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Intelligent fire alarm systems for new age smart buildings

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Introduction

From ancient times people have realised that early detection of fire has a positive effect in the fire control. The earliest recorded examples of fire protection can be traced back to the Roman Empire and the catastrophic fires that started in Rome. As a result, Emperor Neron has adopted regulations that required fireproof material for walls and buildings restoration to be used. The second recorded case of adopting fire protection regulations occurred in the year 1666, after the Great fire of London, which destroyed more than 80% of the city. The fire of London spurred interest in the development of the first equipment for fire suppression in the form of hand pumps and fire hydrant installation for water supply.

Fire alarm systems are only effective if they can generate reliable and fast fire alerts with exact location of fire. There is a direct correlation between the amount of damage caused by fire and interventions time in various fire alarm systems. As the time of intervention decreases the damage also decreases. Hence the most important factor in a fire alarm system is the reaction or response time of fire alarm system (time between fire detection and extinguishing).

Prabhat Khare

Progression of fire detection devices

The first generation of fire detection devices (1849-1940) was based on thermal detectors. But the start of fire alarm systems development began with the invention of the telegraph by Samuel F. B. Morse in 1844. The first practical fire detection systems using telegraph, was developed in U. S. by Dr. William Channing and Moses G. Farmer in 1852. Two years later, he applied for a patent for his electromagnetic telegraph fire protection system intended to be used in cities.

In Europe in 1848 the first fire alarm device was developed by C.A. von Steingel, which was operated by the firemen and used button switches and different kinds of bells to give prearranged audio signals. The first telegraph device was created three years later in Berlin and as fire alarm telegraph equipment, used a cable connection, to alert total of 37 fire stations. The development of the first temperature sensors started with the introduction of bimetallic sensors in the 19th century. The working principle of these sensors was based on the unequal expansion between the two metal stripes. These relays were reliable and durable, and are still considered ideal for many industrial applications.

Fire smoke detectors are most critical and front end component of any fire detection & alarm system. These front end sensors have also evolved over the time and its’ their advancement which has contributed in making conventional fire alarm System, intelligent & smart-because without these smart, fast, reliable and addressable front line sensors, no fire alarm system could have been made smart or intelligent. The evolution of these frontline sensors can be divided into four generations based on their developments, improvement, and merging with the electronic technology industry.

The first generation of smoke detectors started in 1930 when first electronic smoke detector was actually made by Swiss physicist named Walter Jaeger leading to the invention of the first electronic device for smoke detection. Later he developed the first patented smoke detector in the early 1940s.      

The second generation of smoke detectors was developed between early 1960s until 1975, where americium 24, a radioactive source for ionization, was used for application in the electronics industry.

In 1964 an ionization smoke detector with a 24V power supply was developed by Alert. However these detectors were to be made in accordance to international rules, and also were needed to have an appropriate radioactivity label for their functioning. After detectors are used, they were to be properly disposed as a radioactive waste.

A year after the discovery of ionizing smoke detectors, Duane Pearsall has developed a photoelectric smoke detector. Major changes in smoke detectors technology occurred during the 70s and 80s in last century.

These photoelectric smoke detectors operate on the light beam interruption principle, having a light source, usually white light or more often low-power laser, and a photoelectric module. A beam of light sent through the detector in normal conditions of cleanliness bypasses photocell usually at approx. 90 degrees. When smoke particles obstruct the light beam, there is a break-ray, which focused on the photo-electric cell changes the physical variables of the set limits thus triggering alarm.

The third generation of smoke detectors (1975-1990) is characterized by an increased interest in smoke detectors. In this period there were a number of key changes in the detectors design, including the replacement of the filament as a light source with a light emitting diode and the use of silicon. With the development of electronics and integrated circuits, there is a decrease in the volume of the detector components, which directly contributes to physical size reduction of the detector, a decrease in energy consumption and an improved reliability. In 1982, first analogue addressable detectors were introduced.

The fourth generation of smoke detectors (1990-present) is characterized by the use of multiple detectors in a loop, and application of algorithms. Development of microelectronics has enabled the application of many different functions. This was particularly important for all types of detectors which, through the utilization of microelectronics, can be produced as intelligent components.

