Signaling New Opportunities: Wireless Expansion and Emerging Applications

0319 Security Photo Credit: iStock / hudiemm
Photo Credit: iStock / hudiemm

It’s an expectation today to be able to connect anytime, anywhere—and that’s where wireless comes in. Wireless technology enables electrical contractors embracing security to leverage traditional hardwired infrastructures and radio frequency (RF), expanding the footprint for deploying solutions.

Wireless technology is garnering attention for new and emerging applications such as temperature logging, pulse counting, water detection, gunshot detection and more, providing an easy way to add remote locations or address a difficult-to-cable project. Wireless uses a variety of communication technologies that range from infrared, microwave, lightwave, radio, cellular, satellite, Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Z-Wave, along with some proprietary signaling.

Thumbs up for RF

“We live in a wireless world that provides our communication, information and entertainment,” said Michael Um, senior product manager, Inovonics, Louisville, Colo. “We rely on RF nearly every minute of every day. Computers, cellphones, car door remotes and a host of other applications operate using RF technology. The rapid pace of recent developments and adoptions are now providing a positive change to the security space. The economics, timely completion and minimizing disruption is a clear advantage compared to traditional hardwiring. For installing contractors, labor savings increases the ability to serve more customers.”

In recent years, there have been developments in wireless frequencies for physical security transmission.

“For example, LoRa, Bluetooth, Zigbee and Z-Wave, all of which are in the early stages of adoption for commercial applications use,” Um said.

According to Rick Walsh, product manager, Lutron Electronics, Coopersburg, Pa., one of the significant challenges facing today’s electrical contractors is the ability to install and service projects in the face of pervasive labor shortages. Wireless lighting controls make system installation and setup faster and easier and reduces risk from unanticipated changes on a project.

“Accommodating last-minute changes can be extremely difficult or cost prohibitive with wired systems,” Walsh said. “Wireless ensures contractors add value without adding significant costs to a job. For example, contractors can easily add a point of control that was not on the original layout or adjust the position of an occupancy sensor to provide better performance, all without adding a wall box or fishing wires. Improving a contractor’s ability to give the customer what they want, within budget and on time, is a game changer in a highly competitive market.”

Moving forward, wireless technology will continue to make contractors more efficient.

“Wireless control is flexible, agile and better able to adapt to the demands of an ever-evolving industry,” Walsh said. “And with the tight labor market for skilled electricians, many nearing retirement, wireless is a way to prevent labor shortages from impeding business success.”

Wi-Fi for high security

Last summer, the Wi-Fi Alliance introduced Wi-Fi Certified WPA3. WPA3 delivers robust protection and strengthens user privacy in open networks through data encryption. In addition, a 192-bit security suite, aligned with the Commercial National Security Algorithm Suite from the Committee on National Security Systems, will further ensure Wi-Fi networks meet the higher security requirements of government, defense and industrial entities. Another recent innovation is Wi-Fi 6, designed for dense areas such as airports, stadiums, high-rise hotels and multi- family housing, entertainment venues and similar environments.

Wi-Fi also complements the fifth generation of cellular service (5G), which is being heralded as having an effect on traditional contracting for personal mobile applications and integrated systems and services.

“The move to support internet of things [IoT] both on 4G networks today and evolving to 5G networks opens a large number of possible applications for installers,” said Ray Butler, vice president, wireless network engineering, at CommScope, Richardson, Texas. “As these solutions become more prevalent, 5G will be able to handle massive IoT implementations, with over 100,000 connected ‘things’ in a square kilometer.”

5G will have a major effect on integrated systems, said Steve Kuntz, president, KBC Networks, Aliso Viejo, Calif.

“The issue is that 5G is a metered system,” he said. “Do security companies and end users want that monthly cost versus a fixed price for a wireless network?”

Wireless has become the go-to technology as contractors extend their reach so customers are always connected.

About the Author

Deborah L. O’Mara

O’MARA is a journalist with more than two decades experience writing about security, life safety and systems integration, and she is the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at dlocommunications@gmail.com or 773.414...

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