Wireless vs. Wired
It’s Saturday morning,
and you’ve just woken up. You think to yourself “I could really go
for some coffee right now”, but the kitchen seems so far
away…fortunately, you have a WiFi connected coffee maker, and can
start the process from the warmth and comfort of your bed, simply by
opening an app on your phone. Life surely couldn’t get any more convenient.
It’s not surprising that when it comes to alarm systems,
residential or commercial, many clients are looking for integrated
solutions; something they can access any time, anywhere, at the click
of a button. However, the stakes are a little higher when it comes to
security then they are with your morning coffee. Is it safe? Will it work every
time? What if I have a power outage? We have to ask the
question: are wireless
security systems better than wired ones?
This is a great question, but one that doesn’t lend itself to a “yes or no” answer. Saying a
system is “wireless” can mean a number of different things. A “wired”
system may still have wireless components, and vice versa. In fact,
there are three distinct aspects to an alarm system, any of which can
be wired or wireless, in almost any combination. These three
the main brain of the system, where all the processing of signals
the part that sends the signals from the CPU to the monitoring
the individual zones in the system; doors, motion detectors, etc
To understand the
benefits and drawbacks of using wireless in an alarm system,
we’re going to break down each of these three components individually
and examine them closely.
Today we will look at the CPU.
What does the CPU do?
The CPU, or
Central Processing Unit, is the real hard worker in the system. It
receives signals from every other device in the system,
including keypads, door
sensors, smoke detectors, keyfobs, etc, and decides what
to do with them. Without this part functioning properly, every other
part of the system is effectively useless.
What’s the difference between a wired one and a wireless one?
Traditionally, the CPU (or “panel”, as it’s often referred to in the
alarm industry) was housed in a secure metal box in a room that is
hard to reach, such as a utility room or a locked server room. It is
usually part-and-parcel with, or closely housed to, the Communicator;
this means that when the CPU decides that someone needs to be
notified of something, communication can happen instantly. The siren is
also wired into this box.
With the advent of wireless alarm systems, someone somewhere said
“hey, we could save money by putting the CPU, the communicator, the
siren AND the keypad all in one box”. This seems like a great
idea! A technician only
has to install one piece of equipment, and run one set of wires to it.
Almost every alarm company offers these types of system, and it is
single-handedly responsible for the “Zero down” deals we hear about on the radio every
day. They can now install three or four systems in a day instead of
one or two, and they’re not paying for multiple pieces of
How does the CPU perform in an alarm situation?
The “fully wireless” CPU has a distinct disadvantage: the CPU and
communicator are sitting right inside your keypad – probably right
next to the front door of your house or business. Not only that, but
the sturdy metal enclosure has been replaced with a piece of plastic.
More than once I have
seen a criminal enter a premise and then simply take a hammer to the
keypad. After one or two swings, your keypad is destroyed,
your siren is disabled, and your system is dead and has no way to
communicate with the outside world. The burglar can take their time
in checking out your property and possessions.
If you had a hard-wired system, the keypad would certainly be
destroyed; but the CPU and Communicator are still downstairs doing
their job. They’ve detected someone walking in front of the motion
detector and have seen that the keypad is no longer responsive, and
the Police are on their way. Not to mention that the siren is still
blaring, making the burglar think twice about sticking around.
When it comes to communication, the alarm industry has put some
safeguards in place to make these kind of break-ins harder to pull
off, specifically a technology called “Crash and Smash”,
which means a quick distress signal is sent in most of these cases
before the keypad is irreparably damaged. This is a great idea,
though not without it’s own flaws. I will explore this in my next
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that the CPU in a “fully wireless” system is cost-effective and convenient to
install, and some even come with built-in touch screens and extra
features which aren’t available in hardwired systems; however, they
come at the cost of being incredibly vulnerable to attack. When
you’re paying a monthly fee for your alarm system, and often an
up-front cost as well, do you really want your alarm system to be
only as secure as a $10
My recommendation: better
safe than sorry. A hardwired CPU may cost you more to have installed,
but if your security system isn’t secure, it’s missing the point!
Oxford Security Systems
Reed Security Authorized Dealer (Calgary)
If you are having a problem with THEFT or MOVING TO A NEW HOME,
we can Help!
Contact Us today for a FREE Security