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What types of AoIP Systems are available?

January 30th 2013

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This is part of a short series of articles which charts the development and benefits of IP for alarm transmission (AoIP). It explains why it cannot be ignored today, what are the benefits and what to look for, as well as discussing the various types of systems and new developments coming soon in this market.

Fast-forward to 2012 and the market couldn’t be more different. Now, in nearly every country in Europe, AoIP is the preferred technology.

For the uninitiated it would seem that all AoIP systems are the same; they have a dialler/transmitter at the user’s premises and alarms, plus notification of line failure, are presented to the monitoring centre. Provided your AoIP system is approved to an accredited standard, such as EN50131, then you can be assured that it will carry out these basic functions of alarm transmission and alerting of line failure with a high degree of reliability and safety. However, as we discussed in the last article, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more facilities that a good AoIP system can offer to the user.

All AoIP systems fall into two basic categories: ‘managed’ and ‘direct polled’ systems. Managed systems are where a third party sits between the user’s premises and the monitoring centre and manages the network and traffic, just passing alerts to the monitoring centre. Direct polled systems are where the alerts and line monitoring is undertaken directly to the monitoring centre and the management is all done by them.

Let us look more closely at the two types.

Managed AoIP Systems.
These originally started with some PTT’s offering line monitoring across the twisted pair of the PSTN line. As these
systems were part of the telephone networks and needed a heavy investment, a managed system was natural. There were only a few countries that had such systems, for example RedCare in the UK, Securinet in Norway and Thus in Switzerland and Austria. A few other similar systems existed in Australia and Denmark, but have now been dismantled. As these were based on the telephone lines, the monitoring was rudimentary and did not initially allow facilities for encryption and upload/download to the panel.

The advent of AoIP and dual path across GPRS and now 3G has allowed other entrants into this market for managed systems, and they can offer additional services as outlined in the previous article.

These managed systems require the managing company to operate a network centre and offer such services as
configuration support, managing line breaks, etc. Over the last few years the offerings of dual path, where the
managing company supplies and manages Sim cards, has grown for GPRS backup.

It is interesting that these new players in this market for managed systems are mostly in countries where the old PSTN managed systems were available from the PTT’s. In countries which did not have a legacy PSTN line monitoring
system then the Direct Polled Systems are now the preferred option.

Direct Polled Systems
In these systems the remote AoIP dialler/transmitter communicates directly with a receiver at the monitoring centre’s own premises and the monitoring centre takes responsibility for the operation of the network functions. This can still support single or dual path operation and either the installer or monitoring centre will supply the Sim Card for GRPS/3G paths. Support can come from the installer, monitoring centre or supplier of the system.

So what are the differences between both systems. From a functional and services point of view, both systems can offer a range of services including Line Polling, Alerting, Remote Access and much more. These facilities are part of the system design, not the network or management architecture.

Vendors of managed systems claim that their systems are easy to install, but a good directly polled system can be as quick to install and with the advent of AoIP being built into the new generation of panels this claim is dubious. The truth is that both systems can be as easy or complex as the designers of each specific system have made them.

The managed systems vendors claim that they are better controlled to manage the lines in the case of line fault. At one time, when such systems were operated by the PTT’s, this may have been true, but for an AoIP network that runs across a number of carriers and may include private networks, public networks and GPRS/3G networks, the management company can only refer breaks to the relevant network operator. This is the same as with the Directly Polled System manager, which is usually the Monitoring centre. The user should not be worried about either case, as the important thing is that the AoIP system quickly identifies the break, gives an indication to the system manager where it is, and ensures that action to rectify is promptly put into place.

Price is the main advantage claimed by managed systems vendors. They usually try and claim that the hardware is cheaper; but this is not always the fact. As the fees are expressed as a small amount per month, the cost sometimes looks attractive. But beware the hidden requirement of a long contract. The cost of the directly polled system maybe included in the monitoring charge.

To get a good comparison when choosing an AoIP system the purchaser should look at the total cost of ownership over a three or five year period. When the inclusive monitoring charge, plus equipment cost is looked at for a direct polled system, it is usually cheaper than when the equipment cost of a managed system along with the monthly charges and added monitoring charges are taken into account.

So where are the two competing types of AoIP likely to go in the future? Most of the world is using the direct polled method, the UK being the main exception with four players offering managed systems, including RedCare. The panel manufacturers have, to a man, backed developing direct polled systems and the next generation of panels will be offered with cost effective diallers/transmitters built in. These will be of the direct polled type of AoIP. If someone is
buying a panel with the AoiP capability built in, it will be difficult for the user to justify throwing this away and buying a
different external transmitter, especially when this external transmitter may not work as fast or have all the built in
features supplied with the panel.

Given that most of the world favours the direct polled technology for AoIP, as do the panel manufacturers, it is likely that this will become the dominant AoIP technology, even more than it already is today.


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