In this way, some basic evaluation and decision-making functions can be integrated in the detector. In 1996 a first multi detector (temperature and smoke) was developed as a detector that uses smart “OR” and “AND” logic. Major changes in smoke detectors technology, were introduced by the development of smart detectors. Such smoke detectors provided option to regulate the alarm threshold via a central control panel.

During this time, along with optical smoke detector, flame detectors were also developed. Flame detectors are solutions for almost all applications where fire may occur due to large losses of complex equipment such as oil and gas pipelines, offshore platforms, automotive manufacturing facilities, aircrafts, ships, ammunition factories, nuclear plants, and where the risk of staff injury is high. These systems use devices that match the radiation energy & are sensitive to ember, charcoal, or actual fire of sufficient intensity to activate the detector and trigger the alarm. In order to reduce false alarms due to a possible misidentification of real alarms due to any transient conditions a 2-3 seconds delay is often included in the design these flame detectors.

The first & second generation so the sensors were “Analogue” however from 3rd and 4the generations of sensors/ detectors the shift began towards solid state sensors and later to “Addressable” type intelligent systems in which a detector compares its current sensor value with the configured threshold to make the alarm decision, which is then transmitted to the panel when the sensor is interrogated.

Conventional systems

Conventional systems are hardware-based and use analog technology. These systems are made up of zones (“Area/ Wide Area Zoning”) which are formed by using multiple devices, both initiating and notification devices connected to the main control panel. Conventional systems are analog in nature i.e. they use electrical currents to communicate with the control panel. Initiating and notification devices are designed to dramatically increase the current in the circuit (the amount of electricity flowing through the wires) any time the environmental conditions (heat or smoke) in the area of the sensor exceed a predetermined threshold. This change in the current is communicated to the control panel to trigger the alarm. Since the conventional system relies on individual circuits to communicate with the control panel, the information the panel can receive is limited to the number of devices it can support.

The information is also limited in the sense that it only tells the panel whether a device has been activated or removed, not which device or where. In a Conventional Fire Alarm System, physical cabling is used to interconnect several call points and detectors, the signals from which are wired back to the main control unit. Single device or set of devices connected in a loop represent one individual “Zones” (Area/ Wide Area Zoning) & the incident are is indicated at the Fire Alarm Control Panel either with an indicator lamp, a text display or in some cases both.

Addressable systems

Instead of relying on changes in the electrical current running through a circuit in a conventional system, with an addressable system digital technology transfers information from the connected devices to the main control panel as binary code – combinations of ones and zeros. The alarm signal starts as an analog signal created by variations in voltage within the signalling device based on changes in the coverage. In the new age addressable devices this analogue signal is converted in to a digital or binary signal using a digital signal converter or in built processors. Depending on the device and the types of information it is designed to convey, an addressable device can transfer a wide variety of critical information to the control panel as opposed to the single triggering signal that conventional systems provide.

Because they use digital technology, addressable systems offer a much broader range in the types of information that the control panel can receive from the devices. While all addressable systems provide the location of every device on the system to the control panel, newer, “analog addressable” systems provide even more information, such as how much smoke or heat the detector is sensing. This information allows the control panel to make “intelligent” decisions such as when or when not to go into alarm mode.

The most important type of information that addressable systems transmit is exactly where the fire is occurring in a building (“Pointed/ Focussed Zoning”) Because the exact location of each device in an addressable system is programmed in, fire-fighters know before they even arrive precisely where in the building the fire is occurring, which allows them to respond more quickly to a fire. With a conventional system, unless the area in which the system is protecting is a single room, the fire-fighters will have to spread out to locate the fire.

Intelligent Fire Panels, on the other hand, give every detector a uniquely identifiable address & they literally become a zone in themselves yet a much smaller, thus when a fire is detected, the main control panel tells you exactly which device is going off, to point out exact location on incident (Pointed or Focussed Zoning). Such pointed zoning is extremely useful in case of large and complex buildings or area.

One big advantage of intelligent type systems is that the data output of detector is sensitive to the local environment which is very useful to know when the device is approaching an alarm condition by integrating multiple type of information e.g. in case of a fire, thee multiple sensors can have information of intensity of heat, density of smoke, types of gases, occupancy level, illumination level etc. before raising the alarm.

