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RFID, GPS technologies advance guard tour system line

Suppliers are adding new features to guard tour systems to improve efficiency and expand applications.

Efforts to enhance security features and broaden the application base are prompting China guard tour system suppliers to adopt new technologies, improve efficiency and introduce add-ons. These initiatives are expected to transform basic units designed solely for security purposes into more complex setups suitable for other industries, including power and mobile communication.

Guard tour systems
Guangzhou Ocom’s PBU320 download station connects the guard tour wand PA1602 to the computer and collects guard tour data.

Contactless, RFID-based models currently account for 70 percent of China’s output in this line. Still, manufacturers continue to explore new RFID technologies to boost performance and integrate new functions. Some are also introducing products based on Mifare or solutions working on 125kHz or 13.56MHz depending on buyers’ requests. But despite a larger storage capacity and performance comparable to the EM4001, higher prices will hinder adoption of such devices in the near term.

R&D efforts on contactless systems aim to extend the effective range and memory, and strengthen patrolling efficiency. Most companies are eyeing 2.4GHz active RFID technology, which can support a reading distance of 10 to 100m. This will eliminate the need to go to the exact location of a checkpoint or perform routine checks during guard tours. Such configurations can also automatically record both arrival and departure times.

Some units feature EM tags for greater compatibility and flexibility. High costs, however, have kept enterprises from increasing output of 2.4GHz variants. Several are nonetheless optimistic mass production will reduce the outlay.

The WM-5000V7 model from JWM Hi-Tech Development Co. Ltd is a 2.4GHz RFID contactless guard tour reader with a metal body and molded, water-resistant rubber shell. It can read both EM and 2.4GHz active tags at 3 to 5cm and 10 to 100m, respectively. The 4MB built-in flash memory can hold 50,000 records. A wireless download station that doubles as the reader charger enables communication with the PC.

Another strong R&D trend is the use of GPS technology. Enabled devices are suitable for sites with no preinstalled checkpoints and online systems. The reader or handheld terminal generally integrates a GPS receiver module that can automatically and accurately record time and location information without the need for manual operation. A few high-end releases have built-in GSM/GPRS/CDMA modules that can report realtime data to a control center through a cell phone network. Because of these benefits, GPS-enabled devices rank high on many makers’ R&D agenda. Some, including JWM Hi-Tech, have released their own models.

Systems integration is likewise gathering momentum. A growing number of large and midsize access control manufacturers are integrating guard tour functions into their products via RFID. Other suppliers are combining identification technologies in an effort to improve functionality. Some are using multiple RFID technologies in one reader. A few offer models powered by both touch memory and RFID for greater flexibility and application adaptability. Several releases are even equipped with fingerprint recognition modules for more efficient personnel management.

Makers are also exploring wireless technology to strengthen both on- and off-line systems. For the latter, this will enable remote communication between download stations and the control center. The solutions eyed are 1.8GHz or 2.4GHz RF and Wi-Fi.

To explore new markets, manufacturers are extending their products’ applications to electric power, gas pipelines and mobile communication base stations. Aside from recording time and petrol position, such models can read meters, data and other events then send them back to a control center.

A few companies, meanwhile, target specific uses. For instance, some suppliers have released guard tour systems designed for extremely low-temperature environments. These are equipped with special LED indicators instead of LCD screens, and can work at temperatures as low as -40 C. Explosion-resistant types are another example. Such devices are specifically made for industries and facilities that handle explosive material, including coal and chemicals.

For on-line models, systems have readers with built-in GSM/GPRS/CDMA modules that can communicate with the control center and report information instantly. As for add-ons, the list constitutes built-in camera for image capture, flashlight and guard tour navigation. Companies are also underscoring low power consumption, compact form factors and greater durability.

Moving alongside the region’s security industry, China’s guard tour system sector rebounded strongly in 2010 and is forecast to maintain a CAGR of about 20 percent in the next three years. There are now about 100 players. Over two-thirds of manufacturers are located in Guangdong province, while the rest are in Beijing, Shanghai and Liaoning province.

Most companies are considered small with limited technical and financial capability. Fewer than 10 enterprises achieve five-digit or more annual yield. These include JWM Hi-tech, Guangzhou Ocom Technology Co. Ltd, Shenyang VS Digital Technology Co. Ltd, Beijing Landwell and Beijing Bluecard.

Off-line guard tour systems lead products
Product gallery

Contactless reader
The model WM-5000V+ contactless reader from JWM has a 4MB flash that stores up to 60,000 records.
Off-line guard tour systems lead products

The selection from China comprises on- and off-line, and contact and contactless systems. More than 90 percent works on off-line mode for cost considerations. Typical releases in this category consist of readers, checkpoint tags, download stations, and management PCs and software. The readers have built-in memory to record checkpoint information during patrol. The download stations are connected to a PC, which collects all information.

