Monday, December 19, 2005

"SENSORS: Fire or false alarm? Detector knows"

Currently, more than 90 percent of fire alarms are false, which leads to a laxness in response so severe that fire alarms in residential neighborhoods often go unheeded, according to the European Union's Information Society. Now the EU's Information Society is doing something about it. It plans to launch a false-alarm-free fire detection system for 2006. The project, dubbed the Intelligent Modular Multi-Sensor Networked False Alarm Free Fire Detection System (, has just released test results that indicate the commercial version of its fire alarm, based on a prototype called IMOS, will virtually eliminate false alarms. Manufacturers are currently gearing up to demonstrate commercial alarms based on the IMOS technology at the Security 2006 exhibition, to be held in Essen, Germany, next October. The key to the false-alarm fire detection system is its smart look-and-sniff approach. An optical multisensor first determines if smoke is in the air, or just humidity. Then a laser scanner looks to see if there is particulate matter in the air. The detector portion of the electronics gets the go-ahead to sniff only if the laser scans smoke, thereby preventing the alarm from sounding when only condensed humidity is present. In phase two, a second multigas-sensor system measures CO, CO2, NO, unburned hydrocarbons and alkaloids to determine whether the smoke is just from cigarettes or whether it comes from any of a variety of burnable materials that warrant an alarm.