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AES FAQ


AES-INTELLINET RADIO NETWORK SYSTEMS - THE FUTURE IS NOW!

By Dale Gigandet, P. E.

Increasingly, fire departments are being asked to do more with less. Fortunately, new technologies become available that answer their call. One such technology is 2-way, wireless radio network systems for fire alarm reporting. This technology not only offers superior performance and reliability over traditional means of fire alarm reporting, but the cost to install and maintain a system is significantly less than other systems in use today. The following discussion provides some answers to the most frequently asked questions by fire departments about 2-way, wireless radio systems and the AES-Intellinet Radio Network System.


Q: WHAT IS AN AES-INTELLINET RADIO NETWORK SYSTEM?

A: It is a 2-way, wireless data network that utilizes intelligent routing technology to transmit alarm signals to a Supervising Station. There are two basic elements to this data network; the radio transceiver unit and the radio receiving equipment. The radio transceivers are located at the protected premise and connected to the local alarm panel or any open contact device if no panel exists. The radio receiving equipment is located at the Supervising Station and is used to monitor the incoming alarm signals from each radio transceiver in the network.


Q: WHAT IS INTELLIGENT ROUTING AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

A: Radio transceivers form an intelligent web of protection throughout the network area, which may cover hundreds or even thousands of square miles. Because every transceiver is also a repeater, alarm signals are retransmitted among transceivers using the shortest, most reliable route available. If an alarm signal cannot be relayed by one route, the next best route is automatically selected. The transceivers dynamically adapt themselves to changes in the network, continually optimizing the system for best performance.


Q: WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF 2-WAY DATA TRANSMISSION?

A: With 2-way radio systems, alarm signals can be verified and acknowledged back at the Supervising Station. With conventional, 1-way radio systems the alarm signals can be verified (1-way), but not acknowledged, hence, there is no way to determine if the alarm signal was received or if anyone was listening at the Supervising Station. This makes 2-way radio systems more reliable.


Q: HOW ARE RADIO TRANSCEIVERS CONNECTED TO LOCAL ALARM PANELS AT THE PROTECTED PREMISE?

A: Radio transceiver modules include 4-, 8-, or 16-zone input modules, intelligent panel interface modules for various intelligent panels, digital dialer input modules, or an IP-Link for LAN, WAN, and Internet access.


Q: ARE ALARM SIGNALS RECEIVED IN A TIMELY FASHION?

A: Yes, and because of the redundant and adaptive radio network, signals are generally received at the Supervising Station within seconds, and normally faster than a hardwired dialer can finish dialing a phone number or a telegraph box can finish sending one round of code.


Q: ARE RADIO TOWERS AND REPEATERS REQUIRED?

A: No. Every installed radio transceiver in the network acts as a repeater, and the strength of the network grows with each transceiver installed. Once a transceiver is installed at the protected premise, alarm signals will find the shortest and best path to the Supervising Station, and the system is always learning and adapting to changes in the environment. With conventional, 1-way radio systems, if the signal path is blocked the signal will not be received, thereby requiring physical adjustments and/or relocation of the antenna.


Q: ARE RADIO TRANSCEIVER ANTENNAS DIFFICULT AND EXPENSIVE TO MOUNT?

A: No. Most radio transceivers utilize an 18-inch antenna that mounts right on the transceiver unit and is located within the building. Other antenna mounting arrangements are available for areas with unusually difficult terrain. Conventional, 1-way radio systems generally require more complicated antenna mounting arrangements due to line-of-sight requirements.


Q: HOW DO RADIO TRANSCEIVERS COMPARE WITH TELEPHONE AND CELLULAR PHONE SYSTEMS?

A: Radio transceivers are less expensive, more reliable, and provide faster data transmission than traditional digital communicators (dialers) and cellular phone systems. There are no telephone line connections to install and no monthly phone service charges. Also, radio transceivers are less susceptible to tampering and general failure, which can occur with telephone systems.


Q: HOW DO RADIO TRANSCEIVERS COMPARE WITH CONVENTIONAL RADIO AND TELEGRAPH BOX SYSTEMS?

A: Radio transceivers are more reliable and provide better performance than conventional radio and telegraph box systems. They are also dramatically less expensive to install and maintain. Anyone who has installed or maintained a conventional radio or telegraph box system will immediately see substantial savings in material and labor costs. Savings that can often run as high as 70% of a conventional radio or telegraph box system. This is clearly a win-win situation for not only the installer and the end-user, but also the local fire department. No more expensive master boxes to mandate, and no more radio towers/repeaters or metallic hardwire systems to service and maintain.


Q: IS THE AES-INTELLINET RADIO EQUIPMENT COMPLIANT WITH THE NEW FEDERAL (NTIA) REQUIREMENTS FOR NARROWBAND DEVICES?

A: Yes. All AES-IntelliNet radio devices – past and present – are narrowband devices and thus comply with the new NTIA requirements. Unfortunately, many non-compliant radio systems installed over the past 30 years are still in operation and will eventually have to be replaced. The new NTIA standards were enacted to promote the efficient use of the federal radio spectrum, and will take effect as early as January 2005 for some bandwidth assignments.


Q: WHAT IS EASTON ELECTRONICS DOING TO HELP EXISTING MUNICIPALITIES WHO HAVE NON-COMPLIANT RADIO SYSTEMS?

A: Easton Electronics is working with fire departments and municipalities to bring them into compliance through on-site surveys, training classes, and a gradual conversion to an AES-IntelliNet Radio Network System.


Q: CAN A MUNICIPALITY SET UP A SUPERVISING STATION TO MONITOR ALARM SIGNALS?

A: Yes, and this is an area that Easton Electronics has developed a particular expertise. Because existing alarm reporting technologies vary among municipalities, as well as the individual needs of the fire department, Easton Electronics takes a customized approach with each municipality. This applies to conversions, partial systems, supplemental systems, special application systems, temporary systems, or even demo systems.


Q: WHAT TYPE OF HEAD-END EQUIPMENT IS AVAILABLE?

A: There are multiple head-end arrangements available; however, most municipalities are outfitted with dual, PC-based UL listed central receivers and alarm automation software. All systems can be designed to accommodate future requirements. If desired, systems can be used to handle both fire and security using the same technology.


Q: HOW MUCH DOES THE RADIO EQUIPMENT COST?

A: The head-end equipment cost ranges from $5,000 to $29,000, depending on the configuration desired. The individual radio transceivers range from $900 to $1,500 depending on the configuration. In most cases, an estimate can be prepared within a couple of days after visiting with the customer.


Q: WHAT CAN EASTON ELECTRONICS DO TO HELP?

A: To get the ball rolling, we normally meet with the Fire Chief or Fire Alarm Superintendent. During the on-site meeting we will discuss their existing means for monitoring and reporting alarm signals. Next, we will discuss technical issues, design applications, financing options, and the economic and public safety impact of installing a wireless, 2-way radio system. If necessary, we will also meet with city/town elected officials to discuss these same issues.


Q: WHAT ABOUT FINANCING?

A: Easton Electronics has come up with some creative approaches cities and towns can use to finance a conversion over the short and long-term. These range from lease option approaches to the establishment of fire department setup and alarm monitoring fees to cover equipment costs. The savings and benefits of an AES-IntelliNet System are simply unsurpassed, which makes wireless, 2-way radio systems the best thing going, especially for municipalities on a limited budget.


Q: ANYTHING ELSE?

A: Yes. Any municipality looking to reduce costs and improve the reliability and performance of their alarm monitoring and reporting system should contact Easton Electronics for an on-site evaluation and discussion about the many benefits of an AES-IntelliNet Radio Network System.