The readers usually come in stick or PDA form factors, with most variants housed in water- and vandal-resistant metal alloy cases suitable for harsh environments. A built-in rechargeable Li-polymer battery supplies power.

Contact-based systems typically employ touch memory technology from Maxim, while contactless versions adopt RFID.

Guangzhou Ocom’s PA081 model is a contact reader that measures 25x165mm and weighs 400g. It can keep 8,000 records. Its contactless reader, the PA1808 model, measures 143x43x25mm, weighs 70g and can store 80,000 files. The supplier provides various storage capacity levels depending on buyers’ requests.

Download stations, which are mainly used for obtaining tour data from readers, have USB or RS-232 ports for connecting to a computer. Most can also double as reader chargers.

A few high-end contactless setups enable direct data download via the built-in USB port, therefore eliminating the need for a station. The V3 model from Shenyang VS Digital is an example. This 115x53x20mm unit has a Mini-USB interface that supports both data transmission and battery charging. It is equipped with 2MB flash memory capable of holding 260,000 records. When fully charged, the system can work continuously for 12 months on standby mode.

Checkpoint tags are normally used to determine patrol position and for personnel identification. Contact variants, also called iButton, look like stainless steel buttons, measure 16.3x5.6mm and weigh 1.6g. Contactless types have a built-in EM card chip with a plastic case. These have unique codes for identification and come with fluorescence coating for better nighttime visibility.

Some makers also offer devices for registering events during patrol. The Event Wallet model from Shenyang VS Digital, for example, is an addition to the V5. It contains various EM tags that record events such as opened doors and broken windows, aiding users with numeric codes that correspond to specific events.

Meanwhile, on-line guard tour systems employ the mature access control network architecture and RFID technology. Readers based on the last serve as checkpoints connected to the central controller through the EIA-485 bus. The latter collects the log-in records of patrollers at each checkpoint.

The main price determinants in this line are the product type and configuration. A basic, stick-shaped contact or contactless reader with a built-in rechargeable battery and a storage capacity of 2,000 records ranges from $30 to $40. A matching download station with an RS-232 or USB port anda charging function lists at about $30. Checkpoint tags are below $1.

Products with built-in LCDs are considered midrange and go for $70 to $150. High-end systems running on GPS or 2.4GHz active RFID technology are priced higher. The former types are priced between $200 and $300, while those adopting 2.4GHz RFID exceed $500. Tags based on the same technology range from $10 to $15.

The basic management software, which collects and consolidates patrol information and exports them in Excel format, is usually free. Newer versions with enhanced functions and special features are sold separately.

Despite rising production costs due to inflation and the appreciation of the yuan, most companies interviewed forecast stable prices in the next six to 12 months. Quotes of some high-end systems such as GPS and 2.4GHz RFID models could decrease slightly.

Guard tour reader
Product gallery

Guangzhou Ocom Technology Co. Ltd

Model: PA1802
Description: Guard tour reader; 2,000-record storage capacity; communication station collects data from reader; Windows 98, 2000, 2003, XP, Vista, 7 OS; two AAA batteries; 143x43x25mm; 70g

Guard tour reader

Guangzhou Ocom Technology Co. Ltd

Model: PA2008
MOQ: 99 units
Delivery: 7 days
Description: Guard tour reader; inductive read type; USB 2.0; 2,000-record storage capacity; 0 to 6cm inductive distance; 3V CR123A lithium battery; 170x26mm; 120g

Guard tour download station

Guangzhou Ocom Technology Co. Ltd

Model: PBU320
Description: Guard tour download station; microcomputer design; connects guard tour wands to computer, registers information button, sets guard tour wand, collects guard tour data

Guard tour reader

JWM Hi-Tech Development Co. Ltd

Model: WM-5000E
Description: Guard tour reader; water-, sabotage-resistant; LED ED flash prompt at the touch of a button; realtime internal clock; 7,200-record storage capacity; low power consumption; battery life of 350,000 continuous reads

Guard tour download station

JWM Hi-Tech Development Co. Ltd

Model: WM-5000T+
Description: Guard tour download station; 120V at 60Hz, 220V at 50Hz; light, power, transmit, receive indicators; computer, power connection ports; 102x102x42mm; 210g

Guard tour reader

JWM Hi-Tech Development Co. Ltd

Model: WM-5000V+
Description: Guard tour reader; alloy body, molded rubber shell; contactless reading; water-, sabotage-, electrical shock-resistant; USB cable; 4MB flash with 60,000-record storage capacity; reads RFID tags; ≤5cm reading distance; realtime internal clock; low power consumption; battery life of 270,000 continuous reads

Note:This article was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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