Bosch Gears Up For National Broadband Network
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Monitoring | September 3, 2013, 7:00am AEST
MANY end users and integrators have expressed concern over the communications implications of the NBN, mainly with regard to devices that utilise tone modulation (DTMF) to transmit data via conventional voice-based copper PSTN technologies, particularly monitored alarm panels.
Voice over IP (VoIP) has become a major technology within the communications space, though its use for DTMF applications is complicated as the nature of compression applied to a call by VoIP products can often disrupt data communication. With many of the telecommunications options being offered by the NBN using VoIP based technology,
Bosch Security Systems has recognised the need to develop solutions for the market.But just what is the current situation regarding monitored alarms and the NBN? NBN Co has created 3 potential ways that Retail Service Providers (RSPs) can deliver telecommunications to premises connected with the NBN:
1. Having a conventional PSTN phone connected to a “Uni-V” port on the Network Termination Device (NTD) installed in the premises
2. Connecting a conventional PSTN phone to a VoIP port on a router connected to the NTD
3. Connecting a VoIP phone to a router connected to the NTD.
DTMF-based devices such as alarm panels will rarely work well with conventional VoIP based technologies that apply compression to the call, which effectively eliminates some portions of the sound being sent down the line. In the case of a conventional phone call, the slight loses in frequencies due to compression can easily be compensated for by the human ear, but with data-based communications like DTMF, the loss of frequencies can irrevocably distort the data being sent.
NBN Co has specified 4 specific requirements of a VoIP service in order to accurately and reliably convey DTMF based communications. A full explanation is available on the NBNCo website, but in short:
1. The VoIP service should use NBN Co’s Traffic Class 1 (TC1)
2. The VoIP service should use the G.711 sound CODEC
3. The VoIP service should provide reliable transmission of tones
4. The VoIP service should have battery backup.
The Uni-V ports on the NTD listed in the RSP telecommunications options above meet these 4 requirements. Monitored alarms (like the Bosch Security Systems products available in Australia) should therefore work when connected to the Uni-V port of the NTD.
But what happens when a Uni-V port is not available? Several RSPs have opted not to offer a service on the Uni-V ports of the NTD at the current time, though many are currently reviewing their options and may provide services on these ports at some point in the future.
In some cases, VoIP based routers or phones connected to the Uni-D ports of the NTD may meet three of the four requirements, but currently the Uni-D ports of the NTD are not battery backed-up. Generally speaking, where the Uni-V port is not available for use, there will be no way to connect the PSTN port of an alarm panel to the NTD for functional alarm monitoring.
What is the solution to this situation? Bosch Security Systems has carefully watched the Australian security market to determine the best available solutions to provide ongoing monitoring services to end-users that connect to the NBN. In many cases, distributors of other panels have offered customers a migration path to GSM or GPRS based monitoring through add-on devices to their panel products.
The response has effectively been that “the NBN presents a problem, and this is a way to get around it”. These migrations do not utilise the NBN infrastructure at all – they require the end user to purchase and maintain a mobile plan, and in many cases, monitoring of these devices becomes more expensive than the original pre-NBN PSTN-based monitoring charges.
The challenge that Bosch Security Systems has set itself is to produce a solution that utilises the core infrastructure of the NBN to provide a service of at least an equivalent level to PSTN-based monitoring, while not requiring the end user to take on additional ongoing costs to maintain the service.
In order to accomplish this, Bosch Security Systems has examined its worldwide market, and adapted a solution that has seen extensive use in New Zealand, where fibre-to-the-premises systems similar to the NBN have been in rollout for several years. We have identified an open-source technology called CSV-IP that allows alarm communications to be sent quickly and securely through the NBN to a central monitoring station.
New Bosch Security Systems alarm panels will soon have CSV-IP incorporated into the product and for existing legacy sites, we will provide a low-cost add-on card known as a dialler capture card that collects data coming out of the panel and converts it in to CSV-IP in order to transmit it through the NBN, or in fact any IP style network – including current ADSL technologies. This dialler capture card will also be available from Bosch Security Systems to allow other non-Bosch alarm panel products to communicate with a central monitoring station using the same methodology.
