A Closer Look at the Universal Connector – Part One

Josh Tafoya is a Bold Technical Trainer and is presenting this three-part series to offer a detailed look at the benefits of Bold’s Universal Connector.

I’ve visited a fair number of alarm monitoring centers in my time with Bold Technologies, and there are a few things which were common to practically all of them. One of those things is that 99% of them had at least one of the following alarm receivers: SurGard (DLR/MLR/MLR2000/System I/System II/System III/System IV), Bosch 6600, Ademco 685, Honeywell MX8000, Alarmnet 7810, DMP SCS-1, or Osborne-Hoffman OH2000. Those are the alarm receivers everyone uses.

Of course, there are countless other receivers out there which Manitou supports as well. A few dozen in fact. But the thing we are always asked is; “Can Manitou receive signals from {insert device name}?” In the early years of Manitou, the answer was, unfortunately, “no.” We made sure the industry standard alarm receivers were compatible, but that was it.

Then we had a customer who asked us to create something. They wanted the ability to look at a database, and if there was a new row added to a table, to read the row, parse the message, and send it as a signal to Manitou. So we created the XML Gateway. The XML Gateway, assuming the message we were reading from the database was formatted properly, was able to do just what the customer asked. We used an ODBC connection for that first example, but it also made sense to allow other types of connections as well. Emails (a POP email box), or text files placed in FTP folders could also be checked.

All of a sudden, the answer that was formerly “no,” became an enthusiastic “YES!”

We had quite a few customers utilize the XML Gateway for a couple of years. It worked very well. But it would take some effort setting up the back end to format the messages so we could read them in Manitou. So, naturally, we got to work.

Part of the Media Gateway 2.0 release was the Universal Connector. With its release came the ability to receive messages over ODBC, FTP, and Email, just as before. But we added SMS, Direct TCP, RSS, and File connections as well. Now we can turn text messages into alarms, including devices that regularly text their latitude and longitude. With Direct TCP connections, we are able to connect third party services that need to connect to an automation system. This means, if there is an app creator out in the world who wants to be able to retrieve information from devices like smartphones, process it in their server, and push it to an alarm company, we can provide a direct connection. This also means there is no delay, the way there might be with email or SMS. As soon as the third party service pushes the message, we have it.

In addition, RSS feeds can be monitored, and alarms created whenever feeds are updated. Folders on network shares can be monitored for text files containing alarm details or for binary files (still images, videos, or documents) which need to be included in the Manitou alarm.

Next week, I will show you some examples of the kind of “signals” that can be used in the Universal Connector, and the truly useful tools that are available, such as the Pre-Processing, and Test Studio.