Alarm Sensor That Needs No Panel

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Oct 15, 2012

A new alarm sensor claims to need no alarm panel. By integrating a common motion detector and a GSM dialer, Alpha Aresenal's Express GSM sensor 'take the complexity out of alarm systems' by simply hanging it where needed with no additional configuration required.  Is this product useful, or is it just a problem waiting to happen? We take a deeper look inside.

All-In-One Alarm System

Alarm sensor manufacturer Alpha Aresenal demoded a line of 'self sufficient' PIR alarm sensors at the recent ASIS show that combine basic detection features with cell dialers, resulting in a sensor that alerts specific numbers when tripped. Unlike traditional sensors that communicate with a central panel as part of a system, the Express GSM sensor [link no longer available] needs no other equipment installed to be useful.

Two big operational differences exist:

  • You can only arm or disarm by clicking on a keyfob (like a car key).
  • Users essentially need to self-monitor - the sensor is not compatible with central monitoring stations.

The manufacturer's website claims 'installation takes 10 minutes' by sticking the sensor in place with the adhesive mount, and with fresh batteries will continuously operate up to 6 months without additional intervention. When assembled, the sensor itself appears as a generic PIR sensor, but the disasembled image below reveals some additional components:

Sensor Attributes

Key attributes include:

  • PIR Range: The 3-zone motion sensor has a range of 30 feet in a cone pattern, and the sensor is designed to be wall-mount only. While the zones are not adjustable, the sensor is adjusted to be 'pet resistant' and is tuned to alarm on masses larger than 30 pounds.
  • Remote Communication: Instead of closing an alarm loop via relay contacts, the Express GSM sends notifications via SMS text messages and phonecalls. The messages are simple and straightforward, simply noting the sensor name/ID in alarm condition and timestamp. Up to 6 different numbers will be called at 30 second intervals, until the sensor is disarmed. 
  • Keyfob Controller: A keyfob controller is required to arm the system, and no provision to arm remotely is currently available. 
  • Cell Not Included: A local carrier SIM card is not included, and the expense of the service is not included in the purchase price of the sensor. The onboard GSM-900/1800/1900 radio is compatible with most CDMA/3G/4GLTE SIM card chips.
  • Cost: The Express GSM sensor costs $99.00 per unit, and includes one keyfob and C123. The additional cost of the SIM card/cell account adds between $10 - $25 USD per month, and coverage depends on local GSM service available.

Strengths

Above all else, the Express GSM is an low cost-of-acquisition, simple alarm detector for a 'one-off' system compared to the installation of a full-blown panel based system. The ability to 'peel and stick' an alarm sensor in place inside a remote area takes much less effort than wiring and installing a traditional system.  Because the sensor is battery powered, no additional electricity is needed. For applications like remote shop buildings or 'one-off' deployments, the Express GSM is much less expensive than purchasing an alarm system.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Compared to alarm panel programming designed to be configured by trained technicians, setting up the Express GSM for use is simplified and easy for DIYers to configure from a web based configuration [link no longer available] page. 

The $99 acquisition /~ $15 monthly connectivity cost is much less expensive than 'traditional' panel systems costing hundreds of dollars in hardware and labor. Even when those systems only contain a few sensors or a single alarm loop, hardware overheard costs of a central alarm panel, power supplies, and cabling can approach $200 - $300 even before considering installation costs.

Weaknesses

However, aside from the strength, the Express GSM has several pronounced weaknesses:

First, the sensors are not scalable - meaning each sensor is treated as an unique alarm system. Even if a user employs multiple sensors, they are armed/disarmed separately from one another, and unlike a panel based system, are not compatible with most central monitoring stations. Unlike GSM modules installed with panels that may connect the outputs of many sensors into one cell account, each Express GSM sensor must have it's own mobile account, and the cost of deploying multiple sensors gets costly.

Another marked disadvantage of the system is that the included PIR sensor is not outdoor-rated, and is a basic 3-zone wall mount-only detector. This effectively limits application of the sensor to hallway / corridor applications, and excludes the huge range of outdoor or whole room applications that specialty PIR sensors are commonly deployed.

While the battery operated sensor allows flexible deployment, while commercially available, is designed for multiple months of service but must be changed at the sensor. No 'low-battery' alarm notification is provided, and the installer must be proactive to prevent units from hanging dead without notice. 

Finally, losing the keyfob is a huge risk. The keyfob is the only manner through which the sensor can be armed. By using the sensor's web client or free mobile phone app, a user can disarm the sensor but cannot arm the unit. The image below shows the standard keyfob included with the Express GSM, although other styles and multi-unit controllers are available.

fob

Who Would Use This?

