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Copyright International Fire Protection 2016
Diagnostics that fully exploit the power of the Internet could increase efficiencies.

Fire safety management… the future’s virtual

Until fairly recently, automated central control of building-wide systems was found only in larger commercial buildings and expensive homes. Typically involving only lighting, heating and cooling systems, building automation rarely provided more than basic control, monitoring and scheduling functions and was accessible only from specific control points within the building itself.

Whilst full integration of these technologies is some way off, automation increasingly gives access to control devices from a mobile device anywhere in the world. The term may be used for isolated programmable devices, like thermostats and sprinkler systems, but more accurately describes buildings in which nearly everything – lights, appliances, electrical outlets, heating and cooling systems are hooked up to a remotely controllable network. From a security perspective, this also includes the alarm system, and all of the doors, windows, locks, smoke detectors, surveillance cameras and any other sensors that are linked to it.

The other main characteristic of cutting-edge building automation is remote monitoring and access. While a limited amount of one-way remote monitoring has been possible for some time, it’s only since the rise in smartphones and tablets that we’ve had the ability to truly connect to our business networks while we’re away. With the right automation system, you can use any Internet-connected device to view and control the system itself and any attached devices.

But how much thought have you given to the vast potential this advanced online connectivity also brings you for a more efficient workflow and added value for businesses?

Fire & Rescue Service false alarm callouts are extremely costly in terms of time, money, and disruption to business occupiers. Yet, most of these could be efficiently minimized by remote diagnostics that fully exploit the power of the Internet and mobile communications, with predictive monitoring and servicing by fire alarm maintenance and service providers allowing potential problems to be resolved before they arise.

Experts estimate that having Life Safety Systems more comprehensively managed by remote monitoring and interrogation could eliminate some 35% of all fire emergency callouts to premises.

Fire & Rescue Service false alarm callouts are extremely costly.

Fire & Rescue Service false alarm callouts are extremely costly.

Fresh perspectives reap significant benefits

The team leader of a recent five-year project, who pioneered remote troubleshooting techniques for system monitoring and diagnostics that generated over £2m savings a year, says: ‘It’s a change in mentality, because we can now pull up all the information and interrogate problems, without ever having to leave the building.’ This innovative remote overview of systems resulted in a 75 percent reduction in diagnostic time and considerable savings in service and maintenance costs.

This revolutionary approach to remote interrogation of systems becomes all the more critical at a time when there are changes afoot to devolve new powers to local government. Government is moving towards a position where fire and rescue authorities could be handed the power to demand cash for attending false fire alarms.

We’ve already seen the Fire & Rescue Service announce that fire crews may no longer respond to certain calls originating from automatic fire alarms in shops, offices or factories, following statistics that revealed 97 percent of all responses to automatic fire alarms proved to be false alarms.

Risks of cost-cutting

Social commentators are highlighting fears that one of the consequences of the current challenging economic climate could be severe cost-cutting that reduces focus on management of Life Safety risks. This is not the time for companies to neglect fire risks, because a fire will at best be disruptive and could at worst lead to death, injury and even closure.

So all the more reason to recognize the revolutionary new trends emerging in Intelligent Building control, which can significantly reduce service callout costs by allowing you to first investigate ‘trouble reports’ through remote interrogation of BMS systems, a diagnostics overview that lets you identify non-urgent issues, often resolvable with a more convenient scheduled service visit at a later time.

Unlocking the potential to minimize false alarms

For panel installers in this new digital age, the special combination of monitoring data and remote-control capability is creating new opportunities for time-saving interrogation of systems, especially for service and maintenance functions. 

And the benefits can be rapidly seen when this potential is unlocked. Because, although networked devices are developed to monitor and report comprehensively on their own condition and environment, it’s very often the fact that only 1 percent of data captured is analysed beyond a device’s primary function.

Make no mistake, interaction with an internet-enabled installation that permits the clarity of touchscreen entry from any location, to pinpoint the precise status of all connected system devices, can allow realtime overviews so needful for remote troubleshooting to locate up-to-the second faults and malfunctions.

This holds true more than ever in the Fire and Security sector, especially in the current urgent calls to reduce the unacceptable level of false fire alarms

Latest annual statistics record that in Great Britain more than 600,000 call out incidents were attended by fire and rescue services (FRS), with nearly 50 percent of fire call outs due to false fire alarms. The cost of this wasted time for both business and the FRS is estimated to be well in excess of £1 billion per year.

And a piece of news that should be of special concern to contractors is the fact that false fire alarms from Automatic Fire Detection (AFD) systems due to poor maintenance are on the increase. Which raises the thorny question: What is an acceptable rate of false alarms?

Automation increasingly gives access to control devices from anywhere in the world.

Automation increasingly gives access to control devices from anywhere in the world.

Virtual overview of building services

The potential for Fire Safety solutions being integrated with building systems management and maintenance is immense. Its purpose is to control, monitor and optimize building services whose scope you encounter every working day: Lighting; Heating; Security, CCTV and Alarm systems; Access Control; Audio-Visual and Entertainment systems; Ventilation, Filtration and Climate control, etc.; even Time & Attendance control and reporting (notably staff attendance, movement and availability).

And it is this potential for integrating Fire Safety System design and Building Management that has driven the latest development in Life Safety System Management; Kentec’s leading edge Taktis fire safety technology that is already exciting fire professionals, building systems and facility managers.

Powerful and sophisticated, yet simple to use and understand, this entirely new management platform combines the very latest hardware and software to produce a control and indication system that’s designed to add value to System Designer, Integrator, Service provider and the end user.

Using today’s most advanced technology, this revolutionary platform brings a greater flexibility to allow users to reconfigure a system with ease to realize many control and indication applications, with future direct integration into ‘intelligent’ buildings.

Seamless integration and interconnectivity

Taktis Fire is an all-new range of fire detection control equipment

 Taktis Vision Taktis Vision provides a means of allowing full display and optional control of the Taktis fire alarm control panel from a small and unobtrusive local control station. Based on an all new hardware and software platform, the large, full colour graphical display with touch screen functionality, delivers information on the status of the fire alarm system to single or multiple locations.

Taktis Virtual Resource There’s more to come with Virtual Resource suite of software tools, which will be able to deliver a whole new dimension in Life Safety System Management, giving System Designers, Integrators and Service Companies the ability to remotely access and comprehensively manage any system using intelligent analysis of data collected from those systems. End-users and Facilities managers will also greatly benefit from the powerful application-based tool set featured by Virtual Resource. 

Scaleable, future-proofed solution

Taktis fire systems are scalable with Taktis Net Enhanced High Speed Networking. This allows up to 128 panels to be connected together as a fully fault tolerant networked system with rapid inter panel communications and up to 1.2km of standard two core fire resistant cabling between nodes. Each panel can be configured to display all or any events from any other panel allowing master/slave, multiple master/slave or peer-to-peer configuration.

Sophisticated network analysis tools provide the ability to identify connection problems instantly and the commissioning mode allows individual panels to be prevented from transmitting events to the network while maintaining communications.

For more information, go to www.kentec.co.uk

Kevin Mears is Product Manager for Kentec Electronics Ltd.

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