ALARM TRANSMISSION: Dealer Needs Help Overcoming Loss of Cellular Service
March 1, 2008
Of the many technical questions SDM receives, the answer to this one from Mark Hill, president of Superior Alarm Inc., Durango, Colo., about digital cellular backup should benefit many readers.
It relates to the cessation of analog cellular telephone transmission, which was allowed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in February 2008.
“The GSM network only covers a small speck of areas in my part of the country,” Hill wrote to SDM. “Our digital phone coverage has gotten much better over the last few years, and most areas except for a few remote ones have coverage. Again, the problem is that the GSM Network is not as large as the digital area.”
Several of his customers outside the existing GSM network do not have land lines and are going to lose their cellular alarm monitoring.
“I have lost potential customers for this service because the GSM network is so small, and there are no standard digital units available,” Hill complained. “There are a lot of areas in Colorado that will be affected by this change.
“I have asked many of the cellular providers if they make just a digital cellular unit like the old analog cellular units, and their response is no,” Hill concluded.
Lou Fiore, chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC), responded to Hill’s query and pointed out that several hardware manufacturers make GSM available to alarm providers.
“Some of the providers are Telular, Honeywell, Uplink, Alarm.com and DSC,” Fiore responded. “This list may not be all-inclusive. Your local GSM carriers may not be aware of these products that are in common use.”
Fiore also pointed out that although the CDMA digital cellular telephone network is not being used for alarm transmission now, it may be, and its coverage may be better than GSM in Hill’s area.
SDM’s contributing technology writer Ron Nelson also responded to Hill and sympathized with him over this problem.
“Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet, and you will have to work the problem locations one at a time and hopefully find a solution that works in every case,” Nelson recommended. He pointed out that the FCC only is allowing analog service to stop, not requiring it, and suggested that Hill verify that service in his area has indeed been stopped.
“If the carriers do not have sufficient digital coverage, they may continue to support the analog service for a period of time,” he speculated. He also suggested checking for multiple vendors offering digital cell service.
“In my area, there are at least two, and we have found cases where our primary provider’s unit does not work, but we can easily install a different unit. We have used ALARMNET and Telegard, but there may be others.”
Nelson also recommended examining a private radio network, such as AES Intellinet. “Depending upon your central station and the locations of your accounts, this may be a cost-effective alternative to cellular,” he said. It is more expensive to install, but does not carry ongoing monthly costs.”
His final suggestion was to use the Internet for monitoring. “If the account has a broadband Internet connection, then you can use it to transmit signals to your central station,” Nelson advised. “Since you can get broadband Internet service from satellite-based systems, it may be available in the areas you need coverage.”
CAMERA TECHNOLOGYThe advancement of video systems to the edge of
IP video surveillance continues with the introduction of the iCVR (intelligent
surveillance camera with video recording) by Video IQ, Bedford, Mass., that
includes not only analytics but storage as well.
Camera Has Analytics & Storage Inside; Acts as Its Own System
“We see IP video and analytics as two of the most important growth engines that will drive the next five to 10 years of surveillance architecture around the world,” forecasts Scott Schnell, VideoIQ’s CEO, “because the growth in the number of cameras and distances people want to cover are going to require and dictate the use of IP as the interconnect.
“Analytics are going to be required for any kind of proactive detection tracking, because there will be too many cameras for people to do a good job, and people in general are too expensive, except in national-security-level threat scenarios,” he asserts. “So today, the vast majority of video ends up being unmonitored because it is so expensive to have security personnel.”
By putting a hard drive in what he says is “the world’s first fully integrated, intelligent camera/NVR combination in the same physical object,” bandwidth issues are minimized because only the important video is transmitted on the network in compressed form. The cost of an NVR also is eliminated.
“We can make choices at the source what video to store at high and low resolution,” Schnell explains. “We don’t use the network until a defined event occurs, and then we send these alert clips, about 200 KB in size, that are very tolerant of slow networks.
“Each camera is a completely independent, autonomous surveillance system that stands on its own,” Schnell emphasizes. “We are immune to a single point of failure in a network and central storage.
“Since each camera has its own infrastructure, the failure of a single camera doesn’t affect the system,” Schnell maintains. “If the network goes down, we continue to record and issue alerts when the network comes back up.”
The cameras, which store 80 GB on the hard drive and 80 GB redundantly in solid-state memory, have a dual networking option, either wired or wireless, Schnell points out. A new patent-pending technology also manages the hard drive to prevent its failure.
“We won’t write to the drive until we see an event of interest,” he explains. “Or we will buffer the data and write it in one continuous operation, keeping it in solid-state, so we can extend the hard drive in the camera to exceed the useful life of the camera itself.”
The camera also features an object-based search capability that delivers the eight most likely matches for an object by keeping a metadata record of everything it has seen including areas not set to trigger alarms. The search can be initiated across all VideoIQ cameras and encoders on the network by clicking on the object.
One of the factors inhibiting the growth of analytics has been the setup time required, Schnell maintains.
“I have been reliably speaking with a large national integrator, and they budget three hours of professional services time per camera to do field testing and calibration,” he relates. “That exceeds the cost of an analog camera – you’re adding the cost of a whole camera just to set the camera up.
“And those calibrations are extremely sensitive and finicky, and if the camera is bumped or the scene changes dramatically, the cameras need to be recalibrated to handle that installation,” he continues. “This is one of the great issues facing analytics cameras in particular.”
