A security alarm s a system designed to detect intrusion – unauthorized entry – into a building or area. Security alarms are used in residential, commercial, industrial, and military properties for protection against burglary (theft) or property damage, as well as personal protection against intruders.
Some alarm systems serve a single purpose of burglary protection; combination systems provide both fire and intrusion protection. Intrusion alarm systems may also be combined with closed-circuit television surveillance systems to automatically record the activities of intruders, and may interface to access control systems for electrically locked doors. Systems range from small, self-contained noisemakers, to complicated, multi-area systems with computer monitoring and control.
The trigger signal from every sensor is transmitted to one or more control unit(s) either through wires or wireless means (radio, line carrier, infrared). Wired systems are convenient when sensors (such as PIRs, smoke detectors, etc.) require power to operate correctly, however, they may be more costly to install. Entry-level wired systems utilize a Star network topology, where the panel is at the center logically, and all devices “home run” its wire back to the panel. More complex panels use a Bus network topology where the wire basically is a data loop around the perimeter of the facility, and has “drops” for the sensor devices which must include a unique device identifier integrated into the sensor device itself (e.g. iD biscuit). Wired systems also have the advantage, if wired properly, of being tamper-evident.
Wireless systems, on the other hand, often use battery-powered transmitters which are easier to install and have less expensive start-up costs, but may reduce the reliability of the system if the batteries are not maintained. Depending on distance and construction materials, one or more wireless repeaters may be required to get the signal to the alarm panel reliably. A wireless system can be moved to a new home easily, an advantage for those who rent or who move frequently. The more important wireless connection for security is the one between the control panel and the monitoring station. Wireless monitoring of the alarm system protects against a burglar cutting a cable or from failures of an internet provider. This full wireless setup is commonly referred to as 100% wireless.
Hybrid systems use both wired and wireless sensors to achieve the benefits of both. Transmitters, or sensors can also be connected through the premise’s electrical circuits to transmit coded signals to the control unit (line carrier). The control unit usually has a separate channel or zone for burglar and fire sensors, and better systems have a separate zone for every different sensor, as well as internal “trouble” indicators (mains power loss, low battery, wire broken, etc.).