|A burglar alarm consists of a contact switch, which responds to changes in the environment and sends a signal to a noisemaking device. The contact switch may be mechanical—a simple fastener, for instance—or magnetic.
In the latter case, a permanent magnet may be installed in the frame of a window or door, and a piece of magnetized material in the window or door itself. Once the alarm is activated, it will respond to any change in the magnetic field—i.e., when someone slides open the door or window, thus breaking the connection between magnet and metal. Though burglar alarms may vary in complexity, and indeed there may be much more advanced systems using microwaves or infrared rays, the application of magnetism in home security is a simple matter of responding to changes in a magnetic field. In this regard, the principle governing magnetometers used at security checkpoints is even simpler. Whether at an airport or at the entrance to some other high-security venue, whether handheld or stationary, a magnetometer merely detects the presence of magnetic metals. Since the vast majority of firearms, knife-blades, and other weapons are made of iron or steel, this provides a fairly efficient means of detection.