Wireless and hardwired sensors interfaced to a single control. Access control that reads magnetic stripe, proximity, and biometrics. Fire alarm systems capable of communicating with multiple points or devices on a single pair of wire. It's the here and now of security and low-voltage systems.

Knowledge is power, and electrical contractors are taking advantage of this logical extension of their wiring business. According to the special report "Electrical Contractors: Their Involvement in Security Work," 80 percent of electrical contractor respondents perform security work. The study, sponsored by NECA and conducted by Renaissance Research & Consulting, Inc., in New York, the study indicates that 78 percent of contractors who do security work see the business as growing over the next three to five years. (Check the August issue of Electrical Contractor's Voice/Data/Video section for a complete report on the study.)

In the traditional intrusion detection market, smart sensors take center stage. Smaller and with built-in intelligence, many combine two or "dual" technologies such as passive infrared (PIR) and microwave for increased detection. Fostering increased reliability and false alarm prevention, dual technology sensors are now the norm rather than the exception. Dual element PIRs, with two sensing elements, also enhance detection.

Wireless at the forefront

Wireless technology has exploded in the security industry. This signaling method has made tremendous strides in reliability, and as such, now lends itself to commercial markets. When you can't drill holes, wireless makes sense. When you want to hardwire some points and use wireless for others, that's also a possibility. Today's control panels can handle both.

Wireless also presents advantages for the installer. Gordon Hope, vice president of Marketing, Ademco Security Group, Syosset, N.Y., says reducing installation time has been a driving force in wireless development. And, as reliability and range have risen, so has functionality.

"Wireless devices are multi-faceted," Hope says. Ademco's wireless "key" has a 500-foot range, lending the fob to many functions. "The 5804BD Wireless Remote Control has definite commercial appeal," he says. "The customer can arm or disarm a system from a distance. They can also check system status remotely."

For example, a blinking light on the fob indicates the alarm was recently activated, allowing occupants to avoid meeting an intruder on the premises.

Control panels as well have adapted to the saturation of wireless. "Wireless is one of the fastest growing segments of both the residential and commercial markets," says Duane Paulson, vice president of Marketing, ITI, North St. Paul, Minn. ITI's Concord Hybrid and Integrated panels are standard with eight hardwired inputs, and offer expansion with wireless options. For the customer, Paulson adds, wireless adds many conveniences, and the contractor who can install wired and wireless systems will provide the additional advantage of one-stop shopping, or turnkey service, a definite plus in the market.

For any application, there is a wide range of security products available. And, these products increasingly are designed to meet the demands of commercial customers and their facilities, says Elaine Weiss, marketing communications manager, Napco Security Systems, Amityville, N.Y.

"PC-driven access control and peripherals are integral to the market," she says. Napco's Excalibur Access System is a PC access control system that features multiple card technology integration, multi-tasking software and report generation. "It's suited to a single office or even networking multiple, global sites," she says.

Weiss added that Excalibur supports up to 100 different types of readers and keypads of different technologies and manufacturers, including magnetic stripe, proximity, and even biometrics.

Fire alarms, as well, have risen to the next highest level in technology. "They're more intelligent than ever, a plus for the installer," according to Dana Ferrer, marketing manager, Notifier Fire Systems, Northford, Conn.

"Many fire system manufacturers produce addressable systems," he says. "This means that the system can communicate on a single pair of wire to many addressable points, (318 in the example of the Notifier system) allowing ease of wiring," he says.

Notifier, which distributes product through its Authorized Network, makes a family of intelligent fire control products designed for the commercial fire detection market which can also network or link multiple sites.

Whether you're dabbling in security or delving deep into integrated systems installations, you can help all your customers find a security solution. Best of all, continued product enhancement and new developments means once you specialize in a security system installation, finding appropriate products will be no problem.

Developments at a Glance

- Proliferation of wireless devices for commercial as well as residential environments.

- Intelligent fire alarm systems with addressable detection points.

- Control panels that handle both hardwired and wireless devices and options.

- Access control systems that process myriad reader technologies.

- Products that lend themselves to integrate with a variety of different devices.

O'MARA is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She may be reached at domara@flash.net.