This “Pre-Alarm” can be signalled at the panel and can therefore be investigated to check if there is a real fire, or if it is caused by other signals, for example steam or dust from building work. This can avoid the inconvenience and expense of evacuating a building or calling out the fire brigade unnecessarily because of a nuisance alarm. The Pre-Alarm Threshold is typically set at 80% of the alarm threshold.

Conventional versus addressable (intelligent/smart)

Conventional fire alarm systems have indeed been around a long time and have proven their reliability & credibility yet in today’s digital world, people often think of analog devices or systems as old fashioned or with out-dated technology. Many businesses today still use them with. And, while newer technologies now exist, conventional systems still remains a good option in some settings.

Conventional systems are highly reliable, cost-effective, and affordable for small buildings where just one or two zones could cover the entire area. However, more and more small businesses are beginning to consider addressable systems when it comes time to replace their systems for additional benefits that the newer technology provides.

The key to selecting the right one is to look beyond the initial costs when evaluating the lifetime value of the system. There are many associated factors with each type of system that may make one a better choice than the other. A closer look at some of the key differences between conventional and addressable systems can be summarised as below:

  1. False alarms: False alarms are always an important consideration as they are expensive for fire departments majorly in terms wastes cost, time & efforts. False alarms are far more common with conventional systems. In contrast, addressable devices are always getting monitored by alarm panel for their sensitivity preventing the occurrence of false alarms. The sensitivity of the sensors in addressable devices can also be adjusted. Also, addressable devices provide “drift compensation” – the ability to distinguish between subtle changes in the level of smoke detection that occur over time due to contamination, like dust, and rapid changes resulting from a real fire.
  2. Safety considerations: Without a doubt, addressable systems provide a greater level of fire safety because they allow fire-fighters to respond more quickly and effectively by pinpointing the exact location of a fire in a building.
  3. Reliability: An addressable system is generally more reliable than a conventional system mainly due to how the different systems are wired. With a conventional system, if a device’s wire is damaged or severed, its signal and the signal of other devices down the line cannot be transmitted to the control panel. With an addressable system, both ends of the wire connect to the control panel. Therefore, if one end becomes damaged or severed, signals can still reach the control panel through the other end of the loop. In addressable systems, a device can be removed or disabled and it will not affect the other devices in the loop.
  4. Scalability: Addressable systems provide a great deal of flexibility in comparison to conventional systems. While the number of devices either system can accommodate is determinant on the manufacturer of the alarm panels, every type of device added to a conventional system requires a new circuit. Because they require less wire, an addressable alarm control panel can accommodate far more devices than a conventional system. They can have anywhere from one to 30 loops, commonly referred to as a signalling line circuit (SLC), each of which can monitor and control several hundred devices.
  5. Lifecycle cost: The equipment required for conventional systems usually comes with a much lower price tag than addressable systems, which is why conventional systems are still a popular choice for small businesses. However, it is wise to look beyond the initial costs. Even for small buildings, the lower initial costs to purchase the equipment needed for a conventional system are often offset by higher installation costs. Remember that conventional systems require a single circuit for each zone, one which can lead to much more complex wiring than an addressable system in which all the devices are wired into a single loop. This increase in complexity not only drives up the cost of installation but also introduces a greater risk of human error. While both types of systems require regular inspections and testing, trouble-shooting and maintenance are easier and less expensive with addressable systems. With independently wired zones in a conventional system, each device must be checked separately to find the problematic device. Addressable devices can send maintenance alerts and trouble signals to the control panel to make finding problematic devices and getting them repaired or replaced much faster.

The differences between conventional and intelligent fire alarm systems can be summarised as follows:

Conventional Fire Alarm System

  • Suitable for Smaller Applications
  • Not Suitable for Large and Complex Buildings
  • No special or complex peripherals are needed as compared to its intelligent counterpart.
  • Simple Panel requiring no special skill sets are needed to operate.
  • The location of fire needs to be estimated
  • More judgement time for identification.
  • It is not a self-diagnostic system needing more frequent routine maintenance to ensure its functionality
  • Integration with is BMS not possible.

