This blog post is about how to properly deploy life safety applications. A link to an article in Security Products and Technology News Magazine on effective situational awareness and threat detection appears at the conclusion of this post.
Voice, data, wireless and even body-area networks have created an unprecedented level of connectivity, and the power of this persistent connection makes it possible to do all sorts of great things. The convergence of networks and devices has led to the Internet of Things, with Cisco’s Internet Business Group predicting that 50 billion devices will be connected by 2020. While this is an important technology trend and a key aspect of my own business, I have to wave the caution flag in terms of using Wi-Fi networks for life safety applications. When IT managers start talking to me about taking this route, I like to use this analogy/advice: Just because you can bungee jump with kite string doesn’t mean you should. The notion of multi-use doesn’t mean all use.
Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Use Wi-Fi for Life Safety Applications
Would you ever put a fire panel on Wi-Fi? No, a fire system needs to be separate, isolated without dependencies on routers, cabling, switching, access points, etc. Why do we put people in solitary confinement, with solitary being the operative word? Because we want to remove the variables, the unknowns, the risks. The same is true for any life safety application because the stakes are simply too high for compromise. Wi-Fi has its place, but life safety isn’t it because there are too many failure points and too much traffic. Therefore, life safety applications should always run on a dedicated, wireless mesh network. I offer these facts about mesh networks based on more than 25 years of technology experience:
- No wiring/cabling considerations or expenses versus hardwired Wi-Fi (Only the Wi-Fi- access point is wireless.)
- Battery-operated so no dependence on power (If the power goes out, the network and the devices on it still work.)
- Self-healing/self-configuring and redundant for reliability (The data will reach its intended destination even if it has to work its way around a broken node.)
- Flexible and scalable (It can support a single mobile duress button or thousands of sensors for life safety, security and environmental monitoring.)
- Dedicated, isolated so free from variables and dependencies that affect uptime (Uptime is optimized.)
- Affordable (Maximum performance and minimal maintenance lowers total cost of ownership.)
Life safety is a special interest, and as such, all available steps should be taken to improve it. You can help customers – or yourself – in this critical area by identifying the risks inherent to the given environment and installing the necessary systems to mitigate those risks.
Read more about situational awareness for effective threat detection and response in the latest issue of SP&T News. The article starts on page 22.