Communications in Garages Go Cutting-Edge
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is probably today's most talked about telecommunication development. The implications for security issues at parking facilities are numerous. The bottom line, however, is that regardless of what difficulties may exist in conversion from traditional analog systems, VoIP will continue to spread at an ever-increasing rate.
VoIP, or Ethernet connectivity, provides many advantages in deploying emergency phone systems. You do not have to run separate phone line home runs back to a head-end frame, but rather can connect "Ethernet drops" wherever you need them on an existing Ethernet computer communication system. You can also connect IP CCTV cameras to these same drops, easily installing and integrating these two security elements that are so often found together.
Therefore, in selecting emergency phone equipment, whether you have VoIP capability now or are planning for it in the future, be sure that what you select has VoIP capability. Otherwise, you will be forced to run supplemental analog lines to support these units, and possibly obsolete these units when your facility goes totally VoIP. An additional benefit of VoIP is that if a facility has established campus-wide Wi-Fi "hot spots," you can easily connect VoIP-RF-enabled emergency phones into the system.
HOMELAND SECURITY PARKING FACILITY
Barry Security Systems of Tewksbury, MA, was selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation to install security equipment at a Homeland Security-related parking facility in the Boston area. In specifying equipment for this project, Sales Manager Joe Gillis was guided by the following statement posted on its Web site:
The project required a highly reliable emergency communication system with integrated CCTV to be installed throughout the parking facility at the site, at access points and at certain indoor locations. The entire state-of-the-art system was to run on IP, not only providing a great deal of system flexibility, but also saving the customer $65,000 as compared to a traditional cable installation. The project required integrating hardwired equipment and wireless equipment to a single head-end without tunneling. This required the ability to integrate the products of several manufacturers into one smoothly functioning system.
Hands-free emergency phones installed in stainless-steel wall mounts, with integrated blue light/strobe, were mounted to existing poles on-site. Other locations used two-button ("Emergency" and "Info") phones. The phones operate as VoIP, utilizing the manufacturer's equipment. At the Security Command Center, Gillis installed a PBX with two guard phones, also from the emergency phone manufacturer.
The stainless-steel wall mount and emergency phones were selected because of their durability, quality presentation, and performance. Simply pushing the button initiates the emergency call to the Security Command Center as a VoIP call and automatically activates the strobe in the wall mount. Using standard software from its Alliance partner, the system also can perform an automatic PTZ call-up of the camera or cameras associated with that calling unit.
At certain access points, Barry Security installed the surface-mounting emergency phones, which are also connected via IP and have auxiliary outputs to be able to drive related devices such as strobes.
RF video over IP was achieved using PTZ cameras with RF video connection, which also was routed through the Talk-A-Phone VoIP units. The cameras are integrated with the emergency phone system at the head end, with the cameras being controlled through a Panasonic matrix.
"We selected our vendor because we have extensive experience with both the company and their products," Gillis said. "They provided us with a reliable, cutting-edge solution to the issues that we faced in this project. Although we have been using their emergency phone systems in a wide variety of applications for some time, this was our first experience with VoIP on emergency phones. The entire experience went very smoothly. The software is very easy to use, and the installation itself was fairly straightforward. The system has been in for several months and is operating flawlessly."
PARKING FACILITIES TIED
A city operates 12 garages, and wants to tie the emergency phone system into the Police Department. Although it wants to provide the ability for an employee to be present at each site to receive calls, or call certain emergency phone locations, it is contemplated that at most times, these eventually will be unattended, automated municipal parking facilities.
ADA-compliant hands-free emergency phones are installed throughout the facilities in stainless-steel wall mounts and in towers. Initially, while personnel are still assigned to each of the garages, the calls are routed to the parking office. If no one answers within a reasonable period of time, the call can be automatically routed over the city's IP network to the Police Department. Later, as the facilities go to an unattended mode of operation, the calls can go directly to the Police Department. In addition, IP cameras can be easily integrated into the system, allowing the police to see, as well as hear, what is happening at the site when a call is received, as well as to proactively monitor the facility on a continuing real-time basis.
In some sense, comparing VoIP technology to analog phone lines is like comparing DVD's to VCR's. The VCR tape costs more to produce, holds much less data, and delivers it in a much more cumbersome manner than DVD. VoIP emergency phone systems can be installed less expensively; integrate with CCTV (the other technology most often used in parking lots) quickly and effectively; and provide ease and flexibility of operation for those responsible for parking facility security.
Samuel Shanes is Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Talk-A-Phone Co., Chicago. He has been a close observer of the
communications industry and
changing technology, as well as the legal issues surrounding both, for many years. He can be reached at