Change is afoot in international fire detection and it’s positive
There is no question that the fire sector is about to go through a period of significant change, and I firmly believe that this represents a great opportunity for both Apollo and our industry. The fire sector is a highly regulated industry, but even more regulations are coming and some of them require significant innovation for products to meet new testing standards. This is happening at a time of significant technological advances, particularly in digital technology, potentially resulting in far greater systems integration in buildings than we have ever seen before. As businesses within this increasing dynamic sector, we must also ensure that our people are suitably skilled to make best use of the technology so we can continue to protect property and save more lives.
At a strategic level we are planning and preparing for the shift towards greater digitisation in the global fire detection industry, and the anticipated rise in demand for integrated digital systems. The evolution towards more digital platforms is already in evidence in countries such as the United States and China where the ‘Internet of Things’ is quickly changing the industry landscape. We embrace these developments, but when it comes to new products, we believe that we must always work with the standards.
There have been very good historical reasons why fire detection systems have been kept separate from other building services, not least of which is that they are safety critical and, as such, they need to operate to more stringent standards than some other building management systems. New technological developments will mean that this anomaly can be corrected simply and reliably, but interestingly the different technologies often rest with different companies who see themselves as working in different sectors. This will need to change and change quickly.
We have to determine Apollo’s place in this increasingly digital global marketplace. Our reputation for quality and innovation has been won following 40 years of hard work, including investing in our R&D departments so that we can be responsive to change and develop reliable new technology. We are also in the fortunate position of being part of the Halma Group, which enables us to work with other group businesses who have a basket of new technology which we can draw on for the development of innovative new products.
However, to make the most of the business opportunities that a new digitised fire sector provides, we will focus on exploring external partnerships that will enable us to make our devices smart and connected.
A good illustration of the significant change affecting the sector through new regulations will be the scale and impact of UL 268 7th Edition, which is set to take effect on the 29th May 2020.
The new standard will enforce a change in smoke detector design and introduce testing standards that will not only keep pace with the technological advancements of smoke detection, but will also push technological change to help improve performance of detectors.
The new standards will require products to pass three new tests including cooking nuisance, a new smouldering fire test and two polyurethane foam tests. To meet these tests suitable detectors will require more advanced sensors and suitable algorithms to more accurately detect fires and differentiate them from nuisance signals.
The global impact of this change in legislation cannot be overestimated, with most manufacturers having to either redesign or make significant changes to their existing product range to ensure they meet the new standard. UL 268 7th Edition will undoubtedly represent a major step forward in fire detection technology needing significant innovation.
Keeping pace with changes in standards, at an international and regional level, is something that Apollo prides itself on. Our advanced R&D and testing facilities at our manufacturing site, have helped us secure more than 2,500 approvals across the world. Having such a strong focus on innovation and quality is already helping us to be in an advanced stage of preparation for UL 268 7th Edition, as well as, other forthcoming changes in other regional and international standards.
To keep a business ‘fit for purpose’ in the twenty first century, technological innovation is essential, but improved performance within the fire sector will still need the continual enhancement of the soft skills of the people who work in it. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated a technological product is, if it’s not fitted correctly, or it’s in the wrong place, it won’t perform as it should.
I believe that it is vital that skill level of installers of fire systems needs improving and I applaud the Fire Industry Association for its rigorous focus on the need for CPD for its members. At Apollo we continue to offer training across our full product portfolio and, on average, more than 300 installers, commissioning engineers and service engineers undertake our training courses each year. We, as a responsible manufacturer, see this training as a key part of our customer service and partnership approach to the way we do business. Helping our customers to use our products more effectively, helps them do better business, which is in both our interests.
A period of significant change can present an opportunity for businesses development, but I believe that the next few years will mark a watershed for our industry. At Apollo we are working hard to make the most of this exciting time, developing innovative new technological solutions and by enhancing the way we work with our customers so we can both make the most of the opportunities presented by this time of great change.