Security Alarm Systems: How do they work?

First, a basic introduction to what an alarm system is. Essentially, an alarm system operates by running a low-voltage electrical current through the house, detected by sensors. When a door or window is opened, the current is interrupted, and the alarm is triggered. When an authorized individual enters, they may use a control panel, or even their cell phone, to deactivate the alarm.

Some more advanced alarm systems also incorporate motion detectors, and can tell the difference between pets and benign occupants and intruders.

4 Terms to know

Cellular Monitoring

When you buy a security alarm system, a salesperson may boast of “cellular monitoring” as a feature. Clearly, it has something to do with cell phones, but what does it actually mean?

If a security system incorporates cellular monitoring, that simply means that the system communicates with a monitoring center through the cell network, rather than through wires. The advantage of this is that there are no wires to cut, making your system more secure.

Landline vs broadband

This refers to the type of connection a security alarm system uses to reach a monitoring center. A landline connection uses the cables of a landline phone, whereas a broadband connection uses a broadband Internet connection.

Mobile Access

If a system has “mobile access” it can be armed or disarmed remotely, using a cellphone or computer. This can also be linked with other home automation systems, allowing for remote control over heating and lighting. This naturally adds a degree of convenience not present with most systems, though at the cost of some security.


An example of geo-fencing would be a system that disables when a fob on the owners’ keychain comes within a certain number of feet of the control panel. Geo-fencing, like mobile access, offers some convenience to the owner.

Getting ready to buy a security alarm system

Maybe you’re looking to buy an alarm system for your house or your business. Maybe you just like reading about different types of technology. Maybe you’re a bot that’s crawling our site in hopes of infecting us with a dreadful computer virus. Whatever the case (well, if you’re a human), you can benefit from knowing a little bit about the security system features out there before you buy.

Not all alarm systems are the same. The next time you think about buying one, you’ll know what you’re getting.