Conventional fire market remains strong

Conventional technology still driving industry, even as demand grows for new technologies

Gamewell-FCI's vice president of engineering, Mario Casamassima, contends an increased emphasis is also being put on designing more intelligent analog addressable system interfaces.

"There's a greater demand for the system interface to provide more information about a particular emergency event, allowing for a more prepared and faster response. The additional information provided by these intelligent systems enable them to do more preventative maintenance too," says Casamassima.

When considering the large mass of equipment, plus installation and maintenance time that goes into protecting a large facility or multi-building complex, one has to wonder about the integration possibilities with other building controls. The resources necessary today to monitor just security, lighting and fire systems for example, can be astronomical.

In the 2005 North American Fire Alarm Equipment Market report by Frost & Sullivan, researchers stated that, "Integration of fire alarm panels with other building safety systems is a growing trend. Besides integration of fire and security systems, the market is also witnessing integration of fire with building management systems as concerns of ensuring priority and integrity of fire alarm systems have been addressed."

And while integration makes sense, many electrical codes do not yet support the integration of these various systems. And with manufactures of these varying products working independently, the technology to integrate is often not available. Nonetheless, the need for enhanced integration has been discussed for years and many believe it's only around the corner. Gamewell's Casamassima thinks that the future of integration could even extend to using wildly different devices to detect fire situations.

"Because of the advanced technology of today's security offerings, it's inevitable that cameras will soon be used as part of a fire system for detection," said Casamassima. "This opens the door to convergence of other systems for control and monitoring purposes."

In summary, as the market heats up for more intelligent, integrated fire solutions, manufacturers are racing to squeeze additional software-driven features into each panel while attempting to reduce parts. Von Richthofen explains that the market is requiring conventional technology that does more.

"What's driving technology is the race to build a better mousetrap," aid Von Richthofen. "We all want to satisfy the standards, at a lower cost to consumers, while building a much more robust, reliable product."