The new camera from Video IQ is a quick learner of what moving background elements are extraneous and knows the average height of a human being, Schnell maintains.
“We want to make these so compelling from a functionality point of view that even if you don’t care about analytics in the traditional sense, the value of the search forensics and data-mining capability of the camera will cause you to install them instead of a ‘dumb’ IP camera, and the savings in storage makes a huge difference as well,” Schnell concludes.
VIDEO ANALYTICS TECHNOLOGYBesides the increasing number of companies with
video analytic expertise, there has been an increase in the last three years in
the number of areas that can be analyzed in a scene.
Analyze this! Breakthroughs in Accuracy, Volume Have Arrived
“The biggest breakthroughs are in accuracy, which is clearly the No. 1 thing for customers, and the number of objects that a system can handle,” pointed out Carolyn Ramsey, director of program management for Honeywell Systems Group, Louisville, Ky.
Instead of following five or six objects in a scene, today’s video analytics can follow up to 20, she noted.
Nik Gagvani, PhD, chief technology officer of Cernium Corp., Reston, Va., said out that video analytics started as a form of advanced motion detection.
“A trend we’re seeing now is to be able to qualify the objects in the scene and actually report on the behavior that they’re doing,” Gagvani noted.
Rustom Kanga, PhD, CEO of iOmniscient Corp., New York, sees additional innovations. “Now as the technology advances, people are moving beyond just doing things on a single camera to doing things on multiple cameras,” Kanga revealed. “The ability to track across cameras where the images do not overlap and the second camera could be anywhere is being developed.”
Web Site Adds Unique FAQ SectionSpeco Technologies, Amityville, N.Y., recently included a section on its Web site of frequently asked questions (FAQs). What makes this section unique is that each topic is answered with an online video demonstration.
Speco’s Technical Group receives hundreds of calls a day regarding how to use some of the CCTV products that have been purchased by customers. The company felt it would better service customers if a video demonstration for commonly asked questions was produced and placed on the Web site for easy access any time of the day.
This section has been initiated with FAQs about digital video recording and will be expanded in the future. It is located at the top of the menu in the reference section of Speco Technologies’ Web site, www.specotech.com.
New Continuing Ed Courses Help Security Pros Maintain their CertificationsState-licensed or certified physical security and telecommunications professionals have a mandated requirement to participate in a requisite number of approved continuing education courses to maintain or renew their licenses and certifications.
At the same time, they want to expand their knowledge in areas which are becoming critical to the success of their business. Consequently, Speco Technologies, Amityville, N.Y., added several new seminars to the company’s educational series.
These include a new CCTV training program with an emphasis on IP networking for remote access to digital video recorders (DVRs) and a class on sound systems, with an emphasis on how to design practical multiple speaker systems in residential and commercial/industrial applications.
These programs, which include the latest information on emerging technologies in addition to the proven basic techniques used by successful companies in these segments, are offered to participants free of charge.
Speco Technologies’ involvement in further education is taken a step further by aggressively obtaining approvals for these courses by NBFAA, NTS and BISCI. They also are approved for Texas and North Carolina requirements, and Florida’s approval is pending.
Speco offers complete product training at its corporate training center or on the road. For more information, visit www.specotech.com or call (800) 645-5516.
Sidebar: Wireless Company Adds DistributorsAvaLAN Wireless, Mountain View, Calif., established new distribution relationships with three North American and nine international distributors in recent months to extend the availability of its wireless Ethernet devices and meet demand for its products.
AvaLAN partnered in North America with Graybar, a Fortune 500 company specializing in supply chain management services; Accu-Tech, a distributor of products needed to carry voice, data and video signals; and Dotworkz, San Diego, a provider of video hardware solutions. This brings the total number of North American distributors of AvaLAN products to 15.
Internationally, the number of distributors has grown rapidly, from five to 14. This is primarily due to the escalating prices of copper wiring globally, making wireless connectivity much more cost-effective. To date, AvaLAN forged agreements with distributors based in Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, India, Ivory Cost, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, the Philippines, and Zimbabwe.
To keep pace with demand for its products, AvaLAN Wireless quadrupled its manufacturing capabilities last spring. The new manufacturing plant has the capacity to build several thousand units a month, compared with 500 units previously.
To better respond to customer inquiries, all of the distributors are listed on a new distributor page that was launched on the AvaLAN website: www.avalanwireless.com/distributors_vars.htm.
Sidebar: Novation Allies with PSA and SimplexGrinnellPSA Security Network added Novation Wireless Security Systems LLC as a PSA-approved vendor. “We are very excited about adding the Novation line to our existing offering,” said Bill Bozeman, president and CEO of PSA.
In order to become a PSA-approved vendor, manufacturers must meet several criteria. They must be an established company with a proven, tested product along with quality customer service and technical support. For further information about PSA Security Network, call (800) 525-9422 or visit www.psasecurity.com.
Novation also announced a strategic alliance with SimplexGrinnell, a business unit of Tyco Fire & Security, which will strengthen Novation’s ability to deliver wireless access control solutions to SimplexGrinnel’s 500,000 customers.
Novation’s nSeries products are best suited for labor-intensive applications. Novation’s wireless products eliminate the need to pull wire for data and/or power to the door, thereby reducing installation time and cost.