How will this service be monitored? The panel will send CSV-IP data to the NBN NTD, which will then send it through the public Internet to the central monitoring station. The monitoring company will have automation software that allows the CSV-IP data to be converted back in to the standard Contact-ID format that alarm panels normally talk in.
Central monitoring stations will not require any specialised receiver equipment to handle CSV-IP and most monitoring centre automation software packages already include this capability. Bosch Security Systems is working with other software manufacturers to ensure that this technology is globally supported and for systems where implementation of the protocol becomes an issue, we can source simple and free conversion software to handle the CSV-IP data outside of the automation software.
Will there be risks if the data is being sent through the public Internet? Several people have raised concerns about the nature of data passed through the Internet. Unprotected data can be intercepted, modified and reproduced – any of which could compromise the security of the transmission. Bosch Security Systems will combat this by providing options within our products to protect the CSV-IP data by adding encryption to the transmission. This encryption effectively disguises the data and prevents someone from making any use of the data, even if they could gain access to it.
There is still a risk that a person’s connection to the public internet could be virtually attacked through something known as a denial-of-service attack, effectively preventing their panel from reporting. However, the process to perform this sort of attack against an Internet user is difficult and time-consuming.
For the average residential user, the risk posed of this sort of attack being perpetrated by a potential intruder is extremely small – smaller likely than the risk of an individual cutting a phone line – which would be just as effective in interrupting PSTN based communications using the current technology.
Additionally, because the communication methodology is based on conventional IP technology – the connection between the panel and the central monitoring station is polled. This means that the monitoring centre could know in as few as a few seconds, if the panel is no longer able to communicate. With conventional PSTN based services, panels will normally only routinely report back to the monitoring station once or twice a day to avoid excessive phone call costs. With CSV-IP there are no phone calls, regardless of how often the panel polls.
In short, Bosch Security Systems CSV-IP solution is about providing a service level equal to, or better than PSTN based communications, while not creating a higher cost of service. For customers that are in high-risk environments where digital attacks against their premises are likely, Bosch Security Systems also carries a range of GSM and GPRS based communications options recognised as Class 3 under AS2201. These higher security options however would come at a higher cost of monitoring, and may not be required in a residential application.
So, will the entire service be battery backed-up? Currently, the power supply unit included with the NBN Co NTD only provides power protection for the Uni-V ports (if they are used). Once again, if the Uni-V ports are available, the panel’s PSTN dialer can simply be connected to one of these ports for monitoring. If CSV-IP based communication is being used, the panel will either plug in to a Uni-D port on the NTD, or in to a port on a router that is plugged in to a Uni-D port. With the current hardware, this would mean that the connection is not power-protected.
NBN Co has stated that it is currently reworking the way it offers NTD hardware through its RSPs. NBN Co has indicated an intent to provide a power backup service for the Uni-D ports as well as the Uni-V ports in hardware offered as soon as Q4 2013. For NTD hardware that has already been installed, NBN Co is currently evaluating 3rd party UPS devices to provide continuous power for all ports on the NTD.
What is the next step? NBN Co is currently establishing a plug bench testing centre in Melbourne which is expected to open in August 2013. This centre will allow manufacturers to test their hardware in a simulated NBN environment using infrastructure created to replicate the product offering of all 40+ RSPs. Bosch Security Systems has been liaising with NBN Co and is booked in to test its full range of panel products once the centre opens.
This testing will allow us to determine which RSP offerings include VoIP services capable of sustaining panel communications, and which may require conversion to IP based communication. Results of these tests will be published on the Bosch Security Systems Australia website once complete.
In conclusion, while some manufacturers may view the NBN as a difficulty that needs to be overcome, Bosch Security Systems sees it as an opportunity to be embraced by our customers and our end-users. The NBN is rolling out quickly in Australia, going into more premises each day. We believe we have created a solution that utilises the strength of the NBN to provide a valued service for the hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses that currently have monitoring services via PSTN and will soon be passed by the NBN.
Additional updates will be posted at www.boschsecurity.com.au and you can also contact our office on 1300-1BOSCH. NBN Co have also established an information site at nbnco.com.au/alarms
*James Layton is Bosch’s product manager – Intrusion & Access and the company’s resident expert on NBN