In June, San Antonio, TX, played host to the annual National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Conference and Expo, an annual event that brings together industry-leading equipment manufacturers in the fire protection industry with the individuals responsible for setting fire codes and regulations designed to keep people safe.
During this year’s conference, Modern Equipment Manufacturer had the opportunity to sit down with some of the more innovative fire protection solution providers to talk about today’s fire protection solutions and how they’re evolving as new technologies are being developed and integrated into these life-saving systems.
One of the forward-thinking companies that we had the opportunity to speak to was Honeywell, which has a number of different brands and subsidiaries that service the fire protection market. During our discussion with Doug Hoeferle, Honeywell’s Product Marketing Leader, and John Beckwith, the Director of Product Marketing at the company, we talked about how fire protection solutions are changing, the recent advancements that are being seen across the industry and how cloud-enabling these devices could open the door to even more capabilities and benefits in the future.
Here is what they had to say:
Modern Equipment Manufacturer (MEM):Can you tell our readers a bit about Honeywell’s fire protection solutions? What different fire protection solutions does the company produce? What markets do they serve?
Doug Hoeferle: Honeywell has a multi-brand approach to the fire protection market. We have a number of different brands – ranging from Notifier, Farenhyt, Silent Knight, Fire-Lite and our System Sensor brand – that offer flexibility in choice and focus on fast response to emergency situations and better notification.
Most of what we’re focused on are commercial applications. You’ll find our solutions in manufacturing facilities, warehouses, hospitals, college campuses, hotels and residential high-rises. Anywhere where there are occupants sleeping. Also, schools and retail stores. You’ll find our solutions in all of those markets.
Honeywell’s fire protection solutions effectively include the entire fire alarm system, including the control panel, the power supplies, the notification appliances, and the sensors and sensing equipment – including detectors and early warning aspiration sensing. We also have capabilities for industrial solutions, including gas sensing and carbon monoxide sensing.
MEM: How are fire protection solutions evolving? What new technologies are being incorporated in today’s fire protection solutions?
Doug Hoeferle: There’s an evolution in a number of ways. First is faster response and shorter response times. We’re seeing more aspirating smoke detection being used beyond just the data centers where they got started. We’re seeing them expand in usage into hospitals, manufacturing sites and other places where they’re concerned about downtime.
We’re also seeing the evolution of better notification, as well.
We’ve seen the introduction of low frequency tones in commercial sleeping spaces that better wake occupants. We’re also seeing more holistic approaches to notification evolving, with new and better capabilities being introduced for mass notification. We’re increasingly seeing a trend towards using voice alarm systems for other things – weather emergencies, active shooters and other emergency scenarios beyond basic fire evacuations.
There is now even a mass notification risk assessment that’s required for certain high occupancy establishments and locations – including schools, hotels, churches, movie theaters and other places where there could be a large number of occupants.
MEM: This year’s NFPA Conference featured multiple discussions about fire protection solutions and equipment becoming smarter and more connected. Is this a trend that you see playing out right now? What are the benefits of smarter, more connected fire protection solutions?
Doug Hoeferle: It’s definitely something that we’re seeing in the industry. In terms of life safety, we’re seeing the introduction of more ways to trigger a system as it becomes smarter – whether it’s from a classroom phone or a mobile application. These are exciting advancements because they can help lead to a faster response and save lives.
We’re also seeing more capabilities in the ways to notify people, whether that’s through text messages, or mobile applications or TV takeovers in airports, or desktop notifications that take over computer desktops and forces people to respond.
Honeywell is making some interesting innovations in this [connected device] space. We recently introduced our eVance software to help our customers with their fleet management and maintenance. If they have a large install base, they need to know what is happening with those products that are out in the field. eVance enables that, which is extremely important and useful for them.
MEM: What role have fire codes and regulations played on innovation and advancement in this industry? We’ve heard from other fire protection companies that fire codes can hamper innovation. Is that true? Has this changed recently? How do you see this regulatory environment shifting in the coming years?
