IT’S not often we get to talk about a new range of alarm panels in Australia and what’s nice about RISCO’s LightSYS is that it’s a very wholesome solution indeed. It’s affordable enough to be installed in any application, yet brawny enough to offer serious scalability while always remaining extremely flexible in its functionality. 
My demo of the RISCO LightSYS was with Tim Prag, RISCO Australia’s newly-minted director of sales and business development. Prag’s only been in Australia since November last year and has worked as a security technician in Manchester England since he was a lad. 
Prag’s got a good knowledge of the product and doesn’t miss a beat when talking me through the gear. It’s not just paper knowledge, either. Having a tool-savvy tech handling sales and business development is a smart move from RISCO. There aren’t likely to be too many applications Prag’s not run across since his apprenticeship – that’s a bonus for techs needing some advice. 
By all accounts, this RISCO panel is slick. While I’ve not installed one, nor lived with one, the combination of features and the installation demo strongly suggest a solution that’s well thought out and that ticks many current and future boxes. Want dialler monitoring for now? Great. Want to go IP with dialler backup? Good-oh. Want IP with GPRS and GSM support? No worries at all. And for a system that scales the way this one does – up to 32 zones of hardwired, bus-line and wireless – there’s a very competitive entry price. 
Then there’s the pointy end of the system. The sensors. They’re Rokonet. We all know how well they work. That’s pretty much all I need to say about that. You can choose from a range that extends from affordable domestic quad PIRs to top-end external dual technology detectors like WatchOut, which is generally considered to be the best external high security alarm sensor on the market. 

“Want dialler monitoring for now? Great. Want to go IP with dialler backup? Good-oh. Want IP with GPRS and GSM support? No worries. And for a system that scales the way this one does – up to 32 zones of hardwired, busline and wireless – there’s a very competitive entry price”

Something else that’s very neat is that Rokonet’s high-end Agility panel has video verification and alarm sensors with integrated cameras giving video verification capability will be available for LightSYS in 2012. So if in the future you want 32 internal zones with video verification – well – that’ll be just fine. The sensors will be backwards compatible, making VV a nice up-sell for you techs. 
While Prag unpacks and powers up the hardware I take in the gear. My first impressions of the system are the cream polycarbonate housing with no baubles and a simple keypad. This user interface is organic in appearance and not extravagant in design. The keys are the tactile rubber we know so well. The backlighting is a warm blue. Everything is simple and well put together. 
There’s an optional touch screen, too, and it’s a jaw dropping $75. I did not see this device, just a picture, but if the quality is consistent with everything else the Israelis build, it’s a real bargain. Once Prag gets the hood up and I can see the board work, it’s clear things are modular with LightSYS. This is a relatively simple motherboard – it’s not crowded. Additional functionality comes through expanders so you’re not paying for hyper-engineering on the main board from the get-go.   

