Just when it seemed like everything that could be done with intrusion sensors had already been done, along came a host of new ideas for how to improve on motion detectors, contacts and other devices.

Here are 11 examples of how developers are making sensors more versatile, more reliable and easier to use:

1. Taking the “contact” out of contacts

Traditionally door contacts have had two pieces to install — including the magnet and the sensor. But in the future, some door sensors will have only one piece, which simplifies installation and minimizes installation time. Bosch Security Systems is working on sensors that use a micro-electronic mechanical system similar to what is used to deploy car airbags and in anti-lock brakes, explains Tom Mechler, product manager for Fairport, N.Y.-based Bosch. “You can use it to see if a door has been opened,” he notes. “You don’t need a magnet on the door.”

2.A new approach to bypass

Some homeowners never arm their system with a window open because they don’t know how to bypass an individual sensor. “The alarm company trains them about bypass but nobody remembers,” observes Avi Rosenthal, vice president of security and control for Carlsbad, Calif.-based manufacturer Linear. But soon there will be an alternative, as window sensors with built-in bypass switches will be introduced to the industry. Homeowners who want to arm their systems with the window open will simply push a button on the sensor and it will be bypassed, Rosenthal details.

3. Easier to install motion detectors

Installing a motion detector is sometimes challenging because installers usually have to make sure the device is flush with the two corners of the wall and that it’s level, while also holding a mounting screw in place and using a screwdriver to secure it. But some motion detectors make that process easier by adding features that hold the screws in place by design. “You don’t have to hold the screw with your index finger and thumb while trying to keep the sensor level and flush to the wall corner,” comments Chris Ciervo, senior product marketing manager for Honeywell Security, Melville, N.Y.

4. Motion sensors with a camera

Although not a brand new concept, some passive infrared (PIR) motion detectors are now available with built-in cameras. “When the PIR trips, the camera takes a video clip of what caused it,” explains Keith Jentoft, president of St. Paul, Minn.-based RSI Videofied, which offers that type of product. “The alarm and the video go to the panel and the central station,” Jentoft says. The person reviewing the video can then better gauge whether a real intruder is present or whether there was a false alarm.

The next enhancement in this area will be PIRs with streaming cameras built in, Jentoft said. With this approach, he said, “the PIR doubles as a look-in camera.”

5. Securing garage doors

Security systems traditionally haven’t protected garage doors. But that’s changing now that some manufacturers have begun to offer sensors specifically designed for use on garage doors. As Mark Okeefe, general manager for Honeywell Security explains, these devices can be attached to the garage door and can sense when the door is tilted, indicating that it is open or closed. An added benefit is that control panels like the LYNX Touch series give people the ability to open and close their garage doors via the alarm panel.

Tim Myers, director of product management and intrusion for Tyco Security Products, notes another useful app for garage door sensors. By connecting the sensor to a home automation system, the system can automatically turn on lights or air conditioning in the home when the garage door is opened.

And because this type of sensor has not traditionally been part of a security system, it gives security companies the ability to increase the size of their average sale.

6. A new emphasis for outdoor motion detectors

Customers today are more likely than they were in the past to use outdoor motion detectors as a deterrent, Mechler observes. “We have customers using outdoor detectors as a pre-alarm to activate a sounder or light when an intruder approaches,” he explains.

When either of those occurs, many would-be vandals will flee the scene, potentially saving the customer the expense of replacing a window or replacing stolen valuables.

7. A new role for specialty sensors

Rather than simply generating an alert, specialty sensors such as water or heat detectors can help stop problems on their own without human intervention, Okeefe explains. Some alarm panels now have the ability to respond to specialty sensor alerts based on how the panel is programmed. A potential application would have a specialty sensor such as a water detector send an alert to the panel, which then sends a command to activate a shut-off valve, saving the home or business owner from a huge expense, Okeefe says.

8. A new role for motion detectors

Another capability that some alarm panels can support is to keep track of how many times a motion detector has detected motion — even when the system is unarmed. As Mechler explains, this capability may be useful as a comparison tool for retailers with more than one location. He cited the hypothetical example of a company that has a motion detector aimed at the storage room in each of its locations, including one that has greater inventory shrinkage than the others. If the company were to discover that the problem location had noticeably more PIR trips, suggesting that an employee may have been going frequently into the storage room, that could alert the company to keep a close eye on employees in that location.

9. Tapping into temperature data

Some motion detectors now have a built-in temperature sensor that adjusts the sensitivity of the device in real time. The closer the room temperature is to a human’s body temperature, the more sensitive the infrared has to be, explains Jentoft. If the motion detector also has two-way wireless capability, the motion detector can send out temperature information — and as Jentoft notes, that information can feed into a home automation system along with information from the heating/air conditioning system to fine tune the system’s temperature setting.

10. Continued advances in wireless sensors

Manufacturers continue to make gains in the battery life, range and false alarm immunity of their wireless systems and sensors, observes Myers. Extended range is especially important in commercial settings, he notes. “New technology supports large-scale projects by requiring fewer repeaters and minimizing frequency interference,” comments Myers.

11. Improved detection of humans

Manufacturers also continue to enhance the signal processing capability of their security sensors with the goal of better detecting a human intruder and only a human intruder. Al Yarbrough, product architect for Springfield, Mo.-based Digital Monitoring Products, regularly examines applications for security-related patents that offer a hint of what is to come in this area. Recently, he says, “I saw three new patents that are directly related to adaptive processing.” Some of these pertained to addressing issues with ambient lighting, Yarbrough comments.

Innovations like these should help security dealers minimize costs while at the same time enhancing customer satisfaction and boosting average revenue per sale. The new sensors and their benefits — to both installer and end user — will enhance the intrusion market in 2014.


Internal Vs. External Motion Detection


In recent years a common use of motion detectors has been to trigger video recording. In a typical installation, a passive infrared detector would be installed in a protected area, with video sent to a central station and/or to a home or business owner’s smartphone.

Alternatively some video cameras have internal motion detection, which causes the camera to begin recording when the field of view changes, suggesting that an intruder may be present.

So when is it a good choice to use a separate external motion detector rather than internal motion detection to trigger video recording?

“Video motion detection is meant for indoor use,” observes Jeffrey Morris, national sales manager for Sparks, Nev.-based manufacturer Protection Technologies Inc. (ProTech). “Outdoors you’re fighting against environmental conditions.”

Bosch’s Tom Mechler has a bit different take on when to use a separate motion detector. “It depends what you’re doing,” he advises. “If you will dispatch you should use a motion detector. If it’s for an alert, video motion detection is great.”

Mechler’s reasoning is that internal motion detection is more likely than an external detector to generate false alarms. He adds, though, that the technology is “leaps and bounds over where it was.”

 Mechler also notes that using an external motion detector to trigger the repositioning of a pan-tilt-zoom video camera may be more economical than using two fixed cameras to cover a protected area.