Intelligent Fire Alarm System

  • Cost Effective for Larger Applications.
  • The Location of a Fire Condition Is Detected and Recorded at Each Individual Device, Identifying Exactly Where the Fire Is Occurring improving Response Time for Emergency Responders.
  • Lower On-going Service Cost, Because When a Device Goes into Trouble (i.e. Needs Cleaning, Repair or Replacement), The Panel Will Tell You the Exact Location of the Device Needing Service.
  • Faster Identification of Fire Location
  • Online Capabilities: New Intelligent Panels Have The Capability To Provide Detailed Online Notification Of Alarm/ Trouble/ Supervisory Events.
  • Self-diagnostic system reducing the routine check-up and maintenance cost.
  • Integration with BMS is added advantage 

Integration of fire alarm system with building automation system

Fire safety is extremely important in all buildings making it most critical for the facility managers in order to focus on their fire protection strategies, maintenance of existing technologies, and identify where system upgrades are needed. A reliable fire alarm system should quickly detect a fire and provide clear messages within the facility with least disruption to the operations of buildings.

The conventional fire alarm systems provide an adequate and cost effective fire alarm system for many small buildings, however with rise of more complex buildings more sophisticated ‘intelligent’ fire alarm systems were needed-systems which can offer benefits in speed of detection, identification of the location of a fire and easier maintenance. These Intelligent systems also offer tolerance to faults in the system wiring, which allows a single pair of wires to be used to connect up to 198 devices to the system, allowing cost savings in the wiring of large systems. In larger installations, the benefits of improved maintenance and reduced cabling cost are overwhelming.

A typical configuration of an intelligent fire alarm system with BAS:

Despite significant advancement in building designing, construction and its other integrated systems as a whole including Building automation System, unfortunately fire alarm & fire fighting systems has not been given similar importance. This is because of a mind-set assuming a low probability of fire incident happening yet forgetting another critical associated risk factor which is severity while taking a call on it. Most of this assumption stems from the fear of the unknown and the desire to mitigate risk along with the old adage of "This is the way we’ve always done in" or “That fire has never happened in my deign” In reality, the integration of building automation and fire alarm systems can result in overall reduction in equipment, installation, and maintenance costs while still maintaining the level of safety required for these systems to operate.

With the advent of smart building technology, heating, cooling, electrical, and lighting, security, and other systems need monitoring and intercommunication for optimized efficiency and operation. With sophistication comes the need for a building automation system (BAS) to allow for nearly seamless operation of these various interrelated equipment.

Like BAS, over the time now fire protection and alarm systems have also evolved into sophisticated computer-based systems, which integrate fire detection and emergency communication systems as part of overall building operations during an emergency event.

Often fire protection and alarm systems must interact with other building systems to provide a proper level of protection. While the fire alarm system is fully capable of performing and initiating the necessary actions to accomplish the fire alarm and building systems’ responses, efficiencies can be obtained by integrating with the BAS. These efficiencies include minimizing additional equipment, expediting system acceptance testing, reducing installation costs, and sharing and consolidating information at a central location where all of the building systems can be precisely monitored during emergency incidents.

Therefore, in order to integrate system alarm and control functions with the BAS in a manner other than relay logic, fire alarm system manufacturers had to also design and support the open communication protocols used for building automation, in a manner that would not compromise the integrity or the operation of the fire alarm system. This process of sharing information between both fire alarm and BAS came to be known as bridging, or open gateway processing. Because of the strict code and listing requirements of fire alarm systems, much of this communication has been primarily limited to one-way communication. However, some manufacturers of both fire alarm and BAS do produce equipment such as gateways that are listed for bi-directional communication with their equipment.

The use of these open gateway processors has the potential to eliminate the need for costly interface equipment and enclosures. A single gateway can replace hundreds of conventional or electronic relays and input sensors for control and monitoring while also eliminating the need for multiple wire terminations that can decrease the potential for system failure points.

