Next-generation security lighting, also known as intelligent lighting, dramatically reduces light pollution and operating costs, while introducing new capabilities such as intrusion detection and active deterrence measures. 

Security lighting is a well-established method of deterring theft and vandalism at utility assets and other high-value sites. While lighting alone won’t stop a determined intruder, a well-lit site can discourage those who would hide under the cover of darkness, assist video surveillance operators by improving visual assessment abilities and provide better visibility for on-site workers. 

Making lighting “intelligent” by adding embedded sensors and/or other intelligence features, not only makes it a more effective deterrent, but can also allow it to actively detect and respond to intrusion attempts. For example, strobing or changing light intensity in reaction to intrusion attempts, or triggering alarms and automatically selecting applicable camera views in video management software.

The Senstar LM100 Hybrid Perimeter Intrusion Detection and Intelligent Lighting System protecting an electrical storage yard directly adjacent residential housing. The targeted lighting illuminates the perimeter while limiting light trespassing onto the houses on the right.

Security starts at the perimeter

The first step of any security plan is to deter intruders. While a fence alone provides an initial barrier, it can be cut, climbed or otherwise broken through. An effective security system should immediately alert security to exactly when and where an intrusion is occurring, as well as communicate to intruders that their presence is known, they are being watched and response forces may already be dispatched. That’s why fence-mounted sensors and other perimeter intrusion detection systems are increasingly being used to protect utility sites. They are field-proven, difficult to defeat and work reliably in all-weather conditions. 

When an intruder is detected, the generated alarm (which includes intrusion zone or precise location, typically to an accuracy of 6m along a fence line) can be used to trigger other on-site security resources, including PTZ cameras and deterrent devices such as sirens, loudspeakers or other security lights. The system can be monitored by centralised security personnel, enabling them to assess the situation remotely and dispatch a response if required.

When intelligent security lighting is added, it expands the capabilities of perimeter intrusion detection systems by enabling additional deterrent and assessment capabilities: 

  1. Basic site or perimeter illumination – Discourages would-be intruders while enhancing the effectiveness of camera surveillance systems. The wide light spectrum of newer LED-based products provides a better Color Rendering Index (CRI) value that helps remote operators describe and identify intruders for immediate response or post-incident investigation. In addition, uniform, hotspot-free lighting along the perimeter enables high-quality video to be obtained with lower performance cameras. For organisations with tens or hundreds of sites, the resulting savings in equipment costs can be substantial
  2. Immediate and visible alarms – Intelligent lighting can provide localised instant-on, intensity adjustment, or alarm strobe features, indicating to would-be intruders that they are detected and their exact location is known (and presumably being recorded by the site’s security cameras)

A better approach to lighting

Despite being widely used, indiscriminate security lighting has substantial costs and some drawbacks. Traditional technologies such as high pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide (MH), are expensive to install, require periodic maintenance, and cannot be switched on and off rapidly. As a result, they usually remain on all night, following a simple time-based schedule. In addition, these technologies, as well as their newer LED-based replacement fixtures, generate light pollution due to their wide coverage area. Light pollution can be a significant concern for facilities located near sensitive areas like protected nature reserves or airports. For sites adjacent to residential areas, the use of indiscriminate high-powered lighting can lead to complaints and infringe upon local or state bylaws and regulations. 

The first step to reducing light pollution is to use low-voltage engineered LED lighting that directs light downwards and along the fence line, thus meeting the International Dark Sky Association’s ( recommendations of using targeted lighting only where needed. Targeted, top-shielded luminaires minimise light escaping upwards or horizontally. In addition, lights must be dimmable and minimise blue light emissions.

The Senstar LM100 Hybrid Perimeter Intrusion Detection and Intelligent Lighting System limits its coverage to where it is needed, while embedded accelerometers detect attempts to cut, climb or lift the fence fabric.

Using IDA-compliant perimeter lighting doesn’t just make environmental sense – there are measurable economic benefits as well. The following chart compares the relative cost of different lighting technologies used to illuminate a 600m (0.4 mile) perimeter.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the Senstar LM100 compared to other security lighting solutions. 

Avoid complacency by minimising nuisance alarms

Avoiding nuisance alarms generated by weather, animals and lawful people is critical to the overall success of a perimeter security system. Too many nuisance alarms may lead security personnel to become complacent, ignoring valid alarms or hesitating to initiate a response until it is too late. In addition, the cost to send response forces to a remote site may prohibit a response unless the threat is validated.

A perimeter security system should be designed from the outset to minimise nuisance alarms: 

  • Ranging data from sensors is used to recognise and compensate for site-wide environmental disturbances like high winds or rain
  • Alarm algorithms are optimised so that alarms are generated only from realistic intrusion attempts (e.g. a ball hitting the fence doesn’t trigger an alarm)
  • Sensors designed and tested for reliable operation in extreme environments (e.g. –40 to +70 °C)
  • Maintenance staff can use the precision ranging to quickly find and resolve problematic areas (for example, an area with loose fence fabric)
  • Alarms can be quickly validated by remote personnel (e.g. automatic camera call-up)

Integration with other systems for effective, multi-layer security

Senstar’s range of perimeter intrusion detection systems have existing interfaces with most popular video management and security management systems used in Australia, including Milestone, Pelco, Genetec, Gallagher, Lenel, Johnson Controls, Indigo Vision, Geutebruck and others. 

They can also be interfaced at a low level to alarm panels, or a low or high level with other monitoring systems.

Video surveillance footage showing a site protected by the Senstar LM100 Hybrid Perimeter Intrusion Detection and Intelligent Lighting System.

Moving forward with better technology

The mainstream adoption of low-voltage LED-based lighting combined with low-cost embedded processors has revolutionised the lighting industry, with new applications being introduced every day. The physical security market is benefitting from these advancements and can expect many new cost-saving products, all which can benefit from mature detection and nuisance alarm rejection algorithms.

Intelligent lighting products may very well lead the next-generation of perimeter security systems, offering strong deterrence and detection features while enhancing existing camera surveillance systems.

Other technology options from Senstar

Senstar has a fence-mounted cable intrusion detection system called FlexZone, which can detect intrusion attempts to an accuracy of 3m.

FiberPatrol is a fence-mounted fibre optic intrusion detection sensor that detects and locates intruders climbing, cutting or lifting the fence fabric to an accuracy of 4m. It is a popular product for electrical utilities and oil and gas facilities, as the fibre cable is non-conductive and carries no power that could produce a spark

Case studies

The link below discusses some use case scenarios for electrical, water and oil and gas facilities.

The link below is for a webinar discussing physical security solutions for electrical utilities, which is also relevant for other utility types.

About the author

Todd Brisebois is the Product Manager of intelligent lighting systems at Senstar Corporation, a global leader in the design and manufacturing of physical security technologies, including perimeter intrusion detection sensors, video analytics, video management software and electronic access control.  

About BGW Technologies

BGW Technologies distributes the Senstar range of perimeter intrusion detection systems in Australia. BGW Technologies has offices across Australia to provide local design assistance and technical support to security integration companies that deploy the Senstar systems. Ph: (02) 9674 4255

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