IoT innovation

5 fire-safety innovations showcased at CES 2017

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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
January 11, 2017


Lithium-Ion batteries. A guide to the fire risk that isn’t going away but can be managed

A hearing aid that connects to smoke alarms via Wi-Fi (image above) and a smart oven that turns itself off to cut fire risk were among the innovations on show at the world’s biggest consumer electronics event.

1. HomeKit-enabled smoke alarm can turn on lights as well as audio signal

The HomeKit-compatible smart smoke alarm from Netatmo activates an 85-decibel chime when it detects smoke. Real-time smoke alert notifications are sent to paired smartphones, whether the homeowner is at home or not.

Unveiled at CES 2017 the alarm’s most intriguing feature is the configuration of scenarios made possible by compatibility with HomeKit – the software interface that links iPhones with smart-home appliances. Users could, for example, configure their phone to switch on all smart lights in the house as well as triggering an audio alarm.

Otherwise, the alarm’s features mirror those seen on competitor products from Nest, Halo and First Alert.

An alert is sent when the battery is approaching the end of its lifetime – but given this is supposedly a full 10 years there’s a strong chance you’ll have replaced the device with a more sophisticated model by then.

The alarm performs regular battery and performance tests, generating self-check reports on the user’s app.

Netatmo’s alarm is also sophisticated enough to distinguish between smoke from a fire and smoke from burnt toast or another false trigger.

Using the Netatmo Security app users can silence the alarm with the Bluetooth LE hush feature and check its status on an integrated LED strip positioned on the front of the alarm.

Another Netatmo product was credited with preventing tragedy following a house fire – and it wasn’t a smoke alarm.


2. Hearing aids that connect to IoT smoke alarms

Oticon showcased a remarkable new hearing aid in Las Vegas.

Launched in June 2016 Opn (see image at top of page) is the world’s first smart hearing aid that connects directly to internet of things (IoT) devices, including smart smoke alarms.

The hearing aids, which could also link to things like smart doorbells or TVs, can receive signals direct from alarms and turn down competing background sounds so the alarm is unmistakable and unignorable.

Oticon’s Opn connects to the web via IFTTT, which – in theory – makes it compatible with any IoT device.

Opn, which can be customised to the person’s skin tone or tastes, is particularly invaluable in noisy environments, given that  hearing loss often makes it difficult to separate individual sounds and their sources from a cacophony of noise. The smart hearing aids use machine learning to recognise voices through frequency ranges and patterns and turn the volume down on other background sounds.

The specific sound profile can be acutely tailored to only address the areas of hearing loss they suffer from.

Oticon Opn triumphed in the 2017 CES Innovations Awards in two categories: Tech for a Better World and Wearable Technologies.

A Velox sound processor powers Oticon’s proprietary BrainHearing technology.

3. Oven that prevents fires and false alarms from GE Appliances

GE Appliances collaborated with Nest Protect so that the latter’s smart smoke alarms can be integrated with the former’s ovens.

The detector, which also detects carbon monoxide, sounds an alarm and sends notifications to the user’s smartphone when the oven has been deactivated.

“Cooking should be an enjoyable experience, but we know that sometimes there are mishaps in the kitchen,” said Paul Surowiec, vice president for cooking products at GE Appliances. “Our integration with Nest Protect helps us ensure that our connected oven owners are safer when cooking, especially when the oven is left unattended.”

Nest Protect features a split-spectrum sensor that uses two wavelengths of light to distinguish between fast- and slow-burning fires.

Residents can remotely silence an alarm using the ‘app silence’ function, even when not at home.

From their smartphone they can also conduct safety checkups on sensors, Wi-Fi connection, horn and speaker.

Find out more about this innovation.


4. Airthings Wave detects deadly radon gas 

Airthings Wave alerts householders to the presence of a gas which is believed to be the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

Tens of thousands of deaths globally are attributed to radon, including 21,000 Americans – more than six times the number of deaths attributed annually to house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning combined.

Until now tests for radon usually involve charcoal canisters, which take a snapshot of radon levels and only provide results after samples have been sent for