Specifications

Ok, so it looks sweet but what are the specs of LightSYS and why would you choose it over the competition? For a start, the main board is an 8-zone, 4-area hardwired alarm panel with hybrid expansion to 32 hardwired, bus-line and wireless zones. 
Buying the system as a $150-kit you get the LightSYS panel, the LCD keypad, a power pack, a 7ah battery, an internal top hat sounder, an external sounder with blue strobe and a pair of workaday Zodiac internal quad detectors. There are a selection of wireless fobs to arm and disarm the system or you use programmable length user codes. You also get a bridge resister and an EOL resistor and a 12k anti-masking resistor, which schools in Australia often demand. 
You could install the base model in a small house or office but most installers are going to go for additional functionality and hardware and that’s where LightSYS really shines. Because it’s a hybrid panel you can choose wireless, hardwire or busline sensors, or a combination of all 3 up to 32 zones. 
I like bus configurations. They allow installers to reduce the suffering imposed by titanic star configs. You can install all the sensors and keypads on the bus. The bus-line detectors are the same price as RISCO’s Rokonet wireless detectors and in a bus configuration the system offers 4 partitions, 4 areas/groups and 4 keypads on the bus.     
A good thing about bus detectors is that during installation you set them to 1-32 zones and then during programming when you do a bus scan the system finds all the field devices. Typical RISCO, there’s an extra zone on bus detectors so if you have a device at the end of a large building you can deploy another sensor as a sub zone – that’s plenty clever. 
As you’d expect, the bus is one cable in and out of detectors, keypads then into the bell. What this means is that one cable can do the whole system. You can star wire or daisy chain or loop and the bus configuration itself is flexible allowing you to build in redundancy. 
As a basic kit, LightSYS Comes with PSTN dialler onboard, a 500-event log memory and support for 16 user codes. But the basic specifications don’t do the panel’s potential full justice. For a very affordable $98 there’s an expander that offers GSM/GPRS support, while another optional expander costing $44 has an RJ-45 plug and handles IP. 
“The housing architecture is a bit different,” Prag tells me. “We tried to get away from the traditional control panel housing. There’s no cam-lock. As an engineer and installer, I can’t remember the number of times I’ve had to drill out an alarm panel barrel after a user’s key was lost. Instead with LightSYS there are clips and you just push the box closed and there’s a tamper switch for protection.” 
With the housing open I see the supplied power cable is already terminated, which is a nice bonus when you’re in a hurry. If you want to, however, you can nip off the plug and terminate power and ground yourself. 
Prag continues setting up the panel. He clips in the transformer, plugs in power and then gees up a couple of wireless detectors. It’s all very easy. Making my task as a reviewer more interesting is the fact that this panel is fully optioned with all the expansion modules, including the RJ-45 equipped IP module and the GPRS/GSM comms board, the bus expander and the 32-zone wireless board. 
The panel is well laid out inside with all termination points accessible. There’s easy access to the comms modules. As we’re poking around inside the panel, Prag tells me installers can buy their own SIMs and work with their own monitoring stations, or they can buy SIMs from Permaconn making the panel plug-and-play. 
Now Prag shows me round the central board. 
“There are 8 zones onboard, bell tamper and there’s a 2k2 resistor if you want to monitor the load to the siren,” he explains. “LightSYS has 4 programmable outputs and you can buy a 10-output expander taking this up 14. And there’s the 32-zone wireless receiver in the top right corner, which is supplied boxed and you just slide it into a rack in the panel housing. 
“And there’s the bus expander. As it’s a 32 zone panel, if I use 16 zones hardwire and bus, I can only use 16 zones of wireless. LightSYS will take a pair of 32 zone wireless expanders and while it remains a 32-zone panel – this does allow you to split your range – you can assign 16 devices on one side of the building to one receiver and 16 devices on the other side to another receiver. It makes your installations more flexible.”  

Programming the system

Prag starts programming up a couple of wireless sensors. He gets into the text-driven programming mode – the enter key takes the installer into menus, back goes out of menu and up and down keys that scroll through the menus – it’s menu driven and if you know the menu number you can go direct to it. 
Your programming details include things like entry and exit times, siren durations, controls like quickset and system labels. You can download software via GPRS/GSM or IP, the software is free from the RISCO website though Prag points out you need an RS-232 lead if you are downloading direct to the panel. 
“The second menu is zones,” he says. “You can go through the zones one by one, or you can go through all the options for each zone. You can label it, assign partition, group, zone type, a zone can be nominated as open at the time of arming – allowing you to have the front door open as you arm the system. Installers can also program what the panel should do in an alarm event, activate the internal or external siren, etc. 
Terminations can be programmed as NO, NC, EOL, or double EOL with double EOL being the default thanks to that a pair of 2K2s. Meanwhile, if you’re only changing labels you do it by catalogue, zones, partitions – this just speeds up the process again. After zones are done it’s on to Outputs – you start with Output 1 and go through each one. 
“The Installation menu is where you install your bus devices, you click and the panel scans the bus and finds all the devices and you can then label them and program their zone properties,” Prag explains.  
“Next you do wireless devices. The first thing is to calibrate the environment – it’s best to set your threshold at 10 above the ambient RF noise floor – then you find the detectors and run through the properties associated with the wireless zones – zone names, zone numbers, delays, assignment to areas, etc.”  
Another nice feature Prag shows me is the ‘Follow me’ functionality which is basically SMS messaging of alarm events to programmed mobile numbers. Events might include intruder alarms, fire alarms, medical alarms or tamper. And programming system arming is easy, too. Codes are a settable length or you can program in wireless fobs. 
LightSYS is a solid product. The folks at RISCO call it a ‘flexible hybrid system’ and while it’s unusual to hear the word hybrid in relation to alarm panels, there’s no doubt whatever that this panel has great expandability in multiple directions. 
When it comes to costs, the threshold is low but that doesn’t mean LightSYS is lacking in horsepower. On the contrary, this system will take on pretty much anything installers care to dish out – hardwired, wireless or bus sensors; dialler, GPRS/GSM or IP alarm reporting; output expansion, affordable touchpads, and later in the year, video verification. 
There’s a 2-year warranty on everything – which is 12 months better than some. And along with all its own capabilities you also get Rokonet’s respected range of high quality sensors to play with. Yep, I’m thoroughly convinced. RISCO’s LightSYS is definitely worth a very close look. 

“Once Prag gets the hood up and I can see the board work, it’s clear things are modular with LightSYS. It’s a relatively simple motherboard – it’s not crowded. Additional functionality comes through expanders so you’re not paying for hyper-engineering on the main board from the get-go”