Advantages of intelligent fire systems in complex and large buildings

  • Addressable fire alarm systems give information about individual detectors, whereas conventional systems only give information about specific circuits (zones).
  • Addressable systems allow a courtesy text label to allow easy identification of any event. For instance detector 1 may be given the label “Bedroom 1″.
  • Most addressable systems allow an early “pre alarm” warning, which allows the responsible person to investigate potential alarms before the system activates its sirens.
  • Many addressable systems can alter the alarm threshold of the detectors, in order to meet the needs of different environments in different areas of the system.
  • Addressable systems are usually wired in a loop.
  • Conventional systems are usually wired as radial circuits.
  • Addressable systems usually have a real time clock & event log to record system events.
  • Larger addressable systems usually have the ability to use sophisticated programming options to operate certain outputs only with specific events

Why integrate the fire alarm system with BAS?

There are many reasons for integrating fire alarm systems with other building automation and control systems e.g. for smoke control, building access information, easier maintenance, sharing sensor data, obtaining information about the location of people during an emergency, and providing infrastructure for new technology to improve performance and safety.

Fire detection systems have been integrated with door locks and with HVAC fan and damper controls for smoke management for several years, but these systems have relied on relays controlled by the fire alarm system to override the normal controls. This kind of integration has primarily been limited to only on/off control of fans and dampers. Many modern HVAC systems are far more complex. Smoke management is much more complicated with these systems and outside of the capability of most fire alarm systems. What is needed is a way for the fire alarm system to command the HVAC control system to enter a smoke control mode and let the HVAC controllers manage the equipment.

New sensors are being developed that can recognize various contaminants in the air that can represent a fire signature or a hazardous contaminant that poses a life safety threat. In an integrated system, these sensors could be used by the HVAC control system to control ventilation rates with no adverse impact on their life safety functions. Multiple uses for the same information will make it more cost-effective to implement new sensor technology. In some buildings, access control systems monitor the location of building occupants. Providing access to this information to the life safety systems could be very helpful in an emergency. Emergency response personnel would know where to look for occupants who need to be evacuated. They could also reduce the risk to themselves by avoiding dangerous areas where no people are present.

Challenges in integrating a fire system with BAS

Maintaining the integrity of fire alarm systems in any building, while integrating them building automation systems (BAS) requires more than just communication standards the technology of building automation and control systems has advanced at much faster pace and more rapidly over the past many years. Today’s technology provides building owners and designers with a rich assortment of options and flexibility with intelligent distributed controllers that process complex set of building information at lightning speed to efficiently characterize state-of-the-art building automation and control systems.

These advances have taken place across a variety of building services including heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) control systems, lighting control systems, access control systems, and fire alarm systems. In spite of these advances in BAS, due to non-availability of any standard interfacing protocol, fire alarm systems have been finding it difficult to get integrated with BAS.

However, to overcome this difficulty, in 1987, BACnet communication protocol was developed by the American Society of Heating Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). It has been adopted as standard in many countries and has also been proposed as an ISO standard (ISO 16484:2017). BACnet product offerings range from gateways that connect proprietary systems to complete product lines that use BACnet as the primary or sole means of communication.

The adoption of BACnet1 as the standard communication protocol for integrating building control products has changed the industry and opened the door to new innovation in building control technology and true integration of previously isolated building systems. Though BACNet provides the necessary isolation to Fire Alarm System, but it also limits the integration possibilities. An alternative approach is to develop best design practices for constructing networks of integrated systems.

By appropriate selection of network technology and appropriate use of routers and bridges to filter traffic, interference problems and concerns about guaranteed access to network bandwidth in an emergency can be effectively eliminated.

Key trends in fire alarm systems

Fire alarm system technologies innovation has been slow compared to other high demand smart devices. Global manufacturers focus their major efforts on evolving high-return products, primarily the ones that connect consumers with rapidly changing lifestyle trends. While fire alarm systems being backend safety support systems aren't exactly at the cutting-edge of social advancement, innovative companies are developing new methods for approaching fire and gas-related threats.

Artificial intelligence, connected systems, and smart city initiative-along with its promise to spark a creative revolution in fire alarm systems-will lead to more out-of-the-box technological innovation. Some of the major trends in the market are outlined below.

