RATHER like religion, Grade 1 central stations and the standards that govern them have been around so long they seem beyond criticism. At the risk of committing heresy many people who should probably know better accept the flaws in the status quo. Where do these flaws lie? Specifically, the grading system carefully outlined by Standards Australia and painstakingly governed by various industry associations, doesn’t spend enough time addressing key elements of new alarm monitoring technology. I know the standard does not really set out to paint a black and white picture of exactly how monitoring technology should function – rather it sets out parameters for performance. But is this enough in today’s increasingly high tech market? Does the Australian monitoring station grading system owe the end user and the bureau client a truer appraisal of current technology or at the very least an acknowledgement that sometimes the standards fly blind?It’s clearly apparent to me that those manufacturers moving at the very edge of advanced monitoring comms technology are the only experts in their fields in this country. Accepting this we all have to agree it’s too much to ask the industry’s governing bodies to deliver experts who know more about fast evolving technology than the creators of that technology themselves. But in accepting this truth you also have to ask what impact this state of affairs is going to have on the integrity of our grading system in the future when Internet alarm monitoring matures and every man and his dog pitch monitoring head first into the nebulous realms of the world wide web. The thing is this. Some elements of Grade 1A station reporting paths are being taken at face value by grading organizations with no real attempt made to put reporting technologies through a process of independent testing that might serve to prove their credentials. Proof of performance is an issue because while the science of digital diallers, DTMF machine tones and receivers is well understood, Internet alarm monitoring is an unknown, depending as it does on so many variables in hardware and software, as well as on multi-layered pathways.As we all well know, Grade 1A monitoring stations are plenty tough. There are rigorous standards that apply to walls and doors and all other elements of physical structure. Other elements of grading apply to physical and electronic security of the facility, as well as to its ability to sustain operators faced with loss of oxygen. While this is well and good, the superfast movement of monitoring technology and the vagaries of some comms paths (the Internet) mean the old-fashioned values that govern the security of Grade 1A stations no longer apply. The new challenges faced by big monitoring stations mean that getting on top of new technology and understanding how it can impact on signal integrity must quickly become an integral element of station grading. Consider that monitoring stations in some cases can take delivery of multiple IP alarm signals through a single path whose redundancy needs to be adequately assured. There’s no doubt that the market leaders build their businesses around guaranteeing this redundancy but for the unscrupulous players of the future there must remain an element of doubt. With new technology it’s possible for entire monitoring stations incorporating thousands of ‘virtual lines’ to be dependent on the signal integrity of one broadband link. In the face of this truth the standard needs to reflect the challenges of the technology and should be driven from all sides by a genuine desire to provide the most reliable alarm communications paths possible. Having spoken of the dark side of IP it’s worth pointing out that modern communications technologies have major upsides too. For a start they allow monitoring stations to flick pass all their monitored lines to third party locations in the event of massive failures at home base. Such capabilities are not only desirable, you could argue with serious justification that they should be embraced by every Grade 1A monitoring station. No one can deny that today leading edge monitoring technology is not particularly well understood by the market and nor is it particularly well covered by the standards themselves. Getting across such technology and fully comprehending its benefits and the challenges of its application is vital to the future of the alarm monitoring industry as a whole.Simply demanding every alarm panel have a tried and true back up likedialler is fine for the present but some time in the next 20 years Australia willhave actual broadband Internet services. Wideband internet lends itselfperfectly to bundled alarm and video monitoring over the Internet. Will weready for the next big thing?
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