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The new technologies making fire safety systems smarter

The new technologies making fire safety systems smarter
For a prolonged time, developments in the fire safety sector have not been as fast as those seen in video surveillance or other security sectors. Several reasons contribute to this, from customers being satisfied with what they have to low interest in investing in this segment. 

However, significant changes are now seen in fire safety, with digitalization making inroads into the segment. 

The faster adoption of IP

Over the last decade, fire protection has been transformed by the rise of addressable, IP-based devices embedded in networked fire alarm system infrastructure, according to Andreas Kahl, Head of Software Engineering and Fire Alarm Systems at Bosch Building Technologies.

“The scalability and modular architecture of digital fire alarm systems have unlocked a new level of fire safety, for instance, by pinpointing the exact location of a triggered smoke detector in an alarm, or by interfacing with public address systems for phased building evacuations,” Kahl explained. “For system integrators, installation and maintenance of alarm systems have reached new levels of efficiency – including automated service alerts and far fewer false alarms – with unprecedented cost savings.”

Moving to IoT

With that said, all elements are in place for the second, even more fundamental transformation in fire protection. Kahl added that soon, a growing amount of networked fire alarm systems would be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). This is part of a larger trend across industries, including smart homes and smart buildings automated by a mixture of sensor data and artificial intelligence (AI). The number of IoT-connected devices worldwide is expected to exceed 14 billion by 2022, more than half of the world’s 28.5 billion connected devices.

Addressable notification 

One of the most significant advances in life safety systems is addressable notification. According to Rodger Reiswig, Fellow and VP of Industry Relations at Johnson Controls, although the industry has had addressable initiating devices for several decades now, the move to change notification appliances to follow suit had not occurred until a few years ago. 

“Since appliances, including, horns, strobes and speakers are now addressable the ability for them to be selectively activated by software and not by how they are physically wired offers greater flexibility to the building owner/manager,” Reiswig said. “Also, with selective control is the ability for these appliances to perform an automated test. NFPA 72 introduced this ability back in the 2010 edition of NFPA 72, Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. Essentially, if a device can functionally test itself, mimic a functional test, and report if the device passed or failed and perform this at the same interval as the table in NFPA 72, then it is deemed equivalent to sending a person around to test each device. This ability offers an owner/manager the ability to test their system much faster than ever and with much less disruption to the occupants.”

New communication systems 

Communication is critical to fire safety. A significant change that the industry is seeing at the moment is that the use of telephone lines for central station monitoring is going away as the traditional POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) is being phased out. Cellular and IP communicators are the technology being used most at present.

“Another system that is not specifically a fire alarm system but often falls under the responsibility of the fire alarm contractors are ERRCS, Emergency Responder Radio Coverage Systems,” said Ray Dotts, Project Manager at Telgian Engineering and Consulting. “These systems requirements are being enforced more and more each day. First responders depend on radio communications, and if the communications in a building do not work, lives are at stake.” 

Cloud-based solutions 

Cloud-based solutions are making inroads into every segment now, and the fire industry is no exception. According to Thomas Dols, Global Software Product Manager at Siemens Smart Infrastructure, when protecting a building against fire incidents, the ultimate level of protection is to make the communication, between the fire protection system and the interfaces that collect data, quick, reliable, and smart. 

“It starts with ensuring that all data is continuously available remotely so that system performance can be monitored and managed using any computer, laptop, or mobile device – anytime and anywhere,” Dols said. 

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