Wireless security solutions are a growing trend and can solve problems that could otherwise make an installation prohibitively expensive. Gone are the days of needing to run cables here there and everywhere to install your customer’s CCTV, intruder or access control system.
And, while this doesn’t offer the best of futures for the humble wire clip, it can make life much more straight forward for security installers, particularly if you are called upon to solve a security challenge at a premises with complexities or where it is an afterthought.
In addition, having a good understanding of the benefits of wireless security systems and their growing relevance across multiple applications offers security installers another potential revenue stream, the promise of increased operational efficiency and, ultimately, enhanced customer satisfaction.
What, where and why wireless is ramping up
Wireless has actually been used within the security industry to securely transmit data for longer than you might think – both private and public enterprises with mission critical applications have relied for some time on 3G or 4G backups in case their wired security networks went down. Just as you might have an electricity generator on a farm or in the middle of nowhere!
Normally when we talk about wireless security solutions, we’re referring to the networks that rely on either the 4G mobile network or local Wi-Fi set-ups. Often the wireless part of the solution is used for the ‘last mile’ of the system, where it traditionally became uneconomical or unviable to hard wire.
There might be the challenge of an obstruction such as a road, building or river to overcome. Another example would be a company who has two or three sites in a small geographical area, making it more cost-effective to install a wireless solution. This can avoid unnecessary expense and potential issues with authorisations from different stakeholders.
It’s not uncommon for wireless to be the only option because installing CCTV, intruder or an access control system is an afterthought on a project! Norbain were recently asked to get involved in just such a scenario on a new retail park. Physical security had not been adequately specified and needed resolution retrospectively. As there was an existing power supply to lamp posts but no data cabling, the optimum solution at that stage was to install a wireless security system.
This solution combined CCTV with ANPR and deployed 28 cameras plus 14 audio horns, all fitted wirelessly across the complex.
It remains unusual to find security solutions operating entirely over wireless. However, with the rapid development of 5G capability and our expectations of IoT connections in our homes, businesses and public spaces, wireless networks are becoming the backbone of communication.
The good news is that a number of manufacturers have focused their efforts on the specialised needs of the security industry for a number of years now. They’ve developed solutions which address the secure transmission of data – and, in particular, video – over wireless. They’re also addressing the mounting pressure on existing bandwidth – we’ll come back to this later on.
Integrating legacy wired systems with wireless solutions
Often, security integrators will find themselves confronted with a requirement to add wireless security components to an existing legacy system. This may require some additional effort on the part of the integrator and distributor to identify a workable solution, but frequently makes sense, even if only from the perspective of not wasting a customer’s existing hardwired security investment.
There are a number of solutions on the market which facilitate adding wireless aspects onto existing wired systems, allowing the legacy security equipment to be retained. This makes a lot of sense if it is still performing at a high level. End users are increasingly demanding added value from their security solutions along with increased automation. Wireless connectivity can be used to achieve the anticipated personalisation and remote management.
Benefits of wireless security
The popularity of wireless security solutions is supported by a number of benefits surrounding this approach:
- Easier and quicker installation: wireless solutions often require reduced time and money to deploy.
- Cost effectiveness: it can make more sense financially to deploy wireless links or bridges, rather than attempting to install a dedicated wired infrastructure. Add to this that wireless has reduced wiring requirements, and you can quickly see the cost benefits it might bring.
- Flexibility: wireless systems can be installed almost anywhere, with greater variation of system design and reduced limitations.
- Scalability: wireless offers the ability to grow as a business, or as deployment requirements change.
- Legacy equipment life extension: wireless devices and peripheral sensors can normally be integrated with existing wired solutions.
- Reduced disruption: less disturbance on site during installation, particularly useful with retrospective fits.
- Remote management: can offer remote configuration, servicing, and troubleshooting.
- Personalisation: wireless solutions often include customisation of views, alerts & notifications, and integrate with existing wired elements.
- Aesthetics: wireless can be discreet – offering visually more pleasing connections.
- Cybersecure: newer solutions in particular – if they are Secure by Default or Secure by Design – reduce the probability of data interception and detection.
Examples of wireless applications
There are endless approaches to deploying a wireless CCTV, intruder or access control system. A familiar one would be anywhere using wireless to gather the data from edge or peripheral devices, then taking it back to a central wired location. Application examples: A large perimeter area; education facilities such as a school or university; business parks; retail parks; residential/small offices; town centres; Any security system deployment requiring information to be transmitted from ‘edge’ components such as cameras or smart devices back into a central control unit.
Solving the impending bandwidth shortage
With many billions of wireless devices now reliant on frequencies, the safe, lower end of the spectrum is running out of bandwidth to transmit our communication needs. 5G will only serve to exacerbate this.
A major rethink of the way wireless networks connect is imperative and there are numerous think tanks, governments and businesses discussing the challenge globally. One viable option is the wireless transmission of optical signals, which has the added benefits of promising greater velocity, higher data throughput and reduced energy consumption.
Another solution that manufacturers have come up with is to move into the millimetre wave frequency range – called mmWave networks – whilst maintaining differentiation between what are considered ‘massive IoT’ services and ‘critical’ IoT services. Massive IoT would include things like sensors and cameras around a town, while the critical services frequency would remain reserved for emergency services, utilities and so on.
Beware of the pitfalls
Bandwidth – Security Integrators and their customers must ensure they understand how much bandwidth a solution will require and how much is available. Is it sufficient?
You also need to verify that there isn’t another information source being transmitted at a higher frequency or a power line in the way, e.g., around airports or business parks. Otherwise, your signal could be swamped!
Encryption – Manufacturers must offer encrypted transmission, so information can’t be ‘sniffed or ear dropped’. Nowadays, encryption is standard within each unit, making them very difficult to hack. However, cyber-criminals are getting smarter all the time so it is important to ensure updates issued by manufacturers are applied.
Cyber Security – Devices or solutions should be Secure by Default or Secure by Design from a reputable manufacturer. It is also imperative to change passwords and follow basic cyber practices.
Clear line of sight – Specifically with external CCTV or access control wireless solutions, it is important to establish whether a clear ‘line of sight’ between transmitter and controller is required.
Suitable supplier – It is up to the integrator to ensure they use a trusted manufacturer who is fully conversant with the unique challenges of security solutions. These require superior system design and continuity of service, particularly in critical applications.
Redundancy – If any part of the system fails, then the whole system will fail, but it is a misconception that wireless elements of a security solution are a weaker link. All aspects require adequate back up to be in place.
There’s no doubt that the world is moving towards wireless solutions across all sectors as the technology advances and users anticipate their ease of deployment along with increased functionality. The security industry is no different, so it is exciting that a number of manufacturers have products available that can be up and running in as little as 30 minutes. Wireless devices can be integrated with existing legacy CCTV, access control or intruder systems and this technology represents a cost-effective option with the potential for improved performance and reliability.
Norbain partners with several of the leading manufacturers of wireless security solutions and we’d love to help you solve your customer’s security challenges. We can advise you and your end customer on current wireless technology options available in the marketplace and which solution would be best suited to your needs.
We also understand that every business is unique, and some solutions can’t be delivered in a box. That’s why we have Solutions Specialists to provide you with ongoing support, help define project roadmaps and work with you to optimise technology investments.
Get in touch with us to discuss your requirements: www.norbain.com
By Caroline Cooper, Content Marketing Manager at Norbain SD