Sensors and detectors have upped the ante with intelligent features and supervision, making them essential to an integrated and automated building environment. No longer relegated as single, stand-alone devices, sensors and detectors do much more than simply sound a local alarm or provide annunciation. Now, they are often connected to a building-wide solution and can provide a number of smart functions in addition to signaling smoke, fire or intrusion.

For fire situations, intelligent detectors aid both responding authorities and occupants. They help first responders pinpoint the precise area in alarm or alert the end-user to problems such as maintenance issues or wiring hazards before an incident occurs. They can be connected to a building automation system as well, used to sense when occupants are in an area, thereby signaling heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to power up or shut down.

Today, fire systems play a crucial role in alerting people to a potential threat. They are quick to alert authorities and can selectively evacuate people quickly from the threatened area. Intelligence and audibility—and new changes and regulations with regards to audio evacuation requirements—have also resulted in detectors that include new capabilities or trigger integrated functions to evacuate the protected premises.

Detectors are critical to the intelligence of the environment, according to David George, director of Corporate Communications, System Sensor, St. Charles, Ill. New technologies and greater supervisory capabilities add intelligence and help pinpoint alarm areas and even types of alarms.

“Intelligent detectors can provide the exact location of an alarm and now, may also serve to selectively evacuate occupants to a secured location quickly,” he said.

A new product by System Sensor decreases evacuation time by up to 75 percent. It provides specific direction to occupants involved in a fire hazard or life safety incident. System Sensor’s ExitPoint directional sounder acts as an audible exit sign, helping building occupants locate the nearest exit quickly, reliably and safely even when visibility is obscured by smoke.

“This new technology generates sound at all frequency levels: low, middle and high. Together, these frequencies provide a true broadband directional sound, which is easily recognized and located by the human ear, allowing occupants to follow its sound to safety,” said George.

Both inside and outside the facility, security, fire, smoke and heat detection devices bring newfound smarts to the premises. Security and fire sensors—available in conventional hard-wired, wireless and intelligent microprocessor versions—provide a range and variety of different levels of detection and supervision, so the installer can customize the design to specific parameters.

Some of the more common types of intrusion detection sensors on the market include motion sensors such as passive infrared or dual technology units that may use passive infrared and ultrasonic detection or another combination of detection, like microwave. Stand-alone ultrasonic and microwave detectors are also available. Photoelectric beams and glass-break detectors, too, are long-standing mainstays in security, still finding application in retail or other environments.

Outside, there are a variety of types of sensors and detectors for on-site perimeter detection. End-users continue to harden the perimeter with outdoor microwave and barrier sensor systems.

These most often consist of electro-mechanical sensors attached to a taut, high-tensile wire that initiate an alarm when force is applied or differential capacitance sensors that detect the presence of an intruder by measuring the change in electrical capacitance between the sensing wires and the electrical ground.

Buried cable intrusion detection, fiber optics and electrostatic field disturbance sensors, which are often terrain-following volumetric sensors can also be deployed in high-security scenarios.

Innovation continues. Honeywell, Syosset, N.Y., recently released a combination wireless temperature and flood detector that protects against damage from temperature fluctuations and flood conditions.

Japan’s Yokogawa Electric Corp. has developed a security-management system that uses shoe-mounted sensor modules to track the movement of workers inside the office, according to a report by the Daily News Service, LexisNexis. What could be next? EC


O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or domara@earthlink.net.