Interviews with leaders in the fire detection industry show common threads. These industry insiders report that new products from their respective companies reflect trends consistent with the rest of the security industry. Products are smarter. Using network topologies, they are designed to be easier to install and reduce false alarms. New technologies are trickling down from the large-scale high end market into the smaller system arenas. Whereas addressable panels and devices were once used exclusively for large-scale jobs, they are now available and practical for smaller projects. A heightened awareness of security issues, a redefinition of signaling standards, the use of voice evacuation in lower occupancies, simplified user interfaces, and Internet/network communications are hitting the fire market, despite some recent slowdowns in the economy and building industry.
Fire is a growing market, and our experts indicate that it is available to all security professionals. Joining Security Dealer's Technical Editor Tim O'Leary is this discussion are:
Jeff Klein, Director of Marketing/Team Leader Security Business Unit, System Sensor; Nick Martello, Director of Marketing, Fire-Lite and Gary Pollack, Marketing Manager, Mirtone, Division of Edwards Systems Technology
Coming Down the Fire Pipeline
Security Dealer: What trends do you predict for the fire industry?
Jeff Klein: The industry will continue to push the capability on sensor technology in order to detect smoke more quickly, yet, with more reliably and less likelihood of false alarms. More intelligence will reside in the detector.
Nick Martello: Products will become smarter, more efficient and easier to use. Based on some of the 9/11 fallout, we should begin to see newer methods of evacuation?new technology to direct building occupants to an exit even in a smoke filled room.
Today's fire systems are made to notify people, not to guide them. Directional sound clearly communicates the location of exits using broadband noise. The varying tones and intensities coming from directional sound devices offer easy-to-understand cues for finding the ways out. And, as soon as people hear these devices, which are placed in successive order along escape routes moving toward exits, they intuitively know to follow them to get out quickly.
Gary Pollack: Technical innovation will continue but it will be less important then the changes in application and usability. Elevators in the future, for example, will be used as part of an intelligent evacuation plan. The recall function will only take effect when the safety of the elevator is compromised. This will be part of a trend to have the fire alarm system take more control of building operations during an emergency.
There will also be an accelerated move towards a universal fire alarm control user interface. As fire alarm controls become more sophisticated, they become harder for the fire service to operate in an emergency. The industry has been studying this problem and recommendations are forthcoming.
Another trend that will continue is installing voice evacuation in place of horns and in smaller occupancies then they currently are.
Influential Factors in Product Development
Security Dealer: What have been the major trends influencing product development over the last 5 years?
Jeff Klein: They have to do with more advanced technology and algorithms in the smoke detector. Examples include improved drift compensation, whereas the product adjusts its sensitivity over time to account for the detector chamber gradually becoming dirty. Another example has to do with adjustable sensitivity by a smoke detector depending upon the environment that the product operates in.
Also, improving wireless capability and increased market acceptance has led to an increase in the use of wireless smoke detectors. The impact of 9/11 saw an increase in the use of voice evacuation systems, as the emphasis on communicating to people in emergencies became more relevant and people became more aware of the need for intelligible voice messaging systems.Nick Martello:
NEW Gateways for ADVANCED Monitoring
Security Dealer: What impact does the use of network infrastructure and the Internet have on your company and products?
Jeff Klein: It has influenced our business from the standpoint that our panel manufacturing partners have developed gateways between the fire alarm panels and the Internet. This enables building managers and end users to better monitor the systems in their buildings.
Nick Martello: We're beginning to see conversion of digital dialers and monitoring stations to newer methods using the Internet connections rather than the public switched telephone network.
Gary Pollack: Our systems have included networking options for many years. This, along with our optional integrated emergency voice evacuation capability, has been a strong factor in Mirtone's competitiveness. We're adding networking into more of our products. As more people become comfortable with the Internet's reliability, you will see more systems monitored over the Internet.
Progress in Integration
Security Dealer: How would you describe the progress of system integration in the fire industry and the effect is has on your company's technology?
Jeff Klein: The trend of system integration will impact our company from the standpoint that we need to consider product communication technologies that can work well with integrated systems. As device manufacturer, we need to understand and implement certain communication protocols and technologies that will work on a wider variety of systems.
Nick Martello: Systems integration typically occurs in very large installations such as campus applications where networks are involved. Our products are typically stand alone products, not networked
Gary Pollack: System integration has been the buzz word of the alarm and building industries for years. So far, few companies have moved past interfacing of dissimilar products. While Mirtone has not been heavily involved in integration, our sister company EST is integrating fire alarm systems with other security and life safety systems. EST delivers a UL 864 listed, fully integrated system that combines fire alarm, access control and security on a single platform.