The “smart home” category is an exceptionally fast moving and growing category of consumer technology and products. And if you’ve ever been able to lie in bed and ask Google or Alexa to turn off your lights so you don’t have to get up and walk across the room, then you certainly understand why.
The ability to monitor and manage all of the systems in your home from a mobile device, control devices via voice and access performance/operational data about your home systems – from HVAC to lighting systems – is a game changer. It makes life easier, makes it possible to be more environmentally conscious and helps consumers make more informed decisions about how they utilize their homes and the devices within it.
But that’s consumer technology in the home. What about in the commercial and industrial space? Not surprisingly, there is incredible demand to make buildings – ranging from commercial office buildings to industrial factories – smarter. Many of those demands are for the same reasons we may want these technologies in our home. The ability to make changes to lights, HVAC and other systems remotely from a single pane of glass. The ability to monitor usage and performance to help decrease energy costs and increase efficiency. These are universal across homes and commercial buildings.
But, there is another reason why commercial and industrial buildings may want to get smarter, and another set of systems that they want to see become more connected and intelligent – fire safety and fire protection systems.
Earlier this summer, the National Fire Protection Association held their Annual Conference in San Antonio. This massive fire protection-focused event brings together experts from the government, as well as leading fire protection industry leaders to talk about advancements in fire protection technology and recent updates to fire code.
During the event, a panel discussion occurred featuring a number of fire protection experts talking about propose innovations and advancements in one of the most important pieces of fire safety equipment – the fire panel. The panel discussion, which was entitled, “The Future of the Fire Panel,” featured:
- Bill Denney, a Suppression Application Engineer at Hochiki
- Mark Pavlica, the Director of Product Marketing at Siemens
- Tom Parrish, an inspector for the Putman Township Fire Department
- Mike McDade, a System Sales Engineer at Cosco Fire Protection
During this detailed discussion which covered a wide range of topics, the talk shifted to the role that the fire panel could play in a smart building, with some panelists agreeing that it should be the centralized brain of the smart building’s fire systems. Let’s take a detailed look at what that would enable.
Smarter response through data
There’s nothing worse than walking into a situation unprepared. And that’s especially true for first responders and emergency personnel walking into a burning building.
If a fire alarm goes off and firefighters are dispatched, they want to know where the fire is, whether people are in the building, and what other dangers may await them. When it comes to commercial and industrial buildings, one of the largest dangers is the presence of hazardous chemicals and other materials that could be caustic, flammable, explosive or noxious.
By integrating the fire panel with other systems, including gas detection and other systems, it can be made clear to responding firefighters just what awaits them inside.
A smarter, more connected fire panel that is more aware of the building and its surroundings can also help firefighters overcome one of their other large challenges – burning buildings with people still in them.
By integrating the fire panel with security systems, lighting systems that have room occupancy sensors and other systems and sensors throughout the building, the fire panel can work more effectively to get them out. This can be done with more specific, location-based evacuation directions that steer them away from danger and towards the safest, most convenient exits.
While this all sounds like a great idea, as with everything dealing with the fire panel, there are regulations and concerns that remain. Integrating everything and making the fire panel the brain of a smart building means that any failure of the fire panel could bring down all of these vital systems. However, as we’ve discussed in previous articles on the Modern Equipment Manufacturer, the simple cloud-enablement of the fire panel could enable the proactive maintenance and management necessary to ensure that it’s “always on.”
While concerns remain, the idea of a smart building with the fire panel at the center certainly seems like a good one. A fire panel that knows more about what’s happening within the building it’s protecting can help better prepare first responders, while doing a better job of notifying and evacuating the people within when emergency strikes.
To see the rest of the panel discussion in its entirety, click play on the video below.