Don’t get left out in the cold

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, as Richard Hayward, the Legrand Marketing Manager who is responsible for the UK activities of its Group company, Bticino explains.

Doorbell technology

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.

Digital technology

It was the harnessing of digital technology that finally enabled the door entry market to begin untangling itself from this unsightly mess of cables and deliver a platform from which the modern 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 off 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 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.

IP technology

The development of door entry systems doesn’t end with 2 wire. Today there is a technology that easily 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.

User controls

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 though our recently launched home automation and wiring device range, Arteor fills this position as a result of its multimedia 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 next step

Having progressed so far from the good old doorbell you’d be forgiven for thinking door entry technology had no further to go – although if you did you’d be wrong. The latest developments in door entry are harnessing its ability to communicate with smart technologies in order to create a place for it within this rapidly growing sector of the electrical installation market.

For example, door entry systems can be used as the basis of centralised alarm systems that utilise remote sensors in dwellings to alert the relevant contacts of any problems, including fire, gas leaks or flooding. Furthermore, door entry plays a key role in delivering assisted living solutions, which will becoming increasingly prominent in British homes over the next few years as a result of a significant increase in the numbers of people living longer and wishing to do so in their own homes.

The doorbell’s last stand

Door entry systems are now very much fitted as standard on a significant percentage of new build and refurbishment projects in both the residential and commercial sectors. The likelihood is that this figure will grow even more as increasing numbers of individual dwellings switch to door entry systems as a result of safety and security concerns allied with the sheer convenience of the technology.

As such, it seems certain that the days of the traditional doorbell are numbered. But as with so many technologies that have been superseded by new developments, the doorbell can rest easy as it will always have a place in our hearts alongside red telephone boxes, music cassettes and video recorders.

You might also like