Home System Design Enhancing On-Site Connectivity

Enhancing On-Site Connectivity

by Benchmark

As security systems are increasingly deployed to deliver smart solutions and to manage site automation and other non-security tasks, it becomes increasingly important that connectivity is both flexible and easy to deploy. More importantly, there needs to be two levels of connectivity: a secure and robust option for data transmission and an easy-to-use but secure option allowing remote connections for the user. In its Texecom Connect platform, Texecom combines Ricochet technology and its WiFi SmartCom; now legacy SmartComs can be easily upgraded.

With any smart solution based upon an intruder detection security system, it is vital that communications are robust, reliable and secure. Adding value through the introduction of additional services is only ever going to be attractive to the customer if they are assured that the credibility of the security system will not be compromised.

There are two very different considerations when looking at smart system connectivity. With end users demanding wireless smart solutions, communications between the control panel and the field devices must be robust if the system is to be considered as credible. One of the biggest concerns from end users is that off-the-shelf smart options are often insecure with regard to connectivity. Of course, any system that is based on an intruder alarm platform already has proven and credible wireless connectivity in place if it is from a professional and reputable manufacturer.

The Texecom Connect platform makes use of the manufacturer’s award-winning Ricochet technology for system connectivity. This secure wireless transmission platform uses a mesh-based model to ensure that any weakness or dropped links in the radio coverage are ‘self-healed’. The system does this as it can communicate with the control panel via other field devices if necessary.

If a signalling link to the panel is blocked or unavailable, the data can be rerouted via any other field devices such as detectors, contacts, keypads, bellboxes, power switches, etc.. The data simply ‘hops’ from one field device to another, ensuring all communications arrive at their intended destination. As a result, transmissions cannot be ‘lost’ due to environmental conditions or site conditions.

As an aside, the Smart Solutions project Texecom Connect test system has close to 100 devices spread across numerous buildings. which would be a challenge for even the most robust wireless systems. The Ricochet Monitor software – a program that allows installers and integrators to view the state of the wireless network and its traffic in real-time – shows that the devices all communicate directly with the control panel with no hopping. This illustrates that while the mesh-based wireless platform offers a more robust and secure signalling system, the transmission capabilities of the Ricochet system enable direct communication, even over long distances in less than ideal conditions.

The second communications link with the Texecom Connect system allows the user to interact with the system via the mobile app. This is achieved via the SmartCom device and enables the use of local WiFi or a data connection between the user’s smart device and the system.

With the arrival of Texecom Connect, installers and integrators are able to deliver alarm systems which interact, control and integrate with devices for security, safety, environmental monitoring and automation. The potential of Texecom Connect offers end users a wide range of possibilities for communications with their Texecom security systems.

In a world of ever more seamless connectivity and communications, security systems can no longer be separated or isolated from the outside world. End users simply will not accept systems that lack ease of interaction, or which don’t deliver added-value benefits. It does not help sway customers from the ‘grudge purchase’ mentality when their only interaction with an alarm system is when the worst happens and they become a victim!

Additionally, many end users report that they find standard alarm system interfaces confusing and intimidating. Others claim that in an increasingly connected world, their alarms lack connectivity and compatibility with external systems that could add benefits from intelligence and information.

To increase connectivity and communications options, and to allow the use of familiar interfaces such as smartphones and tablets, Texecom has introduced the Texecom Connect SmartCom.

The SmartCom is an Ethernet and WiFi communicator that facilitates the Texecom Connect user experience by connecting any Premier Elite control panel to a local area network in a secure and robust manner.

The Texecom Connect SmartCom communicates using outbound connections, removing the need to for the installer or integrator to open any router ports or adjust network settings. This removes the issues often associated with port forwarding whilst also ensuring that the system offers the highest levels of security, along with a simple and fast installation.

As a result, any installation that has an internet connection can reliably use Texecom Connect with the addition of the SmartCom unit.

Originally, the Texecom Connect SmartCom was an Ethernet communicator. However, it has been upgraded to support both Ethernet and WiFi, and as such offers a significantly more flexible option when designing a smart system.

For some early adopters of technology, upgrades and enhancements can be frustrating as those who invested at the early stage of product development find that initial purchases need to be replaced. Thankfully this isn’t the case with the SmartCom. Legacy Ethernet only versions (CEL-0002) can be upgraded to also support WiFi connectivity via a simple firmware upgrade.

Upgrading to WiFi

The upgrade can be initiated via the Texecom Connect app by any installer or integrator who has Engineer-level access to the control panel. The process is very straightforward and requires no flashing of devices or actual interaction with the control equipment. All that is required is an app linked with the relevant SmartCom device.

It is worth noting that even if the SmartCom unit installed is the Ethernet and WiFi model, the process for updating firmware (or checking if an update is available) is the same. As such, it is worth familiarising yourself with it.

The first step (shown in Fig. 1) is to open the Texecom Connect app and enter the Engineer Code. At this point it is important to not press the Log In button. Instead, press the Done button on the virtual keyboard. This will automatically close the virtual keyboard, but will also bring up a small ‘i’ icon in the top right hand corner of the app screen (shown in Fig. 2). The ‘i’ icon is then tapped and initiates the upgrade process.

The next screen is a confirmation of the SmartCom upgrade process with two options: Update Now or Cancel. To continue with the upgrade simply tap Update Now (shown in Fig. 3). During the updating procedure the SmartCom will not be operable so it is important that this is done at a time convenient to the end user.

Once the process has started the Texecom server will interrogate the SmartCom to ascertain its model number and specification. During this you are shown a status screen (shown in Fig. 4) and once this is completed you are presented with a button to confirm that you wish the update to go ahead (shown in Fig.5). Clicking this starts the update.

It is worth pointing out that the actual upgrade has three stages: first the software is downloaded, then installed and finally the process is ended. During this the app shows a screen with a scroll bar. Don’t expect this to gradually fill as the process is ongoing. It effectively has three stages and will jump from one to the other. However, you know all is well as the icon in the centre of the screen revolves to indicate that the update is still ongoing.

During the software download the first part of the scrollbar is filled in orange (shown in Fig. 6). This takes a couple of minutes. Once the download is complete the installation starts, and the scrollbar moves to the halfway mark, still in orange (shown in Fig. 7). This also gives the warning that the installation of the update may take up to 10 minutes. Ours took just over 10 minutes to complete.

Once the process is finished, the scrollbar fills completely in green (shown in Fig. 8), and the upgrade has completed.

The process is very straightforward and won’t present any issues for installers and integrators who are competent with intruder detection systems.

The process is simply initiated via the app. Closing it during the update does not affect the process. We closed the app and tried to log back in, and the Log In button is replaced with one that states an update is in progress.

If concerns over updating communicators is holding you back from exploring the options of Texecom Connect, don’t let it. The process to turn an Ethernet SmartCom into an Ethernet and WiFi model is simple and easy, just as a smart solution should be!

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