer market than the traditional user of alarms, but this exploitation of technology can help win contracts. For installers seeking to move into this market, it will tick a lot of boxes.
Texecom’s Premier Elite 24-W uses the Ricochet platform, which in itself delivers a very high degree of flexibility with regard to the design and implementation of wireless systems. The core functionality is as you would expect from a credible system aimed at residential and lower risk commercial applications. However, it is the potential offered by the mesh-based infrastructure that will appeal to many installers and integrators.