Doug Hoeferle: Although I do agree a little bit, I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say that codes and regulations inhibit innovation. In fact, in some ways, the codes and regulations have sparked innovation and changes in some areas. For example, I’ll point to carbon monoxide sensing – that’s something that fire codes and regulations have helped to advance – especially in residential environments and commercial sleeping spaces.
The mass adoption of carbon monoxide sending would never have happened without codes and regulations.
Another example is the low frequency tone in commercial sleeping spaces. Occupants under the influence of alcohol, or occupants that are hard of hearing, young occupants, they may not hear traditional tones in emergencies. The low frequency tone is more effective at notifying them of emergencies, and that’s another area where codes and regulations have driven adoption and innovation.
When you start to talk about cloud connectivity and mobility, those are probably areas where the codes and regulations have trailed behind. But I do see that changing moving forward.
MEM: We’re seeing an increased focus on cloud-enabling commercial and industrial equipment. Is this a trend that we’re going to see in fire protection equipment in the near future?
Doug Hoeferle: I think it depends on how you define it. With fire protection equipment, there is a lot built into it that ensures the safety of building occupants. You can’t rely on just the Internet for that. It has to work reliably and at all times. So, you’ll always have an on-premise element to it with supervision and back-up power and everything else you need for resiliency and robustness.
However, I do think that the cloud portion will bring added capabilities. The cloud will make communication with first responders better and more effective. It will enable better fleet management and maintenance for large install bases – like those on college or corporate campuses – making it possible for facility owners and managers to know what’s going on in their buildings and on their campuses.
Those are all capabilities that I anticipate coming from cloud connectivity.
MEM: How could cloud enabling fire protection equipment benefit first responders? Building owners? The equipment manufacturers?
John Beckwith: Cloud-enablement will make the commissioning, maintenance and testing of a life safety system more efficient and provide building owners with real-time updates on the state of their life safety system. First responders will benefit from with higher quality compliance reports delivered more efficiently.
When we look further into the future, cloud-enablement of a life safety system will help building owners and Honeywell partners gain an increasingly better understanding of the performance of their systems and better integrate them with the software they use to manage their facilities. For first responders, our solutions will be able to provide richer, real-time data to help them formulate the best possible response to an event.
MEM: What steps is Honeywell taking – if any – to cloud-enable its solutions and equipment?
John Beckwith: Honeywell is developing functionality to connect current and future life safety systems securely to the cloud. At the same time, we are building a cloud-based platform that will deliver our initial solutions to market and serve as the foundation for a roadmap of additional value-added offerings. This secure, end-to-end platform will help make our partners more productive and provide better value to the building owners and first responders served by these solutions.
MEM: Honeywell had multiple exciting product announcements during NFPA. Can you tell our readers a bit about them?
Doug Hoeferle: One of the things that Honeywell showcased was what we call UNP, it’s our Unified Notification Platform. It’s a mass notification ecosystem that enables efficient sharing of important information during critical situations by centralizing multiple fragmented systems and making them work together in a programed way that enables succinct notification of active shooters, fire, tornados and other emergency situations.
We found a lot of end user interest in things like desktop takeover, mobile and text notifications and utilizing phone systems on premise to help with emergency response.
We also showcased our bidirectional amplifier system, the Emergency Responder Communication Enhancement Systems (ERCES).
If you look at what transpired during 9/11, or what happened in that mass shooting in Las Vegas, there wasn’t suitable, in-building first responder communication capability. This system is a bidirectional antenna system that amplifies first responder radio capabilities in a building. This is something that is relatively new to code and something that can help first responders communicate with each other in a critical situation.
Finally, we showcased our SWIFT wireless commercial fire system which is a mesh system – a wireless fire system – with all of the sensing devices and notification appliances that can be used where a wired fire system isn’t feasible. It can also be used in facilities where there is a time crunch or in a temporary facility.
For example, we just used the SWIFT system in a historical hotel where the crews doing the restoration needed something to ensure that there wasn’t a fire while the building was under construction. It was essential for them to even get their building permit.
For additional information about Honeywell and their fire protection solutions, click HERE. To learn about how cloud-enabled devices are opening the door for equipment manufacturers to become service providers, click HERE.