Wireless technology is enjoying something of a renaissance in the intruder alarm sector, and with advances in the quality and performance of systems, the demons of the past seem to be well and truly laid to rest. Texecom’s Ricochet technology employs a mesh-network topology, but does that deliver a better solution for alarm system design?
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ncreasingly, we are living in a wireless world. Where once the technology was something of a novelty, today it is an ever-present, and something that affects most peoples’ day-to-day existence. Indeed, if you took away wireless connectivity, most of us wouldn’t know what to do! The restrictions of a solely hardwired alternative would see commerce and industry grind to a halt. It would also see the general public fly into a state of panic!
Wireless technology has – for many years – provoked a lot of prejudice in the electronic security sector. Too many opinions were tainted by wireless systems that were poorly designed, built to a very low price and shipped to the DIY sector. Even back then there were wireless systems that worked well, but the poor quality ones are those that are remembered!
Putting aside bad product design and low cost components, and only considering the good systems from back then, it is still true to say that today’s wireless technologies are significantly more advanced and reliable. Developments have been driven by a wide range of sectors – including some where public safety concerns could be argued to be more important than intruder detection – and yet the security industry has still dragged its collective feet. However, the last 18 months have seen many changes, the most significant of which is that end users like wireless technology: they understand it, and they use it widely in a whole range of tasks. They trust it, too!
Whilst many manufacturers are upgrading or launching wireless solutions, some are looking at advanced uses of the technology to ensure that it can genuinely deliver real-world benefits of use to intruder detection solutions. One such example is Ricochet technology from Texecom.
Firstly, Ricochet is not a product as such. It is a wireless platform that encompasses a wide variety of devices! There are a number of products in the Ricochet family, and whilst this test will consider some of these, the overall consideration here is how the system works, and how it adds benefits to traditionally designed solutions.
Ricochet is based upon a mesh-network topology. However, have no fear because the way it uses that technology is inherent in the product. For those installing or using the system, it is seamless. That said, understanding the way in which the devices communicate illustrates how the system can be better deployed.
This is an important consideration, because the technology does not just make the system more robust. It actually allows the system to be designed in a way that differs from other wireless systems, and to achieve levels of protection that typically would require the use of hardwired devices in difficult situations.
A mesh topology is exactly as it sounds. If you imagine a mesh, with a device at each join, that’s a rather complicated but accurate picture. Obviously with a security system the number of devices are fewer, but essentially every device talks to the other devices around it. Messages are routed to and from the controller via the mesh, and if for any reason part of the communication link is weak, then the data is rerouted via neighbouring devices to ensure that it reaches its destination. This is very different to the traditional point-to-point topology of traditional wireless systems.
Whilst such an explanation does tend to focus on creating a robust solution where communications losses do not affect overall performance, the reality is that by applying this thinking to system design, Ricochet allows wireless protection to be deployed in places where traditional radio-based systems simply will not work.
Ricochet can be used with Texecom’s Premier Elite range of control panels, including the wireless panel. Where traditional panels are employed, then Ricochet technology can be added via expanders. This ensures that existing systems can also benefit from Ricochet’s flexibility; it’s a bit like a performance boost enabling advanced connectivity! Expanders are available in 8 and 32 zone versions.
Where new installs are being undertaken, Texecom also offers a number of kits that combine hard-wired or wireless panels, plus various peripheral devices to allow the base installation of a Ricochet-enabled system.
With regard to detection devices, there is a quad PIR, a digital PIR, a shock sensor and a door contact that are Ricochet enabled. There is also a icon-based controller. This latter device comes in retail-style packaging, thus delivering added value to the user.
Installation and performance
Whilst the concept of mesh-network technology might be enough to make some fear a complex and lengthy installation, the reality is very different indeed. The process is as simple as most radio-based systems, but also includes a valuable tool that allows a visual assessment of the system’s performance characteristics.
Adding expanders – if required– is a simple task, and ‘Learning’ the devices to the system is also very easy. You just enter the mode to add devices, assign a zone number, press the Learn button or short the Learn pins and insert the device battery. The panel will confirm the process, and that’s it. Once the devices have been ‘Learned’ on to the system, you can assess performance via the free Ricochet Monitor package.
This software can be installed on any PC or laptop connected to a system expander, and creates a visual representation of the system and communications paths.
Okay, so the system is easy to set-up, and has almost all of the peripherals required. As of yet there isn’t a dual tech detector included in the range, and our feeling would be that has to do with battery life. Even so, you can certainly create a full system, but what makes this a more flexible solution than other wireless point-to-point offerings? Well, the answer is the same technology that ensures the signals always arrive, whether from control panel to detector or vice-versa, can also be used to avoid known obstacles.
As an example, one trial carried out by Benchmark involved an old site with an outbuilding with very dense fabric. This was also reinforced in certain parts, with the outcome that a wireless system wasn’t an option. This was because there was no direct line of transmission between the area where the control panel was situated and the outbuilding. Because of distances involved, hard wiring was an option, albeit an expensive one.
Because of the mesh topology, it was possible to link the outbuilding to the area with the control panel via other detectors in the system. The monitor software aided this, by allowing the test team to investigate several different layouts to deliver maximum protection with the fewest number of detectors.
In effect, obstacles that normally prevent reliable radio connectivity can be avoided by simply ensuring that another device – a detector or contact – enables creation of a transmission path that allows connections to be routed around the problem. This not only delivers a high degree of flexibility, but also allows issues of range to be easily addressed.
Because every device is effectively a transceiver, it allows diverse elements of a site to link up and ensure delivery of signals in the most effective manner.
During the tests, which involved a high degree of deliberately created situations in which radio-based solutions would suffer, the Ricochet devices performed well, only failing when the operating environment was pushed way beyond what could be considered suitable for any wireless system. However, they provided a solution when point-to-point technology simply would not have worked.
Ricochet is a different approach to wireless system design for the security sector, but the underpinning technology is widely used in a number of essential infrastructure sectors. Texecom has taken that core technology and adapted it to be a tool that is very much designed for the security sector.
Some might see Ricochet as a solution to be used in certain circumstances, whilst others might switch to it as their wireless technology of choice. Whichever way, they will be rewarded by a solution that certainly enhances the flexibility available when considering wireless systems.
Given increased demand from end users for advanced wireless technology, the Ricochet system has to be highly recommended!