Published In November 2000
If you haven’t installed a motion detector lately, or have avoided them because of their vulnerability to environmental or other problems, check out the “next-generation” devices now on the market. They’re smarter than ever. Motion detector technology has come of age, providing superior detection in nearly every type of application possible. Best of all, they’re easier than ever to install. Today’s motion detectors include passive infrared detectors (PIRs), microwave, dual-technology sensors, or a combination of new or refined sensing technologies. Straight PIRs and microwaves are still a widespread application. But also in the spotlight are those detectors that incorporate more than a single sensing technology or detection feature. These have become industry “standards” in an effort to minimize false alarms and their negative impact on the installing community. The new range-controlled radar Range-Controlled Radar (RCR) by Sentrol, Tualatin, Ore., brings a new twist to the pairing of PIR and microwave. This dual technology uses radar technology instead of conventional microwave in order to reduce the number of false alarms and increase installation versatility. RCR transmits several million pulses per minute and times the return echo pattern to detect a moving target within the coverage area. RCR sends out a signal or a “ping” similar to microwave; however, the technology in the RCR measures how long the signal takes to travel “X” number of feet. The sensors work similarly to the sonar on a submarine, transmitting radar signals that “ping” the coverage area, then bouncing back to the sensor on the same path. Because of this, it is not purely mass driven like microwave technology. Radar can also tell how far away something is by using “time of flight” to measure the distance. It can tell approximate object size at that distance. While radar still penetrates glass and walls like microwave, it stops looking for a return signal from anything outside its “foot” range. “For the first time, it is possible to not only determine that something is there, but also to determine where it is in the coverage pattern and how big it is,” Jon Kurahara, Sentrol Security Sensors product manager, said. We’ve added the intelligence to the detector. It makes a size determination and knows how far out to look for an object and the size of that object.” Quick setup Not only is technology reducing false alarms, but it is also making installation easier, certainly a plus for the electrician turned low-voltage specialist, says Tom Mechler, manager of intrusion products, Detection Systems, Fairport, N.Y. Case in point is First Step Processing’s (FSP’s) newest product, the DS835i TriTech, a combination patented PIR, microwave, and advanced signal processing unit. This eliminates the need for field adjustments of pattern angle or detector sensitivity. FSP selects the application’s sensitivity level by determining the signal’s source and the timing and pulse levels it creates. Developments in sensors are fast and furious, as manufacturers seek to attract a large and varied installing population. Smarter than ever, PIRs have diverted attention from dual- technology devices in some instances. Frank Ioco, senior sensor engineering manager for Napco Security Group in Amityville, N.Y., stills lives by the conviction that a properly installed alarm won’t inadvertently sound, but Napco has upped the odds even further with its IQ Profiler Advanced PIR. A microprocessor-based PIR featuring dual focal lengths with Look-Down Zones, the IQ profiler installs quickly and easily and profiles detected signals against a built-in library of false alarms and alarm sources. “Dual focal-length lenses distinguish targets by actual distance from the sensor, so animals can’t appear as large as intruders,” Ioco said. “In addition, shielded grooves-out lenses and dual lens coverage—one for far field and one for near field detection, both with Look-Down—enhance coverage.” In the future, expect continued refinement of technology and an emphasis on pet immunity, coupled with superior catch performance. Aesthetically, these motion detectors have arrived. Technologically, they’re way ahead of their time. O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications, Inc., in Chicago. She can be reached at (773) 775-1816 or via e-mail at domara @flash.net.