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Smart solutions that prevent electrical fires have great appeal: report

Smart solutions that prevent electrical fires have great appeal: report
40% of U.S.households are interested in buying a smart home product that can detect electrical fires
Approximately 40% of U.S. broadband households with insurance are interested in buying a smart home product that can detect electrical fires, with interest strongest among young consumers and households in the southern U.S., according to a Parks Associates research.

Electrical fires occur in products powered by electricity, in electrical cords or in electrical wiring. Damages from faulty electrical wiring can be severe because wiring is often behind walls, where arcing goes undetected. The fire has more opportunity to spread before a smoke detector is triggered, and occupants have less time to evacuate compared to other fire types. Statistics show electrical fires cause over 1,300 injuries and 420 deaths in the U.S. per year, with US$1.4 billion in associated residential property damage.

As such, smart home solutions that can detect, prevent and protect against electrical fires have great appeal, according to Parks Associates’ whitepaper “IoT Home Safety: Fire Prevention Solutions.” Parks Associates evaluated consumer demand for solutions that can reduce the damage caused by different perils at home, and found that 18% of U.S. Broadband households consider solutions that can detect, prevent, or mitigate electrical wiring fires to be the most valuable use case for smart home, the second highest ranking among a long list of perils.

Several industries, in particular home insurance, security service and utility service, have the opportunity to become a channel for new solutions that address this consumer need.

Home insurance providers may shift from a reactive to a proactive service provider with a solution that prevents electrical fires rather than just providing payment after the loss. Liberty Mutual Insurance and Nest have already formed a cross-promotional partnership that offers new insurance customers a free detector, a 5% discount on home or rental policy, and a 20% discount on the fire premium portion of their policy.

Electric utilities can also benefit from offering a bundle of energy monitoring services that include detection of electrical fires. The breadth of use cases enabled by the energy sensing technology is extensive, and consumers find significant value in a bundle of energy-sensing services. Several energy providers already sell protection plans for electrical wiring. Reliant and Kansas City Power and Light provide home wiring protection plans as a form of insurance. Adding detectors that prevent electrical fires is certainly an improvement over existing offers.

Security companies, on the other hand, can bundle security with electrical fire hazard detection technology to prevent fires rather than just monitoring smoke alarms that only detect fires.

Smart plug to prevent electrical fires

Advances in electromagnetic sensing technology can detect micro-arcs and sparks, which are precursors to arc faults and electrical fires. New technology solutions can detect and prevent fires before they start, save lives and property, and reduce or eliminate false alerts.

There are smart plugs and related smart home products designed to reduce and eliminate the incidence of electrical fires. One of them is the Ting smart plug developed by Whisker Labs. The plug samples the characteristics of the electricity in the home 27 million times per second and is able to determine if there is an arc fault on any circuit in the home. The Wi-Fi-enabled plug then alerts homeowners via an app to potential fire hazards. And homeowners can isolate the circuit causing the problem by cycling power to each circuit until the app indicates that all is well.

In addition to detecting arc faults, the Ting sensor is able to identify power quality issues. Power surges, transients, momentary interruptions and sags can damage electronic components and shorten the life of small motors. Understanding the power quality issues within the home enable homeowners to take preventive measures to limit damage due to electrical anomalies.
Smart home products are getting increasingly popular. Nearly 40% of consumers with insurance would switch insurance providers to obtain any smart home products, Parks Associates’ survey shows.
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