SECURITY BY DEBORAH L. O’MARA
Wireless and other radio frequency-based (RF) systems are especially suited
for concrete structures or locations with
environmental noise, such as industrial
processing plants. RFs designed for
commercial premises have robust signal
strength, strong digital repeaters and the
capability of penetrating these types of
buildings, often giving ECs the option of
avoiding time- and labor-draining tasks
like drilling and digging trenches.
Two of the most common RFs
deployed in commercial wireless systems are 900 megahertz (MHz), which
penetrates obstructed locations, and 2. 4
gigahertz (GHz), which travels across
long distances. These open RFs [Federal
Communications Commission (FCC),
Part 15] have strong penetration even
through channel interference and signal echo, which traditionally bounced
signals off larger objects and diminished quality. These concerns have been
addressed with transmission and modulation schemes that counter these effects.
Frequency-hopping spread spectrum
(FHSS) is a characteristic of secure wireless transmissions. With FHSS, data is
transmitted on one channel at a time but
is constantly changing, resulting in lower
bandwidth and less power consumption.
Richard Soloway, chief executive
officer of Napco Security Technologies,
Amityville, N. Y., said wireless performs as
well as hardwired in certain applications.
“The new technology is bidirectional,
operates in the FM spectrum instead of
noisy AM, and utilizes FHSS, which
makes for a cleaner and more reliable
connection that is extremely hard to
hack,” he said. “All of our high-security
locking devices are available in wireless
because of all the benefits provided.”
The security industry uses Advanced
Encryption Standard 128, a government-
recognized encryption scheme.
“This is a virtually impenetrable
algorithm used by banking and other
industries seeking to protect transmitted
data,” Soloway said.
The 900-MHz spectrum has particularly good properties for overcoming issues
in noisy and challenging construction.
“By moving around and transmitting
up and down the spectrum, the FCC
rules allow for higher power transmission,” he said.
The characteristics of RF technologies
deployed in security today also resist
malicious attacks because of the way in
which they transmit. According to Mark
Jarman, president of Inovonics, the FCC
prohibits constant, prolonged transmission at 900 MHz, so frequency-hopping
moves the signal up and down that particular spectrum.
“When a hacker tries to attack a
system’s integrity with a prolonged or constant signal, that’s a good tip off and alert
of malicious activity,” said Jarman, whose
Louisville, Colo., company creates wireless
networks for life safety applications.
FHSS also randomizes signals,
transmitting across the spectrum from
902–928 MHz, which alleviates jamming.
Jarman admitted to user doubt in the
past over wireless reliability.
“Most of the advancements have
changed that,” he said. “In addition,
intelligent repeaters, which provide the
backbone of the network, accommodate
virtually any size application, and the
combination of short on-air time and
sophisticated power management allows
extended battery life.”
Efficiencies and cost savings
Wireless holds many inherent efficiencies for ECs. One is consistent job quotes
“You don’t have to deal with surprises
uncovered with traditional construction,” Jarman said.
He estimated a savings of 35–50
percent to install a wireless intrusion-detection system versus hardwired.
Wireless products are much easier to
install than hardwired devices because
they require little, if any, training.
“[It] also allows us to program the
credentials remotely, which is a huge
time-saver,” Soloway said.
While wireless equipment is slightly
more expensive to purchase, the labor
savings easily make up for increased
“Because labor expenses make up the
largest portion of a contracting job, going
wireless will dramatically decrease the
final bill,” he said. “Wireless products are
plug-and-play, and they take virtually no
time to learn how to install, making the
process [much] faster than hardwiring.
Eventually, we see hardwire disappearing
Robust and secure in commercial deployments
entirely as wireless has so many advan-
tages. Wireless connectivity is the future
for just about everything in our lives.”
In buildings that seem like impenetra-
ble fortresses, there are many benefits to
using wireless, including reliability and
labor savings. The technology continues to
advance and may become the status quo in
many facilities and vertical markets.
No More Wireless Fears
ACROSS THE COUNTRY, electrical contractors (ECs) are on a mission to increase
their installation efficiencies, save labor costs and provide the most robust security
to customers even in the toughest environments. A great way to accomplish those
goals is by deploying wireless—from sensors and detectors to locks, access control
and other security products and services.
O’MA RA is the managing director of DLO Communications and a veteran of the
systems integration industry. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or
773.414.3573. I S T