  1. Fire Alarm Aspiration Detection: Where the highest level of accuracy is vital, aspiration detection can be the ideal solution for enhanced safety. Aspiration sensors are capable of detecting microscopic particles of smoke in the air for accurate and early detection. There are two types of aspiration sensing technologies in the market:
  • Point-based solution: System consists of enclosed detectors with a fan system which draws air samples to check the potential threat.
  • Laser-based solution: Laser technology solutions detect smoke by drawing air into a laser chamber to identify a possible threat. It’s the fastest-growing detector type because these systems are designed to detect fire and smoke activity in large and open spaces, where smoke dilution and stratification can occur. The challenge in the adoption of this technology is due to the lack of awareness of benefits offered by these technologies among end-users, but in the near future, we can expect to see a much higher demand for this technology.
  1. IoT in Fire Safety Systems: Fire safety is among the various areas that can realize the extraordinary benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things (IoT) has led to, much of the world becoming smarter and more connected. With IoT, now safety alerts can be sent to hundreds of people fast and effectively. Several leading fire safety companies have already launched IoT-enabled fire detectors. These can be broken down as:
  • IoT Enabled Connected Detectors: There is a variety of connected smoke & gas detectors for domestic & industrial applications. These connected detectors are able to communicate in real time with the other devices and can be programmed to take a limited judgemental call for a pre decided action. The detectors can be accessed from anywhere using mobile apps & internet connectivity. In the event of an alarm, the detectors can sound a local alarm as well as send notifications on the mobile phones.
  • IoT Retrofitting: Technology is also available today to add connectivity to existing detectors. With a monitor, users don’t have to change all detectors. The monitor listens for the specific frequency of these detectors and sends an alert to its app when it hears them. One single monitor can cover multiple detectors covering large area.
  1. Integration of BMS & MNS: More and more facility owners and managers are realizing the benefits of integrating all the building systems, such as mass notification and security systems (MNS) with the Building management system (BMS). A unified MNS is defined as a platform to deliver a message to a small or large group of people. By integrating these systems together, users can improve the oversight and management of multiple systems from a single point of control.

Advancements in fire alarm systems – a central alarm system

In a central alarm system, all detectors are connected to a central controller and send the signal directly to this controller. The controller actively monitors multiple locations and when it receives alarm input from the detection devices, it activates notification devices such as horns, strobe lights, and speakers to alert the occupants. Now, more and more connected and smart features are also coming to central alarm and evacuation systems.

Now, mass notification systems include a paging component to relay live audio instructions throughout the building in case of an emergency. Most mass notification now a day also includes support for various types of emergency messages such as inclement weather emergency, security alerts, amber alerts, etc. Advanced features in mass notification systems include the capability to communicate alerts via SMS, text, email, popup, app message and push notification to targeted recipients, thus helping create quick and effective awareness.

With IIoT and other advanced technologies, improvements are also expected in emergency planning. Sensor and detector data along with other surveillance data can be combined with algorithms and analytics to help quickly prepare better emergency or evacuation plans. Analytics can consider various factors such as the number of people in the building, building maps, location of the fire, the rate at which fire is spreading, and the direction of the fire to come up with better evacuation plans. Analytics-based evacuation plans can prevent congestion, by guiding the crowd in different parts of the building to take the optimum route to ensure and fast and effective evacuation.

