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Technology: The Importance of Telecoms in the Home Automation Mix (4/7/2011)
By Colin Airton, Bespoke Telecoms
Today's home owner is increasingly looking for integrated technology that is simple, yet effective, to operate. Gone are the days when a visitor at the gate can only be viewed and spoken to from dedicated handsets within the house. No longer does the home owner have to put up with cordless phones with poor signal strength, that lose connection as soon as you move between the floors of a house or venture out into the garden.
A modern IP telephone system, when included as part of the home network, enables gate and other cameras to be viewed not only from the latest touchscreen telephones, but also from TVs around the house, the PC, iPhone and iPad.
A keyphone is a telephone with the extra buttons and intelligence required to transfer incoming calls to other extensions. Keyphones can cover the house, staff accommodation and offices, allowing the answering and transferring of calls at the touch of a button to any telephone, cordless or mobile phone. A built-in paging system is especially useful where you just want to locate someone within the house, or merely call the children down for dinner.
With many people operating an office from home, having voicemail built-in as standard would normally be expected, along with the ability to include other parties in conference calls.
With larger properties, the ability to roam around the house, move between floors and walk out into the grounds without loss of signal on a cordless phone can be important. This can only ever be satisfactorily achieved through the installation of DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) cell stations linked to a suitable PBX (Private Branch Exchange).
This means that the homeowner should be able to sit by the pool or be out in the garden without ever missing a visitor at the door or gate, or that important call. Furthermore, since DECT phones operate at a frequency of 1.9GHz, there should be no danger of interference with other wireless equipment.
Integrating door or gate intercom with a telephone system
Door intercoms usually allow a visitor to press a button and speak to someone to gain entry. With a basic system, a dedicated handset is buzzed, and the person answering speaks to the visitor and lets them in. However, linking access control with the phone system gives a number of benefits.
Visitors can be dealt with from any phone. When a visitor presses the call button it can ring as many or as few extensions as desired. This can be different phones under different circumstances. During working hours, it might be at an office. At weekends and in the evening, it can be the living room, study and kitchen. Visitors can be spoken to, and access gained, through pressing a button on the phone. This is not restricted to fixed phones either; the same can be achieved on a cordless phone and even a mobile phone.
See who is there from the phone
The image from a door or gate camera should now be able to 'pop' onto the telephone handset as soon as the visitor presses the call button. When part of a network, the same camera can also be viewed on a TV screen or monitor.
The latest touchscreen phones allow for the pan, tilt and zoom of a door or gate camera with incredible ease. This is particularly important for a town house, where a fixed camera is effectively useless if the caller stands on a different step or a child turns up at the door. Additionally, it allows for the panning of the entire pavement area to see if anyone is standing behind the caller or further up the street.
Allow access, remotely
A delivery may occur when no one is at home. When a visitor presses the call button at, say the main gate, this call can be diverted to a mobile phone. Once it has been verified who the caller is, instructions can be given and the gate opened for them. Additionally, an app button on the smart phone can be used to view the caller.
Additional cameras that have been connected to the network can also be viewed from a touchscreen phone. Typically, this means that the swimming pool can be continually monitored from a wall-mounted phone, or the children can be watched playing in the garden. If a caller comes to the door, that camera immediately pops into view.
Handsets, such as the Panasonic NT400 phone, can also take a snapshot of every visitor to the house. This gives a stored image of that person, whether the householder is in or not. Upon return to the house, the owner can see that they have had missed visitors and scroll through each one noting the time and day of arrival. Such facility is especially useful when backed up with a network recorder, thus eliminating trawling through hours of video footage.
Gate access codes
An illuminated keypad is easily programmable to allow tradespeople and staff access to the location at predetermined times or on certain days of the week. It is usually essential for the installer to have the facility to dial into the unit to change such codes should staff be changed or contract work finished.
When automating a larger home, it is essential that the telecommunications needs are included within the home network. Through using an IP PBX, the householder can control door or gate access along with any number of cameras from the telephone handset. Maintenance and changes can easily be made through remote access to the PBX.
The overriding consideration is always to ensure that the homeowner is left with equipment that is not just highly functional, but also visually simple to use.
Colin Airton is a Director of Bespoke Telecoms Ltd, specialist in the installation of IP telephone systems into town houses, country homes and estates, and manufacturer of gate/door entry units with pan, tilt and zoom cameras.
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