Protecting lives, assets and business continuity has long been the foundation of fire safety. This goal is unchanged, yet the advent of smart buildings and the increasing role of IoT-enabled fire-safety solutions means that the method of achieving this goal has certainly changed. From detection and evacuation to extinguishing and danger management, the potential afforded by ever increasing digitalization and cloud connectivity has never been greater.
Smart interfaces are talking to each other on a continuous basis. But that is only half the story. Data in itself is largely meaningless. It is harnessing the power of these data through effective analysis which provides the means to achieve truly smarter fire protection. As we move from the era of big data into hyper data, effectively managing these data to provide organizational insights will become even more important. This approach enables smarter decision-making against a backdrop of the most basic requirements: providing year-round protection and connecting technology to optimize performance, whilst sustaining undisturbed spaces.
Predictive maintenance is key to optimizing fire safety and performance
Increasingly, fire-safety solutions feature components with built-in intelligence. Data gathered from IoT-enabled detectors can include function test results, soiling and danger level statistics, all of which can be sent to the cloud to offer invaluable, real-time performance insights.
Such devices are a major contributor to a proactive rather than reactive approach to maintenance, continuously and automatically measuring and evaluating the performance of a system or device and thereby anticipating both failures and the need for maintenance checks.
If checks are necessary, the advent of remote services made means they can partially be undertaken off-site. This reduces time-consuming and potentially disruptive on-site visits. Instead, with flexible remote access 24/7, and devices that can guarantee no false alarms, building occupants are undisturbed. This also offers significant environmental benefits, such as less travel, reduced fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions.
Smart fire-safety systems rely increasingly on cybersecurity
The cloud is increasingly a central feature in our daily lives. In fire safety, it is providing solutions which are taking protection to the next level. Web portals provide secure connection with the cloud, while mobile apps are also gaining ground in ensuring a smoother commissioning and configuration of systems, as well as providing the opportunity to access information on fire-safety sites irrespective of your location. Strict built-in cybersecurity measures provide the peace of mind to use the apps to connect fire-protection systems to the cloud. They play a crucial role in preserving data confidentiality, integrity and availability.
While digitalization ensures that remote services can be carried out more easily, the competence of the service personnel and knowledge of the operation of a particular site remains key, whether conducted on- or off-site.
IoT-enabled solutions help sustain undisturbed spaces
The inconvenience often associated with conducting devices’ health checks has long been an issue, particularly in public buildings. A maintenance visit for a fire-protection system in a hospital or hotel, for example, can be especially disruptive. Thanks to the latest technologies, these checks can now be conducted at any time, even during normal operating hours, sustaining undisturbed spaces.
The next-generation detectors enable regular testing, significantly reducing downtime compared to a conventional testing regime. They work in the background, autonomously, silently and intelligently. With the cloud and the back-up of skilled engineers to provide the necessary remote maintenance and support, they work 24/7, continuously measuring and evaluating their own performance, anticipating failures, and predicting the need for maintenance checks. Their purpose is to keep people safe without operational interruptions and without compromising the building’s safety, while at the same time providing the peace of mind that everything is under control.
Digitalization of fire-safety solutions triggers multiple paradigm shifts
Alongside the shift from reactive to predictive maintenance, there is a definite trend to migrate from prescriptive to performance-based fire safety. Science and engineering in the design of life-safety systems are being applied to identify risks and potential fire scenarios. This not only provides the potential for more efficiency but, importantly, it also offers a solution which meets the specific needs of an application without compromising fire safety. Manufacturers, service providers, building owners end users, authorities and fire services should be part of the drive to effect legislative change. We all must challenge ourselves to push forwards with the true purpose of connecting buildings. We need to understand each building’s specific requirements, and purposefully ‘connect’ with those buildings to make smarter decisions. This enables the development of truly tailored fire-safety concepts rather than those which seek to take a generic ‘checklist’ approach.
The digitalization of fire safety is ultimately a chance to change the status quo and move towards a more contemporary, competent and rigorous approach to ensure year-round fire safety while sustaining undisturbed spaces. That’s why Smarter Protection Matters in fire safety.
To find out more about Smarter Protection Matters, go to siemens.com/firesafety