Fire & security:

It’s all together now
Saturday, November 1, 2008

ATLANTA--Here on the ASIS show floor, one theme repeated by a number of interviewees surrounded the idea that fire and life-safety systems are increasingly becoming more intertwined with traditional security alarm, access control and surveillance systems. A major driver is the increasing move to the IP network by manufacturers and installers of fire and security systems, along with HVAC and other building-control systems.

Network-based architecture changes a number of dynamics. First, there is the sales process: When an IT representative is involved in end-user purchasing processes, it often brings together the facilities manager and security director into one conversation, where they would previously buy their life-safety and security systems separately. Further, the move to IP has created a new market for command-and-control, or PSIM, software that allows end users to consolidate any number of disparate systems-fire, HVAC, the elevators, security-into one graphical and control interface, simply making it easier for the systems to be considered side-by-side. And, finally, there is the new ease of installation. As the systems all run on the network, one wiring job handles all of the systems.

Johnson Controls introduced Bryan Mehaffey, vice president of technology, systems and engineering at Ave Maria University. He and JCI managed to run 23 separate systems, from security to intercom to fire, over one set of wires.

“Just like the telephone companies bundle services, service providers in our industry can now either sell systems independently or bundle their services,” said Derek Tanguay, Americas president at networked security panel manufacturer Pacom. If you’re doing alarm monitoring, he said, “why not do remote fire extinguisher monitoring? Rather than go around monthly with a person, we can do it from our panel, and provide a report once a month ... And for emergencies, customers can push a button to alert a central station.”
Pacom has teamed with MIJA, a monitored extinguisher manufacturer, to offer this service.

From the other side of the coin, fire-alarm manufacturer Xtralis has been working to create a buzz with what it’s calling the “early-warning” space, geared toward warehouses and other large spaces where smoke or heat detection would recognize fires too late. It’s “aspirated smoke detection” creates a steady flow of air that’s constantly analyzed for chemical composition that might indicate a fire is imminent.

Now, the company has launched an integrated security platform, said senior vice president for marketing and corporate relations Mariann McDonagh, former marketing head at Verint.

The security pieces came with the acquisition of Belgium-based VSK Electronics last year, and are part of Xtralis’ vision of security and fire-detection becoming much more intertwined. For instance, the company’s new control software is “sensor agnostic,” she said. “there’s no schism between life-safety and security, regardless of the system.”
This increasing integration ought to be a boon for traditional fire installers looking to gain more security work, reasoned Dean Seavers, chief executive officer at GE Security. “I would say not just domestically, but internationally, fire is a lead-in for a lot of different project wins.” GE still approaches the two groups of products fairly separately, said Seavers, “but you do see a lot more influence from the C suite when it comes to both fire and security. It is trending together. Just like having everything tied in with access and video. That’s definitely a big trend.”

“Fire is coded,” noted John Carter, chief executive officer at integrator Carter Brothers, which purchased GE’s Edwards fire installation and service business last year. “It’s mandatory, so it can be the driver. A lot of people have looked at the industry differently, thinking it can be driven through security, but any time something is mandatory, that gives you the baseline and foundation to grow a platform. The truth is, security is extra.”