“The world is going digital.” Recently, a customer service representative of my favorite long-distance provider made this statement. (I’m not being sarcastic when I use the word “favorite.”)

With that, I knew that this perceptive and polite representative had hit the nail on the head. Digital for satellite, cellular, and everything in between is nearing mainstream. Computer networking at home and office is the norm. And, integration of all kinds of technology, including wireless and hardwired, software, and transmission protocols, is the wave of the future—and in some cases, it’s here already.

As cameras and videocassette recorders have advanced, such consumer product innovation has spilled over into devices designed for the commercial realm. In security applications, closed-circuit television (CCTV) video surveillance has been a primary benefactor of this technological shot in the arm.

Digital signal processing and digital signal transportation technologies for security will continue to bring the industry into its own. Monitoring over integrated services digital network (ISDN) and the Internet will continue to advance.

This is where the boom is to come. Not in home security, as many had bet during the ’80s, but in wiring—structured solutions and networked voice/data/video (VDV) communications.

The digital edge

Digital will continue to propel low-voltage installers into the future. Digital transmission and other new technologies allow electrical contractors to futureproof their installations in many ways. When you futureproof, you start with a system suited to your customers’ needs today, and save room for the future, upgrading easily as needs change.

In CCTV, you can offer the customer a two- or four-camera digital system, and present the opportunity to upgrade to as many as 32 cameras. That’s the digital edge.

Digital technology allows CCTV systems to be scaled according to the application. Coupled with the drop in both size and price of black-and-white and color and the evolution of CCTV control via the personal computer, there’s a system to suit your customer today and in 2010.

As the industry moves to a true digital environment, traditional security will expand into other uses and functions in information technology. Currently, the signal processing, transmission, and archiving of CCTV is digital. When the entire spectrum of a CCTV installation becomes digital, including the monitor, for example, technology will move even further into the area of artificial intelligence.

“Processing functions and standard performance tasks are done automatically in a digital environment,” said Frank Abram, general manager, Security Systems Group, Panasonic Security and Digital Imaging Co., Secaucus, N.J. “The transmission technology in digital can now provide the opportunity to view and control CCTV systems over [local area networks] LANs, [wide area networkks] WANs, and/or Virtual Private Networks or VPNs.”

Abram says the industry is gravitating to a 100 percent digital environment. Right now, the link between capturing and processing device accepts an analog signal and converts it to digital.

The ability to specify, install, and service networks is another way electrical contractors can futureproof their profitability.

“The demand for digital imaging is going to increase as technology continues to evolve and network transmission speeds increase,” said David Hauger, president of MRT micro. Based in Boca Raton, Fla., MRT micro is a global digital imaging company and provider of intelligent observation systems. “Users who switch to digital solutions experience a significant advantage in image quality, speed of transmission, event-driven recording, and archiving and storage capabilities. The combination of digital imaging technology and the widespread use of the Internet are wonderful concepts with endless possibilities,” he added.

The digital age

Developers across the country are increasingly building neighborhoods for the digital age. For example, in Mission Viejo, Calif., and the Ladera Ranch community, cable television, high-speed Internet access, and digital telephones are part of the package plan for some 8,000-plus proposed homes. In home systems, networking and structured wiring is not just for upscale residences, but also for middle America.

Security and surveillance products are taking advantage of their ability to meet myriad application through LANs, WANs, and the like. Product after product is playing off this newfound installation and application freedom.

Radionics Inc., a division of Detection Systems Inc. in Salinas, Calif., recently introduced data network hardware and software solutions that allow its 9000 Series control panels/keypads to be turned into a networked security solution for intrusion detection, fire alarm, and access control applications. A high-speed data connection can link thousands of 9000 Series controls to the user’s monitoring sites anywhere in the world using TCP/IP WANs with Ethernet or Token Ring connections. Remote signals, control, diagnostics, programming, and other functions can be accessed and altered quickly and simply by network, telephone, or both.

In access control as well, networking solutions are widely touted. Customers who want to upgrade quickly and easily, or perhaps use an existing network, can do so now with new technologies and software.

The ability to implement an electronic access control solution on an existing information network is the concept behind the Ethernet Intelligent System Controller from Simplex Time Recorder Co., Gardner, Mass. Developed to run on standard Ethernet networks, the ISC advances the capabilities of Simplex’s NT3400 Security Management Information System.

“Most buildings today have been outfitted with a standard Ethernet backbone,” said Cam Queeno, director of security product marketing, Simplex. “This is a cost-effective solution that runs effectively on a standard Ethernet network.” A modular design fosters expandability; a wide variety of devices can be controlled, including readers, keypads, door contacts, switchers, and output devices.

Digital technology, networks, and structured wiring allow electrical contractors to truly become wiring and solutions providers, sealing their business’s success for decades to come.

O’MARA is president of DLO Communications Inc. in Chicago. She specializes in writing about the security market. She can be reached at (773) 775-1816 or domara @flash.net.