IP Alarm trending in Hong Kong

IP and Cellular Alarm Configuration

© Written by Billy CHEUK, General Manager MSS



Intruder (Burglar) Alarms in Hong Kong are long using conventional telephone lines (landlines) as the communication means for signal transmission from protected premises to Central Alarm Monitoring Station (CAMS) or Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC).  This link is of one-way communication and referred by the industry to as Digital or Auto Dialler (DD), and the communication is via a dedicated telephone line (voice dial-up line).

This article talks about the conversion (or switching) of the communication link, between the protected premises on the one side and the CAMS on the other, into the modern and more cost-effective medium, IP (Internet Protocol) Alarm, as named by the industry.  It first discusses the technology and industrial trends of alarm signal transmission before summarizing the advantages of such conversion.  It then goes on to analyze the ways in technical and practical terms.


Executive Summary

Hong Kong’s security alarm monitoring industry has for some years stepped into a new era where Internet Protocol (IP) application is increasingly trendy to replace conventional telephone lines.   Though Hong Kong is somehow slower than other parts of the world in the paces towards IP Alarm, technological advancement is always so fast and endless that irresistibly drives the local industry to pursue the need to both save costs and enhance security with this advanced and advantageous option.

While Digital Dialler (DD) is commonly employed as the communication link between protected premises and the Central Alarm Monitoring Station (CAMS), it is time to seek a better way to serve the same purpose, without compromising security at the same time.  In fact IP Alarm saves telephone fees for life and only occupies a small bandwidth of a Broadband Internet connection which is always available nowadays in nearly all protected premises.

IP Alarm becomes a better option in the alarm monitoring industry across countries, and has far more advantages than a conventional telephone line (voice dial-up line).  It nearly resembles a Direct Link/Leased Line/Private Wire (DL/LL/PW) in terms of its continuity and reliability, and is of minimal operation and cost.  One valued function is the remote arming of alarm panels which ensures proper arming of system.

The installation is simple in that only an electronic module which will be pre-programmed at workshop is added to existing burglar alarm control panels or otherwise IP alarm panels are procured.  Provided an Internet port is readily available that the actual conversion will take place within few hours.

The conversion therefore is fully justified in terms of money saving and security enhancement.  It is indeed a ‘once and for all’ solution to the long outstanding telephone charge problem.

Technology Trend

In the alarm monitoring industry, different means of communication between protected premises and Central Alarm Monitoring Station (CAMS) are being used, namely, a) Digital Dialler via Fixed Telecommunication Network, i.e. Landline (or Public Switched Telephone Network PSTN), b) GSM (Voice Channel) Dialer via  Mobile Telecommunications Network (or Cellular Network), c) Direct Link via Fixed Telecommunication Network, d) Radio Communicator via Long Range Radio Network, e) Microwave Transmitter via Microwave Network, f) Satellite Transceiver via Satellites and g) IP Alarm Module via Internet.

The most commonly used in most countries are Direct Link, Digital Dialler, GSM Dialler and IP Alarm which incur the least infrastructure investments by CAMS’s.

Direct Link (or Leased Line/Private Wire) is, as the name implies, a telephone line that will never be hung up.  In the old days it was barely a pair of copper wires with opposite (positive and negative) polarity which would be reversed in case of alarm.  Direct Link enables a ‘live talk’ between the protected premises and the CAMS and therefore it is widely adopted in the high risk segment, e.g. Building Fire Alarms, Money Vaults, Note Printers, Banks, Jewelries and etc.  However, Direct Link has thus far limitations in its signal complexity where only up to eight zones can be transmitted (through a Category 2 Private Wire in Hong Kong) compared to the indefinitely many with the Contact ID format.  Moreover, Direct Link is always found to be cumbersome and too costly, many times the cost of a dial-up line.

Digital Dialler is the most common out of all options over the last few decades, as conventional telephone lines are always available over cities and has been most cost-effective for lower risk segments before the introduction of IP Alarm.  Digital Dialler is in fact making Dual Tone Multiple Frequency (DTMF) voice calls over telephone lines.  Signal complexity is achieved by Contact ID which is a universally favoured format for burglar alarm signaling.

GSM (Global System of Mobile Communications) Dialler makes voice (DTMF) calls to a Central Station via Cellular Network which is much more difficult to interfere with because of its wireless nature at the user end.  It also makes dual reports possible through both wired and wireless channels.  However, due to the wireless and polling nature of mobile communication, GSM Dialler is usually deployed as Backup to wired channel.

Both Long Range Radio and Microwave Networks are invested infrastructures of Central Alarm Monitoring Stations, and thus are much less common in most parts of the world.  In Hong Kong, such radio licenses have never been issued by the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA).

