Systems are now linked to the cloud or directly to end users via the internet and transmitting data in real time. The real ramification is that the main user interface we’re discussing here will no longer routinely be the panel, but a phone, or a computer 100s of miles away.
The cloud allows this to be simpler, the system maintainer can be notified immediately and automatically of any faults providing them with detailed information so the fault can be rectified in one visit. Routing testing can also be recorded in the cloud providing a live record of passes and fails. This real-time compliance record is immediately available to all system stakeholders. All-in-all less intrusive testing, less admin and management and fewer people required to do this important job.
In terms of displays, the LCD in the fire panel is slowly making way for the touchscreen, a direct transfer in from consumer technology. Manufacturers are adding these as control interfaces on panels but also as touch-only repeaters or remote control terminals. The larger of these allow more information to be presented at once, and in more interesting ways, for example graphically rather than the usual small LCD and LEDs. Touchscreen technology is also often color and allows another layer of color coded information to be added, increasing the information available from a panel or network in one screen. The information is also displayed as a button, so system actions can be initiated often in many less steps than on a standard panel.
Another big driver in the control and indication world is integration, namely integrating third party systems and processes into the fire alarm. This is increasingly done via the cloud or internet services and in addition some manufacturers are rolling out software and interfaces for their panels that integrate services managed by a third-party system.
In summary, the future of control and indicating equipment is assured but the way it’s reported and managed is changing. Systems will and are allowing more control and monitoring via mobile and remote devices. This makes systems data more useful, more immediate and more integrated and also focuses on system performance and reliability. It’s a very exciting time to be developing fire system control and indicating equipment.