Anna Sliwon

Analyst, security, IHS Technology

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IHS Technology is the world's leading source for research, analysis, and strategic guidance in the technology, media, and telecommunications industries.
August 8, 2017

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Analysis

Wireless intrusion sensors: Adoption still weak in the commercial sector

Texecom Ricochet wireless external motion sensor

IHS Markit estimates that 68 million intruder alarm sensors were sold globally in 2016 – of which 41% were wireless, according to the latest intruder alarm and monitoring database.

However, just 4% of those wireless intrusion sensors were destined for the large commercial sector. Residential and small-medium business sectors jointly accounted for the remaining 96% of the wireless sensor market.

Wireless benefits

Although the use of wireless sensors remains limited in the commercial sector, the popularity of these products is on the rise for several reasons:

  • Wireless sensors carry significantly lower installation costs as the installation process is much simpler and quicker. The lower install cost that comes with wireless sensors allows companies’ to allocate a greater portion of their security budget to hardware, enabling them to invest in additional or higher-quality sensors, or upgrades for the system, such as integration with video surveillance.
  • Wireless solutions are also more practical in unique installations like remote areas without easy access to the power mains. To overcome range issues, mesh networks, which act as signal repeaters, are used for larger installations. Moreover, as the use of wireless sensors proliferates across commercial applications, consumers may choose to adopt wireless control panels, to allow for easier future addition of extra sensors, as they won’t require on-site IT configuration to add to the system.
  • Prices of wireless sensors have also fallen fast, decreasing by 16% since 2012. Battery lifespan of wireless sensors has also improved in recent years, now lasting between one and five years depending on circumstances. Although enhancements have been made, limited lifespan of sensor batteries will put pressure on the security systems manager, necessitating the procurement of software that will allow to easily manage battery statuses.
  • More wireless sensors are available with UL certification, a prerequisite for many professional monitoring and insurance providers.

Wireless misgivings

Although wireless sensor technology is making inroads into commercial projects, concerns remain such as encryption, sensor price and ongoing maintenance costs:

  • Despite improvements to encryption for wireless systems, the risk of being hacked is still a common concern among large commercial end users. For example, wireless sensors are susceptible to jamming and signal interference, and if the system’s control panel is compromised the entire network of wireless sensors can be rendered useless by disabling the wireless module.
  • Wireless sensors are also more expensive than their wired counterparts. For example IHS Markit found that globally, a wireless PIR sensor costs 30% more than a wired variant on average.
  • The maintenance costs of wireless sensors are also higher, with the requirement to buy and maintain a set of spare batteries for replacement or recharging.

Long-term opportunities for vendors and installers

Despite the challenges facing wireless security sensors in large-commercial applications today, manufacturers and installers that promote and install wireless sensors will likely reap long-term benefits of the devices:

  • Vendors with strong after-sales service, such as customer service and maintenance, would be able to improve efficiency and speed of service by capitalising on the greater ease with which wireless sensors can be added to the system. This will lead to shorter installation times allowing them to serve more customers in a set period of time.
  • As wireless sensors are adopted on a wider scale, the significance of battery management system solutions will become apparent. Suppliers with the best battery management software, that is easy to use with interactive interface, are likely to seize the best of this opportunity.
  • Manufacturers of wireless sensors could further improve their products’ market opportunities by working closely with insurance providers and educating them about the benefits of wireless systems in commercial applications as well as their technological features. Entering into partnership with insurance providers may provide avenues for long-term impact.

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