Networked Professional Power Supply Examined

By John Grocke, Published Sep 10, 2013, 12:00am EDT

For years, owners and integrators have been able to remotely monitor and manage IP-based video surveillance and access control devices over the network such as servers, workstations, network switches, cameras, access control panels and door controllers. One power supply manufacturer, Life Safety Power, now adds door lock and analog camera power supplies to that list. In this update, we will examine their iSCAN Smart Power line of network-managed power supplies, evaluate their impact how systems are managed and maintained, and compare them to standard power supplies.

Product Basics

At first glance the iSCAN series of power supplies do not appear much different from other manufacturer's power supplies. They are available with 8, 16, or 24 output configurations, single or multiple 12/24V output modules, fused or power-limited circuits, and a fire alarm input circuit to unlock doors upon alarm. These power supplies are geared toward door locking hardware and analog cameras. PoE IP-based cameras usually get their power form either a network switch or midspan and not power supply cabinets.


Life Safety Power - iSCAN 24

Network-Enabled

What makes the iSCAN series interesting is that the power supply is a network-managed device as it includes their NL4 LAN/WAN interface module [link no longer available]. They also include an internal temperature probe and additional managed relay outputs for auxiliary functions.


iSCAN NL4 Network Interface

The network interface allows a user to remotely manage and monitor the power supply and receive e-mail or SNMP notifications upon fault and pre-set conditions.

  • Notifications can be sent upon events such as system faults, AC power failure, batteries at critical condition, fire alarm input activated, and if devices are drawing too much voltage or current (like when a magnetic lock or other door hardware is malfunctioning).
  • Users can remotely monitor and control power supply boards, individual power circuits and batteries, drop lock power when needed and recycle power to devices that need a reboot.
  • Manual and scheduled battery tests can be performed remotely, internal and external (with optional probe) cabinet temperatures monitored, and a 100-event history buffer in Excel format can be downloaded from the power supply for troubleshooting.
  • The additional output relays can be programmed or manually-triggered for other functions as needed.

Impact on Maintenance

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With a network-managed power supply, a service technician no longer has to travel out to the power supply location with a multi-meter and a battery tester to troubleshoot an issue, perform routine maintenance and testing or power cycle a misbehaving device.  Many times power supplies are located difficult to access above ceilings or mounted high remote equipment closets, electrical or HVAC rooms, adding another challenge to the technician's task. With the network-enabled iSCAN power supply, a technician can perform these tasks remotely and quickly via a PC or laptop connected to the network, saving time and money. The ability to receive fault warnings can allow a technician to diagnose and repair an issue during normal hours before it becomes an emergency in the middle of the night.

Pricing and Availability

The prices of the iSCAN power supplies vary depending on the power options and number of outputs. Their base model iSCAN 8S has an MSRP of $1,033, and their most expensive iSCAN 24B has an MSRP of $1,778. They are available from most major security supply houses.  

Comparison

Comparing the iSCAN 16S [link no longer available] to a conventional Altronix Maximal3 [link no longer available] non-networked power supply, there is ~$450 premium for the added functionality. The Maximal3 has costs about ~$400 with a standard security dealer discount, while the iSCAN 16S ~$850. Both units offer 16 outputs and ~6A of 24VDC power, with a fire alarm input for unlocking individually-selected circuits. The iSCAN unit has network-management, 16 remotely manageable relay outputs, an internal cabinet temperature probe and a larger cabinet for expansion that the Altronix unit does not have. 


Altronix Maximal3

As compared to a $100 remote rebooting solution we outlined, the iSCAN power supply has granular options for controlling and recycling power on individual circuits.  Rebooting the power supply with the $100 method will leave access controlled doors momentarily unlocked or unaccessible during the reboot process. It works well for cameras and routers, but not for access control.

Conclusion

For an owner that has many access controlled doors, the iSCAN power supply has the potential to make up more than the ~$450 difference in long-term labor savings over the lifetime of the unit. Service calls bill at ~$100/hour rate, including travel time, for a service technician to troubleshoot on-site. Connecting remotely in few minutes to diagnose if it is a power supply or door hardware problem is far more convenient and less expensive, especially where the locking hardware is serviced by a locksmith or door contractor.  Assuming 24 doors connected to a single power supply, with a door going offline once every month or two, there is the opportunity to reduce many unnecessary service calls with a network-managed power supply. However, many installations will not require this level of functionality or owners might not find the additional benefit worth the price difference, therefore it's unlikely that network-managed units will ever totally replace conventional power supplies.

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