What is VoIP and how will it affect my security system?

Telephone-Billy BrownWe live in an exciting time where it seems every day a new technology is being born.  Everything from our computers to our phones to our everyday accessories are advancing at a rapid pace.  The implications of a technology may not be fully realized until after the fact, and it may not always be an issue with the technology itself, but how it interacts with existing components of our already complex systems.  This is especially true of security system components.

In a comprehensive security system there are access controls, burglar and fire alarms, video surveillance, a monitoring service, and sometimes motion/glass break detectors.  With all of these moving parts security integrators have to understand the functions of each component and how they will affect one another.  As licensed security systems integrators our professionals at Perfect Connections, Inc. we deal with the changing technological environment by being educated and thoroughly evaluating what technologies will actually benefit our clients.  Our integrators have been providing comprehensive security system solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.

Many, if not most, security systems are migrating to a network based solution where system components are tied to an internet network.  This is where VoIP technology may come into play.  What is VoIP?  It stands for Voice over Internet Protocol.  Essentially VoIP technology allows voice signals to be transferred over a network versus the traditional POTS (plain old telephone service).  How does this tie into security systems?  In the not so distant past security system components were hardwired and heavily relied on traditional phone lines for communication capabilities.  Even with the surge of wireless components available there are still many hardwired systems that rely on the dependability of a phone line connection. VoIP technology essentially replaces the traditional phone line and can be used to bundle all communications, like cable and internet, into one service.

Sounds convenient, but like any technology there are bound to be issues, particularly with how it can potentially interfere with security systems.  Where you might run into trouble is when an alarm is triggered.  Typically, when an alarm is triggered a signal is sent to the monitoring station prompting them to alert the proper authorities.  Depending on the installation and the service, it could cause unpredictable or failed communication of alarm signals to the central monitoring station.  Some VoIP services can’t connect directly to 911 and on the dispatchers end they might not be able to see your phone number or address when you call, which is problematic when a response is needed.

The reasons why VoIP can cause unreliability are not always obvious especially to the end user.  According to Kenneth L. Gentile, a senior consulting engineer for Rolf Jensen & Associates Inc., “Digital alarm communication transmitters (DACTs) and other alarm transmitters initiate tones designed for transmission over POTS.”  Sometimes these tones meant for the monitoring station do not translate properly over VoIP lines due to signal distortion.

Installation error can be a factor in the reliability, or lack thereof, in VoIP services as well.  If the initial alarm wiring was installed on the existing telephone service it could prevent the alarm from transmitting properly and it’s up to your security systems integrator to recognize that. Alarm system tests can typically be run to ensure its operability, but according to Gentile, an on-site test with a VoIP service can’t always determine proper function or what the problem may be.  Instead he suggests VoIP service providers and the alarm monitoring service should be asked to conjointly demonstrate transmission of alarm signals under normal circumstances, when there is a power failure, and when VoIP is in use.  Doing so should help point out any potential issues with alarm signal transmission.  Gentile says, “VoIP service must be engineered so as not to jeopardize the essential emergency communications upon which public safety depends.”

Issues aside, VoIP service promises to be a beneficial technology.  Apparently it comes with great cost savings.  According to Eduard L. Telders, director of enterprise information security at T-Mobile, “VoIP can eliminate the entire expense stream of establishing and maintaining a circuit-switched network for telephone connections.”  Being able to bundle all communications into one service is appealing to end users and vendors alike.  It makes maintenance and service calls more convenient, having to call only one provider versus one for each service.  Facilities that employ VoIP technologies in conjunction with their security systems have the advantage of real-time response to criminal activity.  With VoIP, central monitoring stations can actually speak directly to an intruder caught on camera, transmitting a voice message through speakers installed at the subscribers on site location.

While it may have yet to be perfected VoIP technology seems to be a leading change in communication capabilities.  The implications it may have on security system transmissions and emergency responses are critical issues that need to be addressed by VoIP providers, security system integrators, monitoring services, emergency responders, and industry professionals.  Keep in mind that just because something is available, doesn’t make it the best option for your specific needs.  At Perfect Connections, Inc. our licensed integrators believe in providing comprehensive security solutions that will enhance the safety and security of your facility, not hinder it.  We have been installing comprehensive security systems at businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992, we have the experience and knowledge to design a system that will work best for you.

If you live or run a business in Central or Northern New Jersey and would like information on any of the topics discussed above, please call 800-369-3962 or simply CLICK HERE.

Image Credit: Image by Billy Brown-Flickr-Creative Commons