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System Design

IoT and the Intruder Alarm Sector

As the adoption of IoT technologies accelerates in the commercial, industrial and consumer sectors, end users increasingly have heightened expectations from their technology-based system investments. As new entrants into the life-safety sectors are showing, users are no longer satisfied with dedicated standalone systems. While they don’t expect life-safety systems to be all things to all men, they do demand a level of interoperability, as is outlined in a report from IHS Markit.

The world of connected smart systems is advancing at a rapid pace, and is being embraced by a growing number of commercial, industrial and even residential users. The inherent value of big data, and the potential for mining is that information, is understood by the vast majority of businesses and organisations. As such, modern technological solutions are expected to add value by delivering real-time status information which can be used to increase efficiencies and deliver higher levels of flexibility.

The recent developments in IoT technologies have enhanced the level of flexibility on offer, to such a degree that end users are actively making use of these solutions across core elements of their businesses.

Because IoT increases functionality based upon data sharing and data mining, it adds significant business value. When coupled with flexible communications options and modern IT infrastructure facilitating a greater exchange of data in building systems, the case for increased use of IoT is increasingly difficult to argue against.

As a result, there is a need for increased adoption of IoT technologies in site protection solutions, especially with regard to intruder alarm systems. For integrators and installers, this does mean the demand for field devices such as detectors and sensors will increase. Current design thinking requires sensors to be used solely where an intruder might need to be detected. However, when adding on services, systems will require a number of non-security sensors too.

Increasing numbers

Any rise in IoT implementations will cause the average number of sensors connected to each intruder alarm system to increase, and this will also promote the wider deployment of wireless sensors in commercial installations. This is already evidenced by the fact that leading intruder alarm manufacturers have significantly increased the number of wireless devices their entry level control panels can support, such is the anticipated increase in peripheral add-ons.

IHS Markit forecasts the volume of shipments of wireless security sensors will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 6 per cent over the next five years. There will also be an increase in other detection devices such as those used for temperature management, flooding detection, power switching, etc..

Additionally, there are on-going efforts by the various telecoms providers to develop alternative networks to resolve issues of signal pollution, insufficient range, power consumption, capacity and the cost of devices that will connect to these networks.

To help meet signalling challenges, telecoms companies have dedicated part of the Global System for Mobile (GSM) infrastructure to IoT technologies.

Referred to as narrowband IoT (NB IoT), CAT-NB and LTE-M are two protocols suitable for IoT that operate as part of existing mobile networks, allowing service providers to offer immediate IoT connectivity.

The deployment costs of NB IoT are high compared to other low-power WANs, which reduces their attractiveness for single-building installations. Because NB IoT uses existing mobile networks, it also has challenges relating to weak signal penetration in thick walled-buildings or underground facilities.

Low-powered WANs such as LoRaWAN and Sigfox are popular alternatives which work alongside 3G, 4G and 5G frequencies. Each has features making it suitable for IoT applications.
These networks allow public and private setups which can be better suited to the specific needs of certain installations. They can be customised to deliver communications and security needs.

It is claimed that these networks may be more resistant to jamming: LoRaWAN sends signals over a broader frequency spectrum, making isolating wavelengths a more difficult task for those attacking the network. For some, this is a positive when considering the use of such comms links for critical signalling.

User opinions

What is worth noting is that many end users have a slightly different outlook to those in the security industry when considering the use and benefits of IoT. For end users, their core business is whatever earns the company revenue. It could be logistics provision, retail, infrastructure support, food processing, manufacturing, finance or any other types of service the business performs.

Security is rarely part of their core business. It might protect their staff and assets, but it doesn’t earn the company revenue. The organisation might have the best security system in the world, but if their business processes fail, the system won’t prevent their business from failing. Without the ability to generate revenue, the business falls over.

This is a critical point, because often these core processes which ensure the survival of the business will use IoT technologies such as Software as a Service, data mining or platform sharing. End users trust these services, because the day-to-day operation of their businesses is reliant on them.

Security professionals, however, prefer closed-system communications with redundancy. The idea of sharing infrastructure with other systems, or of allowing other systems to either use data from the security system or send information which will affect the way the system operates has been frowned upon.

This creates something of a dilemma, and going forwards will force many integrators to embrace IoT and all it offers so they can meet end user demands.

As IoT, intelligent buildings and smart campuses become an increasingly standard approach to system integration, so those companies offering such services will increase the pressure on the security industry by developing solutions which can incorporate security data. As a result, end users will increasingly expect to be able to achieve add-on value and return on investment from their security systems.

Wireless expansion

One area where the increased use of IoT technologies could make a significant difference is with regard to wireless deployments over wider areas, according to the report. As the systems sector sees a greater use of IoT solutions, coupled with the emergence of more flexible connectivity options, all indications are that future system designs will see an increased number of commercial intruder alarm installations making use of wireless sensors on a wider scale.

This will be aided by other current technology developments such as increases in battery life, enhanced transmission ranges and reduced maintenance needs. These benefits will further push end users to demand a more flexible approach when designing IoT and intruder alarm implementations from their integrators.

The monitoring capabilities of modern intruder alarm systems allow the introduction of added value benefits with captured real-time data being used to facilitate smart actions and responses. However, even when detection and sensing devices are deployed solely for intrusion detection, they can still add benefits to a smart building solution.

Lower installation costs can be achieved using wide area connectivity, enable the system to make use of a larger number of smart devices whilst retaining cost efficiencies which would not be possible using some of the commonly touted proprietary IoT platforms.

The cost of adding LoRaWAN capabilities to security systems is less than many might think.

In summary

Acceleration in the adoption of IoT for businesses will inevitably drive demand for the increased use of IoT technologies in intruder alarm and other security installations. Currently, one issue is regulations relating to police response. Where a company self-insures or understands the likelihood of a timely police intervention is minimal, demand for the benefits of IoT technologies will increase.

Cybersecurity is often highlighted as an additional threat, but as intruder alarm systems become smarter, so the use of software, networking and cloud services will increase. In reality, the threat of cybersecurity needs to be taken seriously whether using IoT technologies or today’s more advanced alarm systems.

For the integrator and installer, there is also a need to be able to manage and maintain the infrastructure. In hybrid systems, network continuity, maintenance, repair and cybersecurity will be the responsibility of those designing and implementing the system.

Despite these considerations, the increased use of IoT technologies offers a wide range of benefits to integrators and their end user customers. As a result, forward-thinking integrators and installers should ensure they keep up to speed with the latest developments.

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