Open the door to technology
For most of us the job of answering the door is something that doesn’t even register – we react to a knock, ring or buzz and respond either in person or using whatever technology is installed in our home or office.
But door entry is a multi-billion dollar world-wide industry that has technology to suit every scenario, from individual homes through to huge residential complexes with thousands of apartments.
Door entry systems have existed in one form or another for years, and while the technology involved is now very sophisticated the concept is much the same as it was when all that was involved was a simple doorbell.
Variations on the doorbell, or the first analogue solution as it is known in industry circles, were the mainstay of the market for many years, but as the popularity of multiple occupancy dwellings grew so the demand for a better solution increased.
Initially, this took the form of providing the occupier with the ability to speak to a caller using voice-based analogue technology. The drawback of this solution was that the occupier had to leave their apartment to physically open the main door for the caller, so the technology was further developed to enable an occupier to ‘buzz in’ the caller.
While an improvement on the system it replaced, this incarnation of door entry technology was extremely time-consuming and expensive to install. For example, a block with 100 dwellings would need a huge amount of cable, plus 100 call wires installed simply for a caller to ring their selected apartment and for the dweller to then speak to and buzz them in.
It was the harnessing of digital technology that finally enabled the door entry market to untangle itself from this unsightly mess of cables and deliver a platform from which today’s generation of products and systems could be launched.
The first digital system operated off an 8 wire platform with a coax cable that provided video capability. Not only was this quicker and easier to install, it also offered far greater capacity than previous analogue solutions, meaning more dwellings could be serviced from each system.
The development process didn’t stop there. Even with the reduction in cables and wires that the 8 wire plus coax cable platform brought, installation was still seen as too expensive and time-consuming. And so new platforms were developed that first saw the coax cable removed and then the wires reduced until a 2 wire digital solution was created that offered all the same benefits and operational features as its 8 wire predecessor, but with just a quarter of the wires.
The development of door entry systems doesn’t end with 2 wire. Today there is a technology that out-performs it. Internet Protocol (IP) based systems, which are being used with increasing regularity in China and are offered by leading manufacturers in the UK, take door entry to a truly astonishing new level.
For example, our recently launched Bticino IP door entry technology can service up to 10,000 apartments with up to 1,000 entrance panels across a 10km radius. And because the system harnesses internal and external public communication networks, such as telephone lines and broadband connections, it brings many more benefits, both in terms of convenience of use and security.
From a convenience point of view, these benefits include the ability to operate the system via a mobile phone – a capability that allows a homeowner to be alerted to, and talk with, a visitor wherever they are and, if necessary, grant them access remotely. This is often managed by a concierge switchboard system. Meanwhile, the ability to create a centralised database of authorised individuals able to gain access to your property vastly enhances the system’s security.
Going hand-in-hand with the operating technology’s development has been the transformation of the handsets and entry panels that allow users to operate the systems.
This transformation was initially driven by the technological advances that reduced the number of cables required and therefore allowed for the development of smaller and sleeker entry panels. As a result of these aesthetic improvements came a shift that saw the products no longer being viewed as purely functional, but as accessories with the design-led capability to blend in to, and subsequently add to, an interior design scheme.
In regards to what this has done in terms of the kind of end-user products available today it’s easy to draw a direct comparison between the door entry and wiring device markets – especially in terms of internal handsets. Just as there are now wiring devices to suit every budget and taste, so there are handsets for every scenario.
Until very recently the top end Legrand offering has been Axolute – a range that combines cutting-edge appearance with hi-tech functionality. It boasts a colour LCD display and selection of stunning finishes, which give it a distinctive look that can be personalised to suit any interior environment. Now through our recently launched home automation and wiring device range, Arteor fills this position as a result of its multi media panels, which can be used as part of a door entry system to deliver absolute style and sophistication. Meanwhile our other ranges, Polyx, Swing, Sprint and the own brand Legrand door entry kit collection, ensure a wide choice of handsets covering both audio and video technology.
Externally, the choice isn’t as wide, but with modular, monobloc and vandal resistant options available there is again a wide enough selection to suit any development.
The final thing to consider when looking at door entry technology is its ability to operate in conjunction with smart home technology to deliver additional functionality and access options, such as a centralised alarm system that utilises remote sensors in dwellings to alert either the concierge or homeowner of any problems, including fire, gas leaks or flooding.
The wholesale picture
Today it is the 2 wire digital platform that holds sway in the British door entry market and so should be the main focus for the majority of a wholesalers stock. Not only is it seen as the easiest and most cost effective to install, but with a maximum operable range of up to 600m between entry panel and handset, and a capability to support anything up to 3,900 apartments with 39 independent risers, twenty handsets per apartment and a total of 96 video entry panels, it is easily able to cope with the biggest developments in the UK.
However, when stocking such systems, wholesalers do need to be aware that there are a number of products available that claim to be 2 wire, but aren’t because there are some that require additional cabling for communication and power, which turns them into 4 wire solutions.
In terms of handsets and entrance panels, the rule of thumb would be similar to that preached with wiring devices – make sure you carry top end products, but don’t forget that the majority of orders will still be for the simpler solutions.