August 1, 2013
How Wireless Burglar Alarm Systems Work
Police confirm that alarm systems are effective burglar deterrents, and recommend them to homeowners for security and peace of mind. But how do they work? And what’s the difference between a wireless burglar alarm and any other type?
Let’s start with the basics of any burglar alarm system. They have three components: 1) Sensors to detect intrusion, 2) Controls (or Keypad) to sound the alarm and 3) a Monitoring Station manned by a trained staff, for fast response in emergency situations.
With wireless alarm systems, the sensors communicate with the control panel over a wireless frequency. If the alarm system is 100% wireless, the control panel also communicates wirelessly with the monitoring station, over a cellular network. This wireless feature is known as cellular monitoring, and is considered safer than wired monitoring connections.
Wireless vs. Other Burglar Alarm Systems
In recent years, customers have enthusiastically welcomed the wireless variety of alarm equipment, due to the ease of installation. With wired systems, sensors are permanently installed in the walls of the home and wired together. Wires, of course, are vulnerable to both natural and deliberate breakage. Occasional consumer complaints have recorded incidents of “Christmas-tree-light Syndrome” in which failure of one sensor triggers a daisy-chain event, bringing down all the other sensors in the system.
Primarily, however, customers choose the best home security because the setup is quick and painless, with no drilling or wiring. The wireless alarm system is more flexible, because the sensors can be rearranged easily, any time, or moved to an entirely new location/home. Many consumers now choose the DIY (do-it-yourself) route for alarm system setup, avoiding installation fees.
Cellular vs. Other Burglar Alarm Systems
As we mentioned above, a cellular control panel is the second component of a 100% wireless burglar alarm. For decades, alarm systems used the home landline phone for the connection. Now that some major cable companies have entered the security market, they are leveraging the home broadband connection for alarm system monitoring. Unfortunately, an internet connection is notoriously unreliable. Phone connections are more dependable than internet, but they, too, can fall victim to storms or construction projects.
The bigger concern, however is the burglar. As noted security industry expert Peter Rogers explains in his blog, burglars frequently cut the phone or cable lines into the home, before breaking in. At that point the home is unprotected. The alarm will go off inside, but the monitoring station will not get the alert and will be unable to send help.
To enjoy the safety and the simplicity benefits of a wireless home alarm system, both the sensor connections and the communication with the monitoring station must be wireless. For more on the benefits of wireless home security, see the list provided in Peter’s blog.
How Wireless Intrusion Sensors Work
The most common intrusion detection device is a door or window sensor. They are usually two-piece rectangular devices, no larger than 1” x 2”. During setup, the two pieces are placed next to each other on either side of the door or window frame, where they connect to each other wirelessly. They are “happy” as long as they can sense their other half next to them. When the door or window opens, however, the two pieces of the sensor move apart, and they can detect that displacement. If the alarm system is armed, the sensor will then trigger an alert to the control panel. The control panel usually waits 30-60 seconds for the homeowner to type in a disarm code (in case it’s a false alarm). If no disarm code is provided, the control panel sends a cellular alarm to the monitoring station, as well as sounding an audible alarm inside the house.
In addition to door and window sensors, most comprehensive home alarm systems include options such as motion detectors and glass-break sensors, also designed to detect intrusion. There are also smoke sensors to protect against fire, as well as sensors to detect water leaks, freezing pipes and carbon monoxide.
Recently wireless security cameras have gained popularity in the home security arena. Users can monitor live video footage from their home, anytime, over the internet. Many security camera systems also trigger a recorded video clip whenever a security sensor in the home signals an alert.
“Crash-and-Smash” – Another Wireless Break-through
What happens if the burglar destroys your alarm system’s control panel in that short delay before it signals the monitoring station? This common burglary scenario prompted another technological break-through known as “Crash-and-Smash.” Developed by Alarm.com, FrontPoint Security’s technology partner, “Crash-and-Smash” is an important safety feature of Alarm.com’s patented Interactive Monitoring services.
As Peter Rogers describes in his blog on this topic:
“… the Alarm.com radio sends a cellular signal as soon as the first sensor is triggered, and treats the signal like an intrusion – so it doesn’t matter if the panel gets smashed or not. Your home is still protected.”
For more on “Crash-and-Smash,” read Peter’s blog on that topic. For a real-life example of the technology in action, watch this video from a FrontPoint customer in Michigan whose FrontPoint security system leveraged Crash-and-Smash protection to catch the crooks that tried to rob him.