Friday, May 9, 2008

Cost Cutting with IP Communications for Fire/Intrusion

For the past few months, we've focused on IP video topics, but it's time to switch gears a bit - since this blog is dedicated to all IP security-related topics - and recognize some of the benefits of using IP with intrusion and fire systems.

Likely one of the most important benefits for the end user is the ability to reduce operating costs by using IP for communications between control panels and the central monitoring station and eliminating the dedicated phone lines previously used for these communications.

Davidson College in North Carolina provides an excellent example of this. The college's IT staff recently challenged their integrator to engineer a way to shift the primary monitoring infrastructure to the campus fiber network. The integrator recommended using IP communications modules, so the college could continue to use their existing fire and intrusion control panels, while communicating to the central monitoring station over the Internet.

At Davidson, 70 fire systems from a variety of manufacturers protect the residence hall, classroom and administrative buildings throughout campus. All of these systems now communicate to the central station using IP as the primary communication method. If the network fails, phone lines connecting the panels to the college’s PBX switch serve as the back up.

Previously, two phone lines connected each panel to the PSTN for communications, requiring 140 dedicated phone lines. By eliminating the direct connections to the PSTN for each panel, the system's operations costs have reduced significantly. Davidson's IT project manager reports that the college has already experienced a 50% cost savings, and he expects that number to increase to 75% in the near future.

For many customers, cost savings is just one of the benefits of IP communications for fire and intrusion systems, albeit an important one. We'll explore some of the additional benefits in future posts.

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