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ADT Expects RFID Will Reduce False Alarms for Home Security

The company is now offering a residential security solution that uses passive high-frequency RFID tags to activate or deactivate the system.
By Beth Bacheldor
Aug 21, 2008In order to cut down on false alarms, ADT's Security Services unit is now offering a residential security solution that leverages proximity RFID to activate or deactivate the security system.

SafeWatch SafePass includes a key fob in the form of a plastic tag with a passive RFID inlay that operates at 13.56 MHz embedded in it. When the key fob is waved within about 2 inches from the security system's touchpad, an RFID reader inside of the touchpad reads the RFID inlay's unique ID number. The ID number takes the place of manually entered codes typically used to turn the security system on or off, and change its settings.

ADT believes it is the only commercial security company in the United States to introduce a residential security system that uses passive RFID. Neither Brinks Home Security nor Guardian Protection Services currently offers RFID-enabled systems.

"We are the first U.S. company to come up with this," says Anne-Marie Rouse, manager of ADT's strategic planning, a group that is responsible for developing future product roadmaps. "We've been focusing a lot on false-alarm reductions," says Rouse, adding that recent studies show the most common cause of false alarms are from mistakes made at the touchpad. "It happens at entry or exit. People forget their codes, or they accidentally hit two keys at the same time. When a false alarm occurs, sometimes police are called to the scene that isn't really a crime scene, and they are diverted from being somewhere else."

Most police, rescue and fire departments allow for two or three false alarms, but if called out on false alarms more than that, they will charge homeowners a fee, Rouse explains. "We wanted to do something for our customers that would make [activating or deactivating] the alarm system easier and that would reduce false alarms."

SafePass is different from other types of wireless key fobs that are available on the market today for security systems. Not only does SafePass employ passive RFID, it is also significantly cheaper than the battery-powered wireless RF remote controls ADT offers with its home security systems. A SafePass key tag costs about $20, while the wireless Quick Key Remote is about $100. The Quick Key Remote does offer more functionality, and customers can, by simply pushing a button on the remote, arm or disarm a system from inside or outside the home, open a garage door or even turn on the houselights.

The Quick Key is a four-button wireless 345 MHz transmitter intended for use only with wireless alarm systems that support ADT's 5800 Series receivers. "Each button on the transmitter may be programmed for any zone response," Rouse explains, "but is typically used for arming, disarming, panic and relay activation. The customer has to press one of the buttons to activate an action such as disarming."

The Quick Key is powered by two replaceable lithium batteries. Its the range is 100 to 200 feet when it has a direct line of sight with the receiver, which equates to about 40 to 50 feet when inside a home, according to Rouse.

Other security companies offer a remote controller similar to ADT's Quick Key. Brinks' senior manager of product technology, David Yorkey, says its wireless controller offers greater advantages over passive RFID key fobs and is "by far more convenient to use, [and it also has] remote panic, remote garage door control, etc."

Nonetheless, ADT's Rouse says the new RFID-enabled key tags give customers options at an affordable price. "And this encourages use of the alarm system, something we wanted to do. That's the positive point of the SafePass key tag. It's just $20."
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