Boost Your Security Applications
With Fiber Optic Media Converters

by Greg Massott, Product Specialist
Re-printed from SDM Magazine August 2008

While it is true that copper has proven to be adequate for the secure applications of the past, in today's security conscious climate, it may make sense to upgrade to fiber. Imagine having no worries over lightning strikes, or electromagnetic and radio frequency interference. Imagine having more bandwidth available AND having much longer distances supported. This translates into longer wiring runs for you along with the capability of sending a larger volume of information longer distances. Add to these the "untappability" and 99.9% reliability of the medium, and you can't afford not to give fiber serious consideration. Also, take into account that fiber is a tried and true medium, having been adequately tested by our government and military decades ago at the height of the cold war.

Happily, today's costs of fiber are no longer as prohibitive as they were in the late 1950's, and the cost for fiber optic cable is now comparable to the cost for copper cable. Additionally, modern plug and play design facilitates ease of installation and less hassle for you. In fact, the marriage of fiber optic technology to "mission critical" applications can prove to be a match made in heaven.

In fact, it has never been easier to implement the many benefits of fiber into your security system applications. Fiber optic media converters are offered for a wide variety of signal types, enabling you to extend and protect your data quickly and easily.

What exactly does a media converter do?

In simple terms, a media converter takes a copper signal in, converts that copper signal to light, and transmits the light signal over fiber optic cable. A corresponding media converter positioned on the other end of the fiber optic cable then converts the light signal back to a copper signal.

For example, if an ethernet signal is taken in and converted, an ethernet signal is what is realized at the other end of the link. The same holds true for data communication signals such as RS-232, RS-485, or RS-422 as well as CCTV signals. Media converters generally work in pairs with one converter placed at each end of your fiber optic link.

Benefits of Media Converters:

Media converters offer several benefits to consider when designing your next security application.

  • Increased Signal Distance - The distance capability of standard copper devices, such as those utilizing twisted pair or coaxial cable, are generally measured in feet and are quite limited. Fiber optic media converters can transmit your data signals up to 110 kilometers depending on the devices and the type of fiber optic cable being used.

  • Data Multiplexing - Because fiber optic cable offers greater bandwidth, media converters allow you to multiplex several data signals and transmit them over one fiber link.

  • EMI/RFI Suppression - The use of fiber optic cable and media converters will eliminate outside noise or interference from penetrating into your copper based equipment.

  • Grounding/Lightning Protection - Media converters provide isolation from grounding loops, transient voltages, and lightning strikes that could damage your equipment.

Where can media converters be used in the security industry?

  • Video Surveillance
    Video Surveillance is not something that you want interrupted due to lightning or other unexpected interference.Whether you are installing analog CCTV or IP based security cameras, there are a variety of media converter solutions at your disposal. Depending on the camera installation, there are media converters that can be used in a point-to-point configuration, or media converters that can multiplex several camera signals together to be transmitted over one fiber link.

    For analog CCTV cameras, media converters are offered with a variety of options such as return Pan/Tilt/Zoom data, bi-directional data, and forward or bi-directional audio capabilities as well as contact-closure.

    For IP based cameras, media converters can be used in a point-to-point configuration, or a network switch with fiber optic capability can be used to multiplex several camera signals in order to get them onto the network. In addition, media converters and switches are available with PoE (Power over Ethernet) to provide the IP based camera with power. This can be very beneficial when you have a remote camera where access to power is limited.

  • Access Control

    Access control in the form of card-readers, keypads, intercoms, and contact-closure signals require extremely high signal reliability. All of these signals can benefit from the reliability and safety of fiber optic cable and media converters. A perfect example of this is a perimeter entry gate installation.

    Let's say that you have a CCTV camera at the gate, a bi-directional intercom system, and a contact-closure on the gate itself, and all of these signals need to communicate between the gate and a main house or office that are several thousand feet apart. In the past, you would need to run wire and cable for all three signals and probably provide signal amplification in order to transmit over such a long distance.

    However, with a fiber optic media converter, you can multiplex all of these signals together on one fiber optic link and transmit them the full distance. This solution allows you to run less cable, and less equipment which reduces potential points of failure in the application.

  • Data and Telephone Communication

    Media converters are available for data protocols such as RS-232, RS-485, and RS-422 as well as for telephone lines. The data media converters may be used when communicating between remote security devices and the control panel, or when communicating between a master control panel and a remote secondary control panel. The telephone media converters are perfect for intercoms and point-to-point telephone ring-down circuits.

  • Networking

    Networking applications are most likely what most of us think of when the term"media converters" is mentioned. These are ideal for connecting networking equipment within a large building or in a campus environment. Devices are available which support Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, and Gigabit speeds

    Fiber Optic Switches are another type of "media converter" which, besides the advantages of fiber mentioned previously, bring their own unique skill set to the party. These devices are able to moniotr the traffic passing through them, and direct the data to the appropriate destination or block it from restricted destinations. This monitoring allows the switch to control and avoid data collisions increasing the efficiency of the network. Where a media converter is a point-to-point device, a switch can be used as a multiplexer and process multiple signals.

    Today, ethernet or IP based networks are used for much more than just computers communicating with data servers or surfing the Internet. They are utilized to control HVAC systems, lighting, telephones, and yes, security. Media converters and network switches with fiber optic capability can be installed in any security application where you would normally use copper wire.

Media converter products are evolving at a rapid pace to provide a wide variety of solutions for your security requirements. Security installers and integrators who are looking for more secure communication and installation flexibility should give strong consideration to implementing fiber optic media converters into their future applications.


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