This past summer, the Modern Equipment Manufacturer had the privilege to provide coverage of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Annual Conference in San Antonio. When speaking with the participating industry thought leaders and technology solution providers ushering in a new era in fire protection and safety, we continued to hear some recurring themes. Namely, fire protection was evolving as fire safety equipment continued to become smarter, more connected and more capable.
However, we also heard stories of somewhat conservative regulations and requirements that were potentially slowing down and hampering the adoption of some exciting new advancements and innovations that could make fire safety better and help save lives.
Despite these conservative – but understandable – requirements and regulations, we still heard about some incredible new technologies, including massive advancements in mass notification and the evolution of a smarter fire panel.
One of the companies that is spearheading the movement towards better mass notification is Lencore, an audio system solution provider and the maker of the n.FORM mass notification system. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with the company’s Vice President of Marketing, David Smith, to talk all about the future of mass notification and the ways in which fire protection technologies are becoming more connected and more effective.
Here is what he had to say:
Modern Equipment Manufacturer (MEM): Can you tell our readers a little bit about Lencore? What kind of products and solutions does the company offer for fire protection?
David Smith: Lencore is a manufacturer of mass notification solutions. We offer communication solutions for In-Building/EVAC, Wide Area Loud Voice, and Distributed Recipient Notifications. In a nutshell, our systems offer audio, video, and other communications such as text, tweet, desktop notifications and more.
Our system, n.FORM, meets the UL 2572 and UL 864 standards to interface with a fire alarm control unit. This ensures that we will not damage the fire panel and the fire panel will not damage our headend equipment during normal operation. For fire protection, n.FORM is able to take an audio feed in order to reinforce the fire notification.
MEM: What is mass notification? Why does the traditional approach to mass notification need to change?
David Smith: Mass notification is the ability to reach 100 percent of the intended audience, 100 percent of the time, with a clear, intelligible message in the event of any type of emergency – fire, weather or human related threat.
Unfortunately, today’s environment is forcing us to integrate new means of communication in the event of an emergency than just relying on the fire alarm system. Code standards, such as NFPA 72, are elevating our thinking to imagine additional risks and furthering our ability to think through how we react during those emergencies.
For instance, in many human aggressor situations, the fire alarm is pulled. We have been trained for years to exit a building properly when that occurs. This only creates a more dangerous situation. To think differently, the 2010 and beyond versions of NFPA 72, in conjunction with UL 2572, allows for the fire alarm to be shut down by a mass notification situation so that proper communication can be delivered to those in jeopardy.
MEM: How is Lencore’s approach to mass notification different and better? What can it do that traditional mass notification solutions could not?
David Smith: The Lencore n.FORM Mass Notification System addresses the three areas of mass notification: In-Building/EVAC, Wide Area Loud Voice and Distributed Recipient Notification. It is a complete system.
n.FORM is engineered to meet the customer’s needs based on their individual risk assessment. From audio and video communications in the building to Loud Voice campus-wide announcements to delivering messages in text/SMS, Tweets, pre-recorded live phone calls to landlines, cell phones and even Skype calls. N.FORM even offers desktop notification.
This system is an activation-based system which means that the system reacts based on the emergency protocols with the push of a button as opposed to having a lot of individual interaction.
MEM: We heard from many attendees at this year’s NFPA Conference that the future of fire protection equipment is “smarter” and more connected. Is this a trend that you’re seeing in that market?
David Smith: Definitely. Especially as the IIoT is only growing in implementation and utilization. Technology continues to make advancements in all aspects of fire protection and security, and we expect this trend to continue.
Customers do not want to purchase multiple systems and the preference is to have “smarter” implementation and leverage systems that do more than just one thing. For instance, the n.FORM system intention is to deliver mass notification in the event of an emergency; however, it also offers everyday use for productivity through paging, background music and sound masking at no additional cost because it is already built into the system.
MEM: How is Lencore making its devices smarter and more connected?
David Smith: Lencore’s system utilizes LonWorks as an open-protocol programming platform that allows it to easily integrate and communicate with other devices. Lencore recognizes that not one system is going to do it all; however, we believe that n.FORM can be the communication hub to get the message out to the intended audience. Lencore also continues to innovate and watches the market for new communication trends and devices.
MEM: We also heard that cloud connectivity for remote management and monitoring is something that many in fire protection are considering. Is cloud connectivity something Lencore is already offering in its devices or planning to offer in the future?
David Smith: Yes, Lencore relies on cloud connectivity for two purposes: security of connection and remote access. Cloud connectivity provides another layer of secure connection which IT departments prefer. With this type of connectivity, the n.FORM system is accessible through our Field PoP application which allows the user to connect to systems around the world from a single device, make adjustments as well as activate the system if need be.
For additional information about the benefits of cloud connecting commercial and industrial devices, click HERE to download a complimentary copy of the eBook, “The HVAC as a Service Revolution.”