Delivering Significant Changes: Texecom Connect

With the imminent release of Texecom Connect, the manufacturer is currently rolling out its Premier Elite V4 control panel firmware which is required to deliver the advanced functionality from the system. This also coincides with the release of its LCDLP-W wireless keypad. With the Benchmark Smart Solutions project using the Texecom Connect platform for the intruder part of the test solution, the first task was to set up a system using the V4 software and many of the new devices.

When the Texecom Connect platform was first announced, the manufacturer adopted a slogan, as is common in modern marketing. This slogan intimated that Texecom Connect ‘changes everything’. It was a bold statement and one that did actually make sense given the direction the company was taking.

With a growing trend for automation and smart solutions, especially in the residential sector, it would have been very easy to put together a ‘lifestyle’ product that delivered home control with an acceptable degree of security thrown in for good measure. However, that was not the chosen route for Texecom.

Texecom Connect is based upon the company’s graded Premier Elite security system. Indeed, the heart of any Texecom Connect system will be a professionally installed graded alarm system without any compromises or ‘dumbing down’ to allow the automation and smart functions to be realised.
The additional benefit of this is that many installers and integrators will be able to offer Texecom Connect upgrades to customers with existing Premier Elite systems.

The Premier Elite range offers support for the Ricochet mesh-based wireless platform. This award-winning wireless system offers a wide range of benefits. Ricochet technology enables two-way communication between the wireless field devices and the control panel. Because of the flexible topology of a mesh-based network, signals can be routed to and from the control panel via other devices. This increases efficiency and reliability while also boosting range, enabling wireless systems to be deployed in environments which are challenging for standard wireless systems.

Field devices can dynamically change the routes over which any wireless signals are transmitted to ensure they always reach the control panel. This allows the system to select the strongest communication path. If an environmental condition or change to site use causes any wireless link to be weakened, Ricochet will detect this and route signals via another device.

Despite the wireless mesh-based system running at almost full capacity, all devices still communicate directly with the control panel via the expanders.

One interesting thing to note is that Texecom points out that transmission range will be extended using the mesh platform as each wireless device effectively acts as a repeater. The system created by the Benchmark Smart Solutions project covers four buildings with distances from the control panel extending to around 60 metres. It is also a densely populated system with 63 devices and a maximum capacity of 64! However, when the signalling paths are checked with the Ricochet monitor – a free software package that monitors signalling paths in real time; the screen grabs above are made using the tool – every device was signalling directly to the control panel. This means that signalling is performing at its optimum level on a point-to-point basis. Although the need for the signal to ‘hop’ through other field devices is not being used, it is still there should an environmental condition occur.

New additions

The Texecom Premier Elite range has been supplemented by a number of new products and more are due for release in the very near future. A significant element of these developments is the Premier Elite V4 firmware. The new version predominantly adds the functionality required to deliver the features of Texecom Connect. However, there is also one feature that will offer benefits to all installers and integrators. With V4, when wireless devices are ‘learned’ onto the expanders, the information is stored in the control panel too. This means that should a system’s configuration change, requiring new hardware, there is no need to relearn all of the devices. This will simplify upgrades and be a time-saving bonus for engineers in the field.

For many installers and integrators, another significant addition to the Premier Elite range will be the LCDLP-W wireless keypad. At first glance this seems very similar to the hard-wired LCDLP keypad, and that’s because it is. The similarity is not just in terms of aesthetics and footprint; the functionality is exactly the same too.

Rather than producing a wireless keypad that acts solely as an arming/disarming station, the Texecom LCDLP-W wireless keypad allows full programming and advanced functionality, just as the hardwired keypad does.

The benefit for installers and integrators is that they can carry the wireless keypad with them during installation and commissioning, negating the need to return to the keypad frequently. It is also worth remembering that being a Ricochet device means the keypad can be used as a repeater for other field devices, if required.

For the user, the LCDLP-W wireless keypad acts exactly as the hard-wired LCDLP does with one small exception. If using a prox tag, the keypad needs a single key press to wake it up before presenting the tag. If a code is being entered, the first digit of the code not only wakes the keypad but is also registered so there are no additional keystrokes.

The Premier Elite Micro Contact-W can be mounted inside a door or window frame to offer an invisible option.

