Layer Security with Sensors and Detectors

Critical surveillance calls for a variety of detectors and sensors, and there are some heavy hitters to get the job done. Protecting the infrastructure of the United States remains a top priority, and that means electrical contractors may be called upon to provide surveillance and detection at airports, utilities, water treatment facilities, rail yards and more.

As Homeland Security Defense measures continue to progress, products will beef up their technological prowess to get the job done.

Intrusion detectors have had to get tough. There’s been a ton of competition in sensors and detectors. Older ultrasonic and single technology sensors were prone to problems and false alarms. Police have wearied in responding to alarms, many instituting special procedures to verify signals with phone calls before dispatching. But detector manufacturers are certainly doing their part to change all that. Sensors continue to step up with cutting-edge microprocessor functions, software and other new and refined functions. Wireless has also added greatly to an upbeat picture, with reliability and catch performance higher than ever. And now, more than at any time before, detection is being coupled and integrated with other systems, to provide a turnkey solution.

You can’t relegate perimeter detection to any single device. For the most part, it will be an integrated approach: a sensor coupled with CCTV surveillance or other alarm that will get the job done unobtrusively and efficiently. Case in point is a video surveillance system that monitors an entire environment with 360-degree spherical viewing and motion detector from iPIX Security. The 360VS r2000 provides standalone detection or can be integrated with other cameras.

Investigate the vast array of solutions available to provide custom-tailored protection to the end-user. And, detection means more than passive infrared sensors (PIRs) and dual-technology devices, it means incorporating moisture sensors, carbon monoxide, temperature and more.

In fact, PIRs were the topic of discussion at the International Security Conference recently when Sandia National Laboratories, Underwriters Laboratories and the Security Industry Association presented a session on “The Need for Standardized Information for Security Equipment.” The presentation highlighted efforts to develop and demonstrate an independently operated, self-sustaining testing program that will produce scientific and legally defendable performance tests data on passive infrared motion detections. This “quality assurance in product performance” will also help the end-user make informed product decisions, said Mike Benson, Sandia National Laboratories program manager. Benson says the standards will not be traditional minimum performance pass/fail requirements, but rather, test protocols that yield specific performance numbers, so that end-users can make accurate purchasing decisions.

With today’s sensors, even the most grueling or complicated environments can be addressed. And “smarts” is always part of the equation. For example, System Sensor’s microprocessor-based multicriteria fire sensor called Acclimate was developed with software to adjust to its environment. As opposed to a fire system installer/operator/programmer setting the detector’s operating parameters based on historical data for each location, Acclimate removes this process by automatically learning the environment and optimizing the performance for each location. This type of intuitive circuitry has made installation easier of a variety of products on the market.

In traditional intrusion detection, smart motion detection is all the rage and ease of installation is a close second. Ademco’s Multiplex Quad AP Mirror PIR identifies the exact location of the intruder’s whereabouts with a DIP switch address or a serial number address. Detectors are now able to pinpoint the exact location of an alarm, further aiding in response to the site. In addition, the PIR gives the installer more flexibility with a 2-wire multiplex configuration.

False alarms and reliability have also been considered in the Perimitrax sensor from Senstar Stellar, with advanced adaptive algorithms. A person or vehicle crossing through the field is detected, while small animals and birds are ignored. Environmental sources, such as foliage, rain, snow and blowing sand are also filtered out without causing problems.

Detectors satisfy critical surveillance and a host of applications, whether ordinary or out of this world. Couple them with other products in an integrated approach, because each piece together makes security more reliable and targeted.

Don’t limit your thoughts of detection to passive infrared or what was formerly referred to as space detection. Think about all types of sensors and what they offer.

• Motion detectors—single technology and dual technology PIRs, microwave and other sensing technologies

• Glassbreak sensors—respond to shattering glass or certain sounds associated with attempts to break glass

• Environmental detectors—examples are carbon monoxide and moisture sensors

• Buried detection and fence and other sensors—provide perimeter detection and

• CCTV surveillance w/motion detection circuitry—combines two reliable systems. EC

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or


About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer
Deborah L. 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

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