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Alternative power

At construction sites and remote areas without power or phone lines, security has always been an issue. Too often, hiring security guards isn’t necessarily a feasible option either.

October 27, 2008  By Vawn Himmelsbach

The latest technology is a wireless security system that doesn’t
require phone lines or hard-wired AC power, called AIM Site Security
and Notification System, from Armstrong’s Intelligent Monitoring
. It’s designed specifically for applications that traditional
security can’t service, including seasonal sites such as cottages,
cargo trailers, construction sites, new home construction, boats and

“When we took a look at it, we didn’t know what applications it would
work for until all of a sudden things started popping up,” says Ray
Summers, president and general manager of Canadian National Security
Ltd. in Winnipeg, which has been selling the AIM product for about a

One of its clients provides raw materials for concrete and building
materials across Canada. At the aggregate facility — a large
multi-million dollar automated plant that dredges gravel and sand out
of a large pit and separates the particulate using a conveyor system —
the main control tower has always been a security issue.
“This is a seasonal business in that they can’t run the plant in the
winter time and it’s very expensive to keep the power on,” he says.
Once things start to freeze, they turn everything off. But with no
power, they couldn’t protect the facility, especially the control
building which houses computers and control equipment.

So they installed the AIM product, initially using the self-contained
battery power source, and now using a solar panel to keep it charged
up. “As long as we’ve got that solar panel, even if it gets to –35 or
–40 C everything is still working 100 per cent,” says Summers. The client
had tried other solutions over the years, including large solar panels
with batteries, but these panels would get covered up with snow and
wouldn’t charge properly.
The dealer also installed the AIM product at a remote Chrysler
dealership in a small township north of Winnipeg, which sells quads and
snowmobiles. “They’ve had some break-ins on the compound,” says
Summers, “so it made sense to install AIM, which doesn’t require power
or phone lines.”


Within 60 seconds of an incident, AIM will notify end-users through
direct dial or text messaging, or it can be set up to include operator
notification. AIM uses the Rogers Network to send data.

“The bulk of my business is CCTV, both analogue and IP systems,” says
Summers. “There is a hole where we have power issues, and they’re
usually remote areas or areas outside of the city.” The only issue he’s
had so far is that AIM uses cellular towers, so if you’re in an area
far north where there’s no cell coverage, it can be a problem. However,
even if your cell phone doesn’t work, it doesn’t necessarily mean you
won’t be able to use the product, because you’re only sending data, so
you don’t need the same voice-quality reception.

Ed Russell, who runs Russell Protective Services in Canmore, Alta.,
provides security for a specialty custom homebuilder (its last house
was priced at $11 million), which was hit with a robbery on one of its
job sites. The homebuilder lost $10,000 worth of tools. Before, there
wasn’t anything on the market that could deal with this type of
scenario. “There’s no phone lines and really sketchy power,” says
Russell. “At the time we had nothing.”

One day Russell came across an ad for AIM; now he’s using it with
construction clients. “With a little bit of help from [Armstrong’s]
technical department we’ve got these set up for every eventuality short
of a missile attack,” he said.

Canmore is a boomtown, and along with that is seeing an increase in
crime. Russell used to run a guard agency, but had to let it go because
he couldn’t keep it staffed. “You can’t hire a trained monkey right
now,” he says. In Alberta, where labour is in short supply, it can cost
$500 a night to hire a security guard. So for clients that can’t find
security guards, this is another way to mitigate the problem. “This
fills in holes around our work,” he says. “It’s almost creating its own
workload.” It could also reduce the number of security guards needed,
or alert a guard if there’s a breach he can’t see from his guard area.

Clients are getting about nine weeks out of the battery before it has
to be charged (it sends you a message when the battery is low, but
still provides six days before it goes into shutdown). But Russell
doesn’t encourage customers to rely on text messaging for alarm
notification, but rather direct dialing, since the cellular network in
that area can be unreliable.

At construction sites, typically there’s no power on a 24-hour basis.
“[With AIM] you can have almost instant communication and instant
security and not have to worry about power requirements for a month,”
says Gerald O’Hara, general manager of Carlow Security Services in
Dartmouth, N.S., which has been in business for 30 years in commercial
and residential security. The dealer has installed AIM units in several
construction sites. “We’re expanding into this area as a result of
AIM,” he says. “We see this as the next generation as far as
portability is concerned.”

It’s not just for burglaries, he added. It has other applications, such
as smoke and fire detection. It can be used in conjunction with almost
any conceivable device, such as containers carrying expensive products.
“It is a specialty product, no question,” says O’Hara. “You’re not
going to find it in the average house or office, but you’ll find it out
in the middle of the woods with certain types of sensors on it.”

The product is being used for purposes the company never anticipated,
says Dan Small, general manager of Armstrong. “The dealers have found a
lot more uses for this product than we ever thought.” In one case, the
owner of an apartment building was having problems when tenants moved
out – people would go into the empty apartment and party and drink and
smoke. So he now uses the AIM unit in vacant apartments, which sends a
message to the supervisor if anyone goes in.

There’s a tender on hold in Newfoundland from the Department of Natural
Resources for an electronic probe that would run across a roadway to
detect poachers. “Unfortunately in Newfoundland they don’t have GSM
coverage, and that’s what our entire industry has gone to,” said Small.
“No one is using CDMA anymore.” This is a problem for Newfoundland, in
particular, but the next version of AIM will include satellite
communications to deal with those types of issues.

The RCMP is also looking into it for marijuana grow-ups, so they can
catch people during harvesting, said Gary Armstrong, president of
Armstrong. And insurance companies are starting to use it on a small
scale. If a home burns down in the middle of the night, the insurance
company usually hires a security firm to stay there, but now some of
them are using the AIM unit instead. Armstrong is also rolling out a
GPS version, so clients will be able to track vehicles, from stolen
ski-doos to Harleys.

Armstrong has about 250 dealers that have been exposed to the product.
But it’s also gone into secondary markets, where it’s bringing
non-traditional security people into the fold. In one case, it’s
working with the owner of a marina in Victoria who will offer the AIM
unit to boat-owners.

“We’re still trying to sell to traditional security dealers, but
overall they’re so busy and so short-staffed, to even present them with
something else to make them more money, they haven’t got enough time in
the day,” says Small. “If we’re going to do serious volume, we have to
get outside of the traditional security market.” Also, dealers don’t
have to be monitored with Armstrong.

Everything built into it comes from an understanding of the security
industry. “Other products on the market send directly from the unit to
the customer, but don’t go through a central station,” he says. “Ours
provides that everything is documented so you have online access to
every test signal, every alarm.” It can be held for police records and
is fully accessible by the end-user over Internet access, he added.

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