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Zigbee & 802.15.4 in Security?

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  • Zigbee & 802.15.4 in Security?

    I'm in the process of researching the security industry and it's acceptance of the Zigbee and 802.15.4 wireless RF protocols. Here are a few questions I have:

    1) What is your opinion on these communication protocols being used in panel to panel connectivity scenarios to replace RS485 and 232 communications?

    2) What is your opinion on utilizing low bandwidth wireless for security applications?

    3) What other security/building automation applications would be best suited for these communication protocols?

    4) I'm seeing more of a push these days to incorporate building automation systems management and controls with physical security systems. Do you see the "Intelligent Building System" being the future of our industry?

    5) What is important for wireless systems to support to be functional in the security space? (i.e. AES encryption, long range connectivity, maintainability, etc.)

  • #2
    I've never heard of ZigBee before this post, which should tell you something- I'm slightly more aware of trends than your average trunk-slamming wire monkey (but only slightly). If I understand the ZigBee wiki page correctly, then it seems like it would be a terrific idea. Currently, the biggest cost of any security system is installing and maintaining the cable. Creating some kind of practical, affordable way for a guy creating a medium installation (48 cameras or fewer) with some kind of mesh network is.... well, the implications are staggering. I don't like to use the term "revolutionary", but something like that could change the way the physical security world does business. I mean, in terms of flexibility alone...

    It's got to be affordable, give a good ROI, and be simple enough for a wire monkey to install and maintain.

    I use the term "wire monkey" with all respect, btw, as I started in this business as an apprentice installer carrying boxes of wire and holding the ladder steady, for $350 a week, 10 years ago.

    Getting back to your questions- I think the obvious apps, like right away, are surveillance and access control, as they are the two most dynamic security applications there are. If we could change camera layout schemes and access control security levels on the fly in response to changing demands, it really would change the way security installers looked at and thought about jobs. Adding secure wireless capability to IP camera networks without overloading the bandwith of existing networks, might just be the thing to push IP camera's ROI over the "worth it" line (see this post). Then you could adapt that to burglar alarms and fire protection.

    As for your fourth question: Intelligent Building Systems damn well better be the future of our industry, otherwise we'll continue to be stuck in building design (and budgets!) as an afterthought instead of being integrated in the phase-one planning as we should be. It's a sad thing when the HVAC system is more technologically advanced (in terms of intelligent integration) than you are, but that's where our industry is stuck at now. Our stuff can't talk to anyone else's stuff, so the CCTV system gets slapped onto the plans somewhere along phase three of the planning, if there's anything left in the budget. It's up to the locksmith to suggest access control systems. Forget about an alarm. At the very least, fire protection is mandated by law so the plumbing and the electrical budgets both include outlay for a fire system.

    Your last question is the easiest to answer: low maintainance (including very long-lasting batteries or at least the option to get power from an AC source close nearby), ease of installation (so simple an apprentice can do it), relative ease of programming (I suppose dip switches are out if you're gonna have a lot of transmitters), and long ranges free of interfearance. If it could make me a cappacino that would be awesome too.
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    • #3
      One of the important things is secure wireless. You don't want people to hack in and see what's being watched. With a few 'tools' you can view most peoples wireless baby monitors, and etc.

      As far as CameraMan's coment on security being an after thought, this is mostly because camera's, alarms, and access control are not required to build a building. You have to have plumbing and HVAC, electrical, telephones and most likely data. Unfortunate that it's either thought of later, or after they see how the rest of the budget works, but that's the way it is.
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