Smart Home Systems for the Office?

Would you recommend using any of the new wireless security and automation solutions in commercial or industrial applications? Typically, such sites go hard wired but there are additional functionalities with some of these systems that are very appealing. What’s your take on it?

YOU need to think about the basics – distance, interference, the environment of the spaces you’re securing, reliability of communications to monitoring providers, security of apps and mobile devices, the types of sensors that are available with the system you buy – some are good and others are not. Support for the product post-sale is another issue if you want to maintain your professional reputation.

For commercial or industrial applications you’ll need to make sure you have enough range to cover the distances from sensors to controller. You’ll also need to make sure there’s no wireless or EMI interference that could cause false alarms or break wireless links. Metal building construction may be a problem. In some applications heat will be an issue. Most volumetric sensors in home automation kits are single or dual pyro PIRs, which work well enough in the environments for which they were intended – indoors with few windows. Reed and vibration sensors may resolve problems in some applications but beware of steel door frames messing with your reed switch contacts.

Cameras in security and automation solutions are ordinary when compared to the bottom end of professional product lines, so you’ll need to watch things like WDR and low light performance, as well as distortions, blooming, ghosting and shallow depth of field. Probably the trickiest thing with video will be getting it to stream at a bandwidth high enough to be usable in larger applications. For compact spaces situational awareness won’t be a problem, especially if people in the scene are stationary some of the time.

The app interface will need to be thoughtfully considered – it needs to intuitive and the software developers need to stay on top of cyber security issues now and into the future. Low cost home automation solutions will have questionable levels of cyber security – there are very few app interfaces out there that meet recognised cyber security standards. If you buy a product from a retailer, it almost certainly won’t. Make sure the app delivers reports on energy management – that functionality is interesting for home owners but it could save serious money in business applications.

Sensor battery life is going to be another issue – it varies from amazing to woeful. You need a least 2 years from batteries, especially if there are sensors installed in locations that are expensive to reach. You also don’t want the system to incorporate too much latency introduced by the battery-saving sleep mode. In many cases, these solutions will depend on elements of the site’s network – especially routers – to communicate. In order to meet standards, you should use a solution with an integrated router and battery backup, or use a dedicated router and ensure issues are reported in real time. Use dual path – wired IP and SIM.

There are attractions to using smart home solutions – security systems with automation, remote apps and reporting – in commercial applications. Small retail and SME offices are probably the best fit, though relatively compact spaces of any sort will suit and product testing may prove more adventurous applications are possible.