Wireless fire safety
with Janus Fire Systems, Andes said, the company can also offer non-
water extinguishing systems with clean agents that are safe for people,
equipment or other items that can’t sustain water, such as servers in data
centers and money vaults.
In addition, service is central to healthy growth, Wittenberg said.
LVC offers service and maintenance for the systems it installs so that
it has collected dedicated customers that provide recurring revenue.
LVC sees value in some wireless systems in limited installations
such as temporary locations during remodels or retrofits. When a
fire-alarm network needs to keep operating while being remodeled, a wireless system can be a good solution. In other cases,
wireless systems can be permanent.
Common wireless technologies include radio frequency (RF),
optical and sonic. RF is most commonly employed in fire alarm systems. These RF communications systems use various frequencies
and modulation types, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates all of them. On the other hand, fire
systems using low-power RF communications operate at
levels below the threshold that requires FCC licensing.
In addition, many companies offer spread-spectrum
technology for communications in wireless fire alarm systems in part because it can sustain noise and interference
and provides for more secure communications. Within
spread spectrum, there are variations for frequency-hopping as well as direct sequencing, time hopping and
chirp methodologies, all of which help protect signals
from jamming and eavesdropping. Frequency-hopping spread spectrum
modulation bounces the carrier signal across the variety of frequency
channels in a random sequence known only to the transmitter and receiver.
The frequency-hopping spread spectrum RF protocol used by many of the
wireless fire alarm system manufacturers is also the selected RF system
for NASA and the U.S. military, which requires added security.
Integrators and contractors that install these wireless systems typically
perform an RF survey in a facility before they install the devices. These
surveys can then place the location of repeaters to accommodate building
features and any RF interference to ensure proper pathways can be found
for the system to transmit through.
Honeywell’s Notifier wireless fire prevention offering is Smart Wire-
less Integrated Fire Technology (SWIFT).
“Sometimes building owners don’t want installers to drill holes for ca-
ble,” said Ken Gentile, Honeywell Fire Systems product marketing manager.
The manufacturer, based in Northford, Conn., developed the SWIFT
technology and has been marketing it for the past two years. It’s a hybrid
system that provides both wired and wireless sensors; users can wire
in some sensors and add additional wireless versions and repeaters as
needed. The system is often used in retrofits where sensors need to be
added to a building that is sensitive aesthetically to in-wall installations
The wireless version can support up to 48 sensor devices on one gateway that captures sensor data from all devices and forwards it back to the
building’s server. The system can be installed with up to four gateways in
an area. The sensors themselves use a mesh network to send data back
to the gateways.
“Every device acts as a repeater,” Gentile said, adding that there’s a
50-foot range between the devices.
In the past few years, there has been a huge amount of interest in the
wireless technology, he said. Contractors that install the technology get
the benefit of spending less time on a single site and moving on to other
projects, ultimately getting more installation or service jobs done per day.
Access control and door locks
Integration does not just focus on fire safety but also security and access control. Commercial door company LaForce Inc. supplies and installs
intelligent access and supplies doors, frames, hardware, keying systems
and fire-door inspections. The company has operated since 1954 and has
witnessed how technology has changed installers’ work environments.
The dilemma for electrical contractors in this market is that intelligent access-control technology requires expertise both in low-voltage
systems and in the mechanics of the door locks themselves, not to
mention the operation of the entire opening, said Rob Russell, security
integrations operations manager at LaForce. The equipment is specified
as part of the Construction Specification Institute Division 28 standard
for electronic safety and security, while contractors familiar with the
electrical side of the system are less comfortable with the door mechanics of Division 8 for metal and wood door hardware.
On the other hand, he said, few door distributors are comfortable or
have the expertise with the electrical part of the intelligent access control.
LaForce is one of the few companies that specializes in both—it sup-
plies the products and installs them. In some cases, LaForce contracts the
installation to experienced contractors.
“We also partner up with electrical contractors for high-voltage when
it is appropriate,” Russell said.
Whoever does the installation can be expected to mount the control-
lers, provide post-installation testing to ensure the system is working, train
the end-users and troubleshoot any low-voltage issues from that point.
The people bidding on the access-control systems are tech-savvy, typi-
cally integrators, but very few have knowledge of the mechanical side of
door locks and the complete opening.
“Our goal is to continue in the education of electrical contractors to
understand the systems better,” he said. “We do what we can to support
them to be more successful.”
Russell added that continuing to educate electrical contractors to move
beyond the comfort zones of the electrical part of their work is a process
that often involves general contractors as well.
S WEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LVC has a customer-experience room called Suite 16,
showcasing fire panels and other systems.