Released earlier this year, the Premier Elite Micro Contact-W has changed the way door and window contacts can be installed. Whilst the existing Premier Elite Impaq Contact-W is solid and reliable (and is especially suited to doors without perfect alignment), the diminutive size of the Micro Contact-W means it can be installed in the frame of many windows and doors, rending it virtually invisible to the user. This makes adding contacts to all doors and windows a reality, whereas some customers would have thought twice about having the bulkier devices on every window frame.

One new device that will be required for the implementation of the Texecom Connect platform is the SmartCom. The SmartCom is an Ethernet and WiFi communicator that connects any Premier Elite control panel to a local area network in a secure and robust manner.

The SmartCom communicates using outbound connections, removing the need for the installer or integrator to carry out any port forwarding, thus simplifying the installation whilst also preserving the highest levels of security.

The user-friendly app gives at-a-glance status reports and delivers push notifications of any alarm events.

Control over the Premier Elite alarm system is managed via the keypads, and proximity tags of Premier Elite SmartKeys can also be used. However, a user-friendly app is also available, allowing control of not only the security system but also the automation and smart benefits of the Texecom Connect platform.

This uses a clean and easy-to-understand timeline that shows any alarm events, scheduled tasks and other notifications that have happened or are due to take place that day.

Further screens allow detailed information about Schedules and Rooms in the site to be interrogated. The user also has the opportunity to create Modes. A Mode is a system state, such as Armed, Disarmed or Part Set. Other custom-created Modes can be generated.

The flexibility with regard to system programming is achieved by creating Recipes. User-defined Recipes enable the implementation of bespoke security applications, as well as smart control of automation and general appliance functionality.

The user identifies an event or a series of events, and then adds an action (or actions) which are performed when the set criteria are met.

The Ricochet-enabled plugs allow any powered appliance to be controlled through the app or via Recipes.

Recipes can be very simple: if the alarm is set and motion is detected on the driveway, switch on a CCTV camera. Alternatively, if the alarm is unset and motion is detected on the driveway, switch on a light. There is also scope for more advanced Recipes: if the alarm is part-set, it’s between 9pm and midnight and motion is detected on the drive, send a push notification with a snapshot to the user, switch on a light on the driveway and all ground floor lights in the house. A Recipe can also trigger other Recipes, giving a high degree of options with regard to how events are dealt with.

Of course, Recipes don’t have to be security-related! They could focus on home automation tasks: if the system is unset, it’s after 6am and motion is detected on the stairs, turn on the kitchen light and the kettle.

It is also possible to include Recipes in Modes. For example, a Party Mode might instigate a Part Set for various parts of the house with a push notification if these are breached. This could include a Recipe to turn on external lighting if motion is sensed on a patio.

One final new product of interest relating to the automation and smart functionality of Texecom Connect is the Ricochet-enabled plug. This device allows control of any powered appliance to be taken via the app or through the creation of Recipes. It is simply learned onto the Ricochet system like any other wireless device and when powered up it can be controlled as required.

Performance

The most important consideration for installers and integrators looking at the Texecom Connect platform will be whether the additional features and functions impact on the security-based performance of the system. The answer is that they don’t.

The Premier Elite SmartCom allows the alarm system to be connected with a local area network without any requirement for port forwarding.

The initial period of assessing the performance of the system saw it used solely as an intruder alarm system. The Premier Elite devices are stable and efficient, and there are no concerns over the quality of the system.

The wireless element shows that even when pushed hard in a stress-based application, Ricochet is a powerful and stable platform, and is capable of protecting large sites over some distance without needing to resort to using hops across the mesh to send signals. The fact that this can be done if required is more of a reassurance. It’s good to know that if hostile conditions occur, the system can still operate. Despite this very beneficial feature, every time we’ve assessed the wireless performance every device was communicating directly.

Carrying out system adjustments is fast and simple using the supplied Wintex software. Alternatively, changes can be carried out via the keypads if required.

Whilst the app has yet to be used for setting up Modes and Recipes, it has been used to check system status, receive notifications and set and unset areas within the overall system. It has worked well and retained a good degree of consistency in its performance.

In summary

Texecom Connect is a promising solution for those seeking smart solutions. It’s a solid and high quality intruder alarm system, and the smart control and automation functionality has been added with no compromise whatsoever with regard to its security credentials. To recall the marketing phrase, it does, so far, seem to change everything!

Benchmark Smart Solutions
Benchmark Smart Solutions is dedicated to supporting those seeking innovative and bespoke value-added solutions for business and the home environment. Through real-world field trials it assesses the potential available from current technologies and integrated systems. Benchmark Smart Solutions is produced by the team at Benchmark magazine.