Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
January 11, 2019

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Smoke detection on your smartphone

CES 2019: Guest at a dodgy hotel? Turn your smartphone into a smoke detector

An app that turns your smartphone into a smoke detector has been showcased at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.

It’s a disconcerting fact that not all hotels, motels and other accommodation providers conform fully with fire safety legislation – and the smaller your budget, the more vulnerable you are.

One US entrepreneur has created a solution that doesn’t involve staying awake all night lest smoke from a fire kill you while you sleep.

Steve Davis developed Smoke Detective following a fire at his home that was caused by lightning strike. His family escaped unharmed but the experience left a lasting impression.

Worried about his children staying in places that lacked properly functioning detectors, he searched in vain for a portable system his kids could take with them for overnight stays at hotels, friends’ houses or during outdoor camping.

In the time-honoured fashion of so many inventors, he resolved to create his own solution – and the Smoke Detective was born.

Smoke Detective, which was named a CES 2019 Innovation Awards Honoree, turns virtually any modern-day smartphone or other camera-enabled device into a smoke detector.

Requiring no additional hardware Smoke Detective applies visual analytics to captured video to identify smoke, fire or something suggestive of either.

The company claims its app can outperform a standard wall-mounted sensor in recognising smoke –as the video below explains. However, Smoke Detective cautions against using the app as a substitute for conventional smoke detectors in their own home.

Technologies that visually identify smoke or fire have until recently been the sole preserve of the commercial sector. However, the dramatic increases in functionality and processing power of modern smartphones has made such technology financially viable for domestic users since it’s now achievable without expensive apparatus like cameras, cabling and servers.

Meanwhile, First Alert has previewed a new incarnation of its Safe & Sound smoke and carbon monoxide detector, which doubles as a speaker, at CES 2019.

The latest model introduces mesh Wi-Fi technology, which enhances Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the home, while support for AirPlay 2, which allows streaming from Apple devices and multi-room audio, is said to be in the pipeline.

The detector has a built-in speaker with noise-canceling microphones. Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant can be incorporated into the device, so users can stream music or control other devices among other things.

Whether the user is at home or not, the alarm alerts them on their smartphones should smoke be detected or carbon monoxide rise beyond safe levels.

The new model will remain compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, meaning it can be controlled in the Home app on iOS and macOS and with Siri voice commands.

Life Safety and Fire Protection at FIREX 2019

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Conversations around fire and life safety have never been more important, so join the discussion in person:

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Graham Hart
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Graham Hart

What a good idea, my only concern is whilst using the device the battery will run down quite quickly, therefore you will have to leave the device on charge overnight which in itself is a risk that the fire service advises not to do.

Frank Borderman
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Frank Borderman

Will it work in the dark when the lights are off and you are sleeping? Ionisation and optical alarms will

Michael Floyd
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Michael Floyd

I hope this concept successfully transfers into release. I gather that an I phone X version should appear this year, but us Android users will have to wait longer. The technical points above all need addressing. Speed up your timetable guys, or a slick coder may take the idea and get something on the market!!

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