The sensor has the best fit for temporary deployments, such as seasonal storage or job site trailers and equipment areas. Unlike a traditional 'panel based' alarm system, the Express GSM requires no electric utility or protracted monitoring agreement. However, the limitations in sensor choices, the lack of system scalability, and the fact alarms cannot be centrally monitored negate many of the benefits a panel system provides.

For a system requiring only provisional intrusion detection with one point, Express GSM could provide a novel solution. However, for more substantial security applications that still have a need to be temporary, solutions like Centurion's Scout II intrusion system are a better fit.

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

IP Camera Mount Shootout - Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Vivotek on Nov 04, 2019
Which manufacturers offer the best or worst mounts? We bought and tested ~50 IP camera mounts and related components from Axis, Bosch, Dahua,...
Milestone XProtect 2019 R3 Tested on Oct 30, 2019
Milestone has had problems over the last few years releasing significant new software. Now, in XProtect 2019 R3, Milestone is touting "one search...
Lock Status Monitoring Tutorial on Oct 28, 2019
Just because access doors are closed does not mean they are locked. Unless access systems are using lock status monitoring, the doors and areas...
Covert Elevator Face Recognition on Oct 24, 2019
Covert elevator facial recognition has the potential to solve the cost and complexity of elevator surveillance while engendering immense privacy...
Alarm Veteran "Demands A Criminal Investigation" Of UL on Oct 18, 2019
The Interceptor's Project pressure against UL continues to rise. Following Keith Jentoft's allegation that "UL Has Blood On Their Hands", Jentoft...
Camera Focusing Tutorial on Oct 14, 2019
Camera focus is fundamental to quality imaging. Mistakes can significantly reduce details, making cameras less effective. In this guide, we...
Last Chance - Register Now - October 2019 IP Networking Course on Oct 10, 2019
Last Chance - Register Now - Fall 2019 IP Networking Course. The course starts next week. This is the only networking course designed...
Network Optix NxWitness 4.0 Tested on Oct 10, 2019
Network Optix released Nx Witness 4.0, proclaiming new features like a deep learning analytics metadata SDK, increased H.265 support, and UX...
Camera Cable Whip Guide on Oct 02, 2019
Cable whips are one of integrator's least favorite camera features but seem to be unavoidable, now commonplace on dome, turret, and bullet cameras...
Directory of 70 Video Surveillance Startups on Sep 18, 2019
This directory provides a list of video surveillance startups to help you see and research what companies are new or not yet broadly known. 2019...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Camera Field of View (FoV) Guide on Nov 13, 2019
Field of View (FoV) and Angle of View (AoV), are deceptively complex. At their most basic, they simply describe what the camera can "see" and seem...
UK Big Brother Watch: Hikvision Is 'Morally Bankrupt' on Nov 13, 2019
UK civil liberties advocate Big Brother Watch has condemned Hikvision as being 'morally bankrupt' following IPVM exposing Hikvision marketing...
Color Low Light Mega Camera Shootout - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Panasonic, Speco, Sony, Vivotek on Nov 12, 2019
This is the biggest color low light shootout ever, testing 20+ super low light models from 10 manufacturers: Increasingly, each manufacturer...
Wireless / WiFi Access Lock Guide on Nov 12, 2019
For some access openings, running wires can add thousands in cost, and wireless alternatives that avoid it becomes appealing. But using wireless...
Open vs End-to-End Systems: Integrator Statistics 2019 on Nov 11, 2019
Preference for open systems is on the decline, according to new IPVM statistics. We asked integrators: For video surveillance systems, do you...
Biggest Low Light Problems 2019 on Nov 08, 2019
Over 150 integrators responded to our survey question: "What are the biggest problems you face getting good low-light images?" Inside, we share...
US Issues Criminal Charges For Fraudulently Selling Hikvision And Other China Products on Nov 07, 2019
The US government has made an unprecedented move on the video surveillance supply chain, charging a US company, Aventura for "having conspired with...
The Access Control Codes Guide: IBC, NFPA 72, 80 & 101 on Nov 07, 2019
For access, there is one basic maxim: Life safety above all else. But how do you know if all applicable codes are being followed? While the...
Rhombus Cameras, VMS and Analytics Tested on Nov 06, 2019
Rhombus boasts they have created "the new standard in Enterprise, cloud-managed video security" and told IPVM in January 2019 they offer twice the...