  • Multi-Sensor Detection: There is a major shift happening in the industry towards multiple criteria technology. Many companies are continuing to develop innovative products that have the ability to detect not only smoke but heat, infrared light from flames and carbon monoxide as well. These sensors not only save money and time but also reduce the time involved with installing multiple sensors, but it also helps in eliminate nuisance alarms, because more than one criterion needs to meet before the alarm is triggered.
  • Wireless Technologies: Over the last 10 years, many innovative in wireless fire alarm equipment have been brought new products in the marketplace, including a full range of transmitters, initiating devices, and even notification appliances. However, this technology is still struggling to pick up because of the nature of the existing built environment and modern LEEDs certified construction techniques which present few challenges for wireless fire alarm technology. Fire-rated concrete walls, floors and ceilings, along with glass and steel construction, tend to block or weaken wireless signal strength, crating challenges in maintaining the required communication protocols. Although such challenges are getting overcome during the initial building designs yet often problems these communication losses are only discovered during, or even after, system commissioning takes place, thus creating a safety hazard. Currently, wireless fire alarm technology is only being used strategically, for very specific situations where the advantages of the wireless technology can be enhanced with a proper design of the location of transmitters and repeaters without sacrificing the safety aspect. This also needs a robust, more frequent testing, inspection, and maintenance program so as to ensure that backup batteries are alive to maintain the signal strength.
  • Voice Alert Systems: Systems that announce danger with pre-recorded message have been in practice for quite long, however with development of newer technology many of these voice alert systems are getting smarter & better with placement of many detectors & sensors for assessing the safety conditions of surroundings and then paging pre-programmed messages. Voice alerts system allows for providing specific life safety instructions and safety measures to evacuate. These systems are not only effective for fire events but also other emergencies as well such as a hazardous chemical spill, intruder and bad weather. In addition, in case of an incident, these systems are helpful in providing instructions to evacuate the building.
  • Limit Risks with Remote Monitoring: Modern fire alarm systems with IoT & IIoT connectivity and cloud uploading of information can be set up to offer alarms on-site as well as at anywhere in the world and on multiple devices. Despite the cost being high, (which is drooping with time) the benefits of remote monitoring are huge. Facility managers can connect multiple facilities to one central monitoring station and ensure better monitoring of alarm systems, maintenance of records and reports, and scheduling of tests and maintenance activities.
  • Embrace Machine Learning: In the building segment, one of the fastest-growing applications for machine learning is improving maintenance. Machine learning applications are self-modifying, highly automated, and embedded. Machine learning algorithms are designed to continuously adapt and improve their performance with minimal human intervention. Machine learning algorithms are also embedded within a process or workflow such that they become seamlessly integrated into the process to the point where they are invisible to the user or operator. Machine learning technologies are used for swift maintenance of the fire alarm system.
  • Prescriptive Maintenance: This practice which as roots in TPM which is art of Toyota Production System (TPS) and also known as Total Productive Maintenance ensuring proactively by addressing maintenance issues before they become major problems and cause equipment downtime. It builds on simple condition monitoring to provide advanced notice of failure. Condition monitoring typically monitors a single variable per device – such as sensor failure. Prescriptive maintenance, in contrast, typically monitors multiple variables per system and uses sophisticated algorithms – such as machine learning. The aim is to give a longer-range prediction of failure, with a higher measure of confidence.

Epilogue

The Internet of Things will bring high volumes of fast-moving data. This, in turn, brings both challenges and opportunities for building organizations. One of the challenges is making sense of large complex data sets. Predictive analytics and machine learning approaches are one way to do that. The potential return on investment (ROI) is real, tangible, and relatively immediate. The IoT will bring more data, faster, from a greater variety of sources. Managing this data complexity to be able to respond to events in a timely manner will require a much more automated and frictionless approach to the analytics value chain. Maintenance applications that incorporate machine learning are a promising approach for capitalizing on IoT data.

Of course, the new technologies just described may not be applicable to every opportunity. Decisions about upgrades should be based on an analysis of the specific facility conditions and organizational objectives, while designers should keep their minds open to new technology that is available.

About the author

Prabhat Khare BE (Electrical) is a Life Member of National Safety Council and a Lead Assessor for ISO 9K, 14K, 45K & 50K (BSI). In the past he has held roles such as Head Of Facilities & Projects for Tata Motors, Honda Cars & Ashok Leyland, Jaypee Cement, and Head Of Energy at Kanpur Fertilizers.

Contact him at: [email protected] and http://in.linkedin.com/in/prabhatkhare2

References:

  1. https://www.firefighterclosecalls.com/fire-alarm-system-worked-via-telegraph-signlas-ticker-tape/
  2. NIST Special Publication 1191-Research Roadmap for Smart Fire Fighting
  3. Intelligent Fire Systems Application Guide of System Sensor
  4. Fire Service Features of Buildings and Fire Protection Systems by osha.gov
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BACnet
  6. bacnetinternational.org
  7. Introduction to BACnet For Building Owners and Engineers (ver 1.0) by BACNet International
  8. IS 02189 2008 Indian Standard - Selection, Installation And Maintenance Of Automatic Fire Detection And Alarm System Code Of Practice (Fourth Revision)
  9. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fire_alarm_control_panel,_the_beginning_of_XX_century.jpg
  10. https://fla-alarms.org/alarm-artifacts/

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