Westminster Abbey has faith in new wireless ISM from Chubb Electronic Security

Dec 1, 2006


4th December 2006

Westminster Abbey has become the first of the major heritage sites to opt for Chubb AFx Wireless Integrated Security Management (ISM) technology from Chubb Electronic Security – a method of combining and controlling the data from two or more previously independent devices onto one software application, with one database, using an existing IT network as host. Chubb Electronic Security is part of UTC Fire & Security, a unit of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX).

It means that the Abbey is effectively replacing its existing hardwired control platform for its intruder system with a wireless technology that allows other intruder devices – and indeed other buildings – to be added at will, as well as the capability of controlling Intruder, CCTV and Access Control technologies from the same Front End at any time in the future.

“The previous system was a Chubb control panel installed more than 20 years ago, and in clear need of upgrading,” explains Jim Vincent, Westminster Abbey’s Clerk of Works. “Chubb AFx provides us with the level of control and reporting that we need, whilst also giving us the ability to expand or extend the installation in the future without having to run any more cables.”

Chubb AFx has been specifically designed to integrate and manage a site’s entire electronic security system, including, in some cases, point monitoring of building management sensors. All of this is performed via a front-end software package – or Graphical User Interface - from one platform, where previously each system required its own panel and cabling, operating in isolation.

Unlike traditional electronic security products this software programme adds intelligence to and simplifies the management of the information received from the control panel. The software combines the data from every device, sorts and interprets it and presents it to the user in a way that allows much greater efficiency. As each device is connected using common protocols, not only can Jim remotely monitor the data that each device is collecting, but he can also perform a variety of administrative and maintenance functions without the need to be physically present at each location.

Chubb AFx provides the opportunity of delivering significantly lower security costs. Savings are made as soon as the system is installed – by avoiding further control panels and cabling labour costs for each system added – so called ‘scalability’ - but the real savings have been found to be in operational efficiency.

“We believe this new technology will significantly cut down on maintenance, and therefore save us money,” Jim continues . “Currently, we have to conduct maintenance out-of-hours, and sometimes at the weekends with the obvious implications on cost. This new technology is self-testing, and has automatic self-diagnosis to tell us when a detector is faulty, or a battery is running low, so apart from a walk-test once a year there is little in the way of maintenance required.”

The principal advantage of ISM utilising wireless intruder alarms centres around the cost and practicality of installation. Hardwired systems require lengthy stretches of cable to be installed to provide power to each unit.  Within an existing build – and most notably within historic buildings such as Westminster Abbey – wireless technology means no additional cabling is required, which means no drilling and no mess. Being wireless, the devices are easy to install – hours instead of days – which means disruption is kept to a minimum.

“Ease of installation means the job can be completed much more quickly,” says Ron Dingley of Chubb Electronic Security. “But it also means it improves planning and scheduling in the first place because we can more accurately predict install time without having to be concerned about what hurdles we might meet upon the way.”

“Wireless systems have the advantage of being easier to re-configure and are also arguably more practical in challenging environments where hardwiring would simply not be practical or would interfere with the original architecture of the Abbey,” Ron adds. As part of the contract, CES will in fact be removing the redundant cabling from its legacy system.

The reliability of wireless products has been helped in the last decade by two specific developments. The first is frequency hopping, spread-spectrum technology. This effectively means that if the signal is blocked in any way, the transmitter is able to jump (‘hop’) between frequencies to enable the signal to get through. Again this has obviously implications in terms of improved reliability and performance. The second innovation is the development of ‘repeaters’ - sophisticated devices that ‘listen’ for messages from transmitters, and then re-broadcast the message at higher power to the system receiver(s).

“We have already had the system run on test for the past couple of months, and it is just as reliable as a hardwired system,” Jim says, “even with the thick walls and masonry within the building. Westminster Abbey is a building of national importance – the setting for every coronation since 1066 – so reliability is everything. I need to know this technology will work if there is a real incident.”