Wiring's Future Is Secure

No specific market numbers apply to the cable and wire used to install and integrate security and life safety products, according to Maricha Ellis, business manager, security solutions for Belden Inc., St. Louis.

“The total global market for cable, however, is estimated to be around $41.2 billion annually,” she said. “Although market growth estimates for wire and cable products varies by region, in general, it is forecast to grow about 5 percent this year.”

George Genzel Sr., owner of Seminole Wire and Cable Co., Pennsauken, N.J., said he sees huge potential for the very competitive U.S. security systems cabling market, although recent economic struggles have caused a drop in sales.

“The market hasn’t yet rebounded to old levels, but we still see steady sales in security system wiring products,” he said.

In this growing market, electrical contractors have more opportunities to use their wiring expertise to expand into the security segment.

Wire and cable trends
The security marketplace has historically used multiconductor and coaxial cable in residential, commercial and industrial applications. More recently, there has been a marked increase in the amount of twisted-pair cabling used, according to Matt Powers, technical director of security solutions for Anixter, Glenview, Ill.

“And, as the security marketplace shifts to the network, some systems—even if they are legacy systems—will start to use unshielded twisted-pair cabling in at least part of the system,” he said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, there has been a push for cables supplying critical information or signals (such as fire alarms) to be able to survive exposure to fire. This would allow people on upper floors of a high-rise building to continue to communicate with fire departments and emergency medical personnel. A more recent trend is the introduction of fiber optic cabling into the security market.

“Because it is resistant to electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency, fiber cabling becomes an attractive choice in applications where interference can disrupt a video stream,” Powers said.

Fiber is also being used more in applications where a high-density cluster of security products are linked back to a data center.

Security devices connected by wire, cable and fiber are becoming more intelligent and are incorporating more varied communication capabilities.

“Some of the newer devices include wireless technology, depending on the application and customer’s requirements,” Genzel said.

Wire and cable also are becoming more sophisticated in response to the wider variety of devices being used and the electronic controls and computer technology required to manage and operate them.
In addition, the security devices are being used increasingly in nontraditional ways and environments.

“An example is in industrial automation where security products are being integrated with either existing programmable logic controllers [PLCs] or with PLCs that have historically used fieldbus protocols for machine controls,” Powers said.

As a result, specific work areas are receiving more control and data, and by coordinating with the security system, the events are being logged, recorded and recalled at any time.

A body of standards
In the area of standards, Ellis sees a trend in the United States toward the assimilation of BICSI standards, which would incorporate unshielded twisted-pair cabling for all security devices, while Genzel believes that the safety regulations promulgated by state and local governments is the most active area.

“These are the regulations and standards that are constantly evolving and where installers can look to manufacturers, who are naturally on the leading edge of ensuring safety compliance for their products, for information.”

Powers said the security marketplace is starting to follow structured cabling standards as it moves from an analog-based system to the Internet-protocol network.

“As more installations call for four-pair Ethernet cable, installers are increasingly following the TIA-568 Series wiring standards in North America,” Powers said.

Outside of the United States, many countries within the European Union and Asia commonly reference the ISO/IEC 11801 wiring standard. Both standards define cabling system performance that will support very high data rate systems from 10 megabits per second all the way to 100 gigabits per second, using both copper and optical cabling media.

Of course, wiring a security system calls for a huge assortment of hardware, from strippers to compression tools, field testers and wire management products. Where a system once consisted of magnetic contacts, sirens and a control panel, today, there are cameras, multi-channel digital video recorders, card readers and access control devices that all have to be integrated into a system that communicates with facility managers and emergency responders.

“The core competencies of pulling cable are the same, but contractors still need to know how to design a system and use their project management skills to ensure that the security system is correctly deployed,” Powers said.

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 and darbremer@comcast.net.

About the Author

Darlene Bremer

Freelance Writer
Darlene Bremer, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributed frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR until the end of 2015.

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