Signal transmission through Satellites is a comparatively luxurious option and is less commonly found in land applications.

Alarm communication via Internet has for some time been introduced and recently becomes a global trend along with the technological advancement.  Manufacturers are now able to produce IP Alarm Modules compatible with nearly all brands and models of alarm control panels, suggesting all burglar alarm panels are now IP-ready.  IP Alarm Monitoring is now more than mature since its introduction for many years, and possesses as many additional functions and features as advanced technology can support.  IP Alarm also communicates in Contact IP format.


Industrial Trend

In many parts of the world, seven ways of communication between protected premises and CAMS are commonly found, namely Direct Link, Digital Dialler, Mobile Telephone Network (GSM), Long Range Radio, Microwave, Satellite and Internet.

In Hong Kong, both Microwave and Long Range Radio Licenses have never been issued by the Office of the Communications Authority believably because of the congested frequency bands. The most common means to transmit signal from protected premises to CAMS is Digital Dialler, following which is Direct Link (DL) and GSM Dialler.  However, it is to note that GSM is normally used as Backup due to its connectivity relative to Direct Link and Digital Dialler.

For a long time, local industry has not moved forward to a more modern option such as IP Alarm since Digital Dialler is ever found to be an efficient and cheaper option while Direct Link is mostly applied to high risk premises.

IP Alarms is definitely not new to the alarm monitoring industry over the world.  Traditionally the industry uses Direct Link or Leased Line as the most secure way to ensure endless communication between protected premises and CAMS.

The Hong Kong Security Association (HKSA), as the industry’s Employer Union representing hundreds of member security companies in Hong Kong, has advocated IP Alarm in place of Digital Dialler as well as Direct Link.  Internally its Sub-committee on Alarm Installation and Monitoring has reached consensus with leading members operating CAMS in Hong Kong to promote IP Alarm as the next move in improving security qualities associated with communication links commonly used Hong Kong.  Externally, the HKSA also holds talks with Insurance Companies, Insurance Brokers, Police and other industry stakeholders to gain their support to the move.


Advantages and Benefits

The greatest advantage that is presented by IP Alarm is the long-term or lifetime saving of the dedicated telephone line charges as long as Internet connection is nowadays readily available in most protected premises.

IP Alarm is born to replace Digital Dialler and defeats Direct Link by its signal complexity (using Contact ID format) as well as signal encryption.

IP Alarm is an ‘always on’ as well as 2-way communication link between protected premises and Central Station, with never-ending signal tests (Ping). The overall performance is competitive enough with Direct Link, and is definitely superior to Digital Dialler.

IP Alarm predominates in both Network and Data Security than even Direct Link which becomes even controversial in many situations, for instance, the real existence of a physical direct link over a digital PSTN.

Instead of a single path as found in Direct Link and Digital Dialler, IP Alarm finds its second path to Central Station which is named as Dual IP.  This compensates much the drawback of the ‘cloud’ nature of the Internet.

As all events associated with protected premises are instant, this certainly reduces false alarm rates to a large extent, by way of analyzing minute details of alarms and system troubles on a real time basis (known as Alarm Verification).

Last but not least, IP Alarm provides the ‘once and for all’ or ultimate solution to the long lasting problem of unwanted telephone charges given the Internet connection which is already there well serves the purpose and becomes the most cost-effective option.

All in all, the saving of dedicated telephone charges is for lifetime.



All IP Alarm Modules will be pre-programmed at our workshop and so the only on-site process is ‘Plug and Play’.  The IP Alarm Module ‘plugged’ to the alarm control panel will automatically finds the dual IP addresses of our CAMS in a few seconds once connected to the Internet.  If wired Internet is not available, GSM Transmitter is a good alternative.

Why to change - The main drive is to save long term and never ending dedicated telephone line charges by deploying a modern way of communication, without defeating and actually enhancing security, while the Internet connection is already there.



It is deduced from the above that IP Alarm removes the long standing and lasting headache of heavy dedicated telephone line charges while Internet connection is already to stand in and serves the same purpose without comprising security.

It is therefore recommended to convert into IP Alarm which is actually an upgrade of the Burglar Alarm System to a more advanced version with no extra expenses but permanent or lifetime elimination of telephone charges after a short ‘payback’ period depending on which Fixed Network Provider is in use.



IP Alarm Monitoring - by IFSEC Global (IFSEC International is the biggest security exhibition in Europe which takes place over three days at London ExCeL.)  Source: http://www.ifsecglobal.com/ip-alarm-monitoring/


All rights reserved, October 2020.  English version only.

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