Telephone wires draw the boundary between the known and the unknown. Even a working fire or burglar alarm is useless without the means to transmit the signal to a monitoring company.
For homes and businesses built within the grid where telephone wires are already established, this is no problem. But what about new customers beyond the existing reach of phone lines that need alarm systems? As residential and commercial growth pushes further outward, more customers are in need of protection from companies that can provide monitoring services outside of a pre-existing telephone network.
One of the hottest spots for new growth today is Las Vegas, Nevada. Both residentially and commercially, the city is growing by leaps and bounds. Since 1980, the cityâ€™s population has more than doubled.
â€œIn this market, the growth is unbelievable,â€ says Sandy Mann, vice president of central station, Total Safety Inc. (TSI) based in Las Vegas. The company provides fire alarm and gated-community monitoring for customers within a 20- to 25-mile radius from the city. â€œThe infrastructure canâ€™t keep up with the building,â€ he says.
In Las Vegas, often the latest construction projects are going up beyond the phone lines. With no phone lines, fire alarms canâ€™t be installed. Without working fire alarms, new buildings canâ€™t be legally occupied.
Total Safety Inc. uses a monitoring system, which Mann says makes it possible for their company to equip a commercial building with working fire alarms in as little as an hour or two, thus allowing a business to get its certificate of occupancy and begin using the new building right away. This is a big advantage in a market where new construction is almost constant.
The system is AES IntelliNet, developed by AES Corp., and the technology solves the problem of monitoring homes and businesses outside the reach of telephone wires. Instead of transmitting alarm signals to a central station using telephone lines, this system uses radio waves to transmit an alarm. A transceiver can be installed at each customer location in one to two hours. Once installed, the transceiver acts as both a transmitter and a receiver of alarm signals, sending detailed alarm signals to the central station. Because each unit acts as a store-and-forward repeater, the alarm signal can use one of any number of pathways to the central station, allowing TSI to own and operate the entire network.
â€œIt really has been one of the most reliable systems Iâ€™ve ever worked with,â€ Mann adds. â€œThe technology is very stable. There are no errors, no glitches; it just works.â€
Total Safety Inc. has more than 800 transceivers currently operating. Because it owns the network, Total Safety Inc. also can contract out units to smaller, local monitoring companies. About 30 percent of all of Total Safety Inc.â€™s business is commercial fire alarm monitoring, where they hold the contract.
Perhaps most importantly, Total Safety Inc.â€™s AES IntelliNet network has won the trust of the local fire department, Mann asserts. â€œThe Henderson County Fire Department is very picky. We could provide everything they wanted to see on the first attempt,â€ Mann says.
Last year, Total Safety Inc. installed 190 new units altogether. The AES IntelliNet system has helped TSI grow from a brand-new company in a highly competitive market to an 8,000-account operation in just five years.
When TSI originally set up shop, Mann knew the company would need to use some sort of radio technology, because much of their business is concentrated in areas beyond phone lines. So he went shopping at trade shows, where he found the AES IntelliNet system.
The biggest challenge in getting the system installed was to coordinate with Underwriters Laboratories inspectors, who had to come to the TSI central station and run through three days of testing. The software that â€œtalksâ€ to the transceivers also had to be approved, a process that can take anywhere from a few weeks to two or three months.
The technology itself has achieved high ratings under both UL and NPFA, according to Tom Kenty, general manager, AES Corp., Peabody, Mass. Using the patented transceiver/repeater capability, an AES-IntelliNet radio network becomes a rugged, adaptive mesh for alarm communications. By its nature, the multiple path structure meets the strict requirements for fire and burglary monitoring. â€œEvery installed transceiver makes the network bigger and stronger,â€ Kenty says.
Looking forward, Mann says he would like to bring the AES IntelliNet system to the gated community division of TSI. The newest luxury homes, built in remote areas, often donâ€™t have access to phone lines for burglar alarm monitoring.
â€œIn this business, the problem is that the bad guys get smarter, too. We need a better means to transmit alarm signals,â€ Mann adds. More and more, he is finding that burglars know to cut the phone lines before they break into a house, rendering the alarm signal useless. This radio system, Mann says, could be an alternative in residential business as well.
Kenty says the AES IntelliNet system is most attractive to larger monitoring companies that have enough accounts to own and maintain a network. The system works best for regional companies whose customers are within range of a radio network. Systems can grow to cover thousands of square miles. Although the units donâ€™t have enough range to operate on the national level, AES is introducing a new â€œIP-Link,â€ a data gateway that connects the radio net to a LAN or the Internet, allowing unlimited growth.