Intrusion detection sensors remain steadfast as the first line defense in providing perimeter outdoor and interior security to what’s known in the business as the protected premises. These products have risen several notches in reliability, while their cost has dropped, making them the perfect segue for the electrical contractor into low voltage.

In its simplest form, intrusion detection is often a passive infrared (PIR), microwave, ultrasonic, or combination (dual-technology) sensor that sends a signal to the control panel when a specific protected area or perimeter is breached. As part of integrated security, they are more likely than ever to be critical components of a bigger security scenario. For example, video motion detection, camera surveillance, and recording on alarm, as well as access control and building management functions—can all work in a seamless solution.

If you’re doing straight security or have moved to integrated installations, you know how important these devices can be. However, with so many products available with different technologies, it’s important to set your priorities and select the device based on the application and installation environment. Tricky environments may be large warehouses or homes, both with wandering creatures or pets, but these too have been addressed with special lenses or pet alleys.

Many problems that previously were encountered with passive infrared, microwave, dual detection, and other sensors have been addressed via new features and functions. According to Girish Solanki, an industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan, San Jose, Calif., and author of the U.S. Physical Security Equipment Markets report, recent developments have led to significant increases in the dependability of these products.

“Low-end sensors have become more reliable without becoming more expensive, making them economically attractive to consumers who were previously dissatisfied with their performance,” said Solanki. Solanki also added that, because of a high occurrence of false alarms, perimeter barrier sensors were once considered too impractical for commercial use. “Their low cost in relation to high-end sensor products gave the impression of inferior quality, which was reinforced by the sensors’ inability to differentiate between intruders and environmental disturbances,” he said. Solanki’s study included the following: magnetic contacts, passive infrared, microwave, dual technology, glass break, video motion detection, perimeter barrier, and taut wire sensors.

For purposes of the study, low-end sensors include glass breakage detectors and PIR sensors ranging from $12 to $15 and dual- technology units with passive infrared, microwave and/or glass break detectors, priced from $30 to $35. “Lower-end sensors can do the work over higher-end or more expensive sensors so users don’t have to spend the extra money for similar performance,” he added.

Addressing false alarms

Space detection now has many state-of-the-art features and functions that work to prevent and nearly eliminate the false alarms that previously gave these devices a bad rap. Manufacturers have developed technologies to address problems that routinely caused false signals. Sensing technologies are new and refined, and include smart, microprocessor advancements in both hardware and software, bringing the best to the installing community. There are even units, for example, that incorporate PIR detection and camera surveillance in a single package.

Ease of installation has also been considered in many of the sensors, with advanced signal processing and special sensitivity circuits that customize the detector upon installation, depending on preset environment criteria.

Consider some of these devices in the genre of sensors and detectors:

• Audio intrusion.

• Contacts and switches, including holdup devices, magnetic contacts, money clips, panic buttons, switch mats, and ribbon and tamper switches.

• Dual-technology sensors, generally combining passive infrared with microwave, ultrasonic, or other new technologies.

• Environmental, industrial process and condition monitoring, gas, and water detectors.

• Passive infrared sensors.

• Photoelectric beams.

• Ultrasonic motion detectors.

• Vehicle and marine alarms.

• Outdoor and perimeter protection, buried sensors, fence-mounted sensors, fiber optics, alarm screens, volumetric sensors, and more.

There’s certainly no shortage of product, and advancements have opened a world of application possibilities. Now is the time to make the move into intrusion detection, an integral component for an electrical contractor moving to become a low-voltage specialist, or a “living systems” specialist. EC

O’MARA is the owner of DLO Communications Inc. in Park Ridge, Ill. She may be reached at (847) 384-1916 or domara@flash.net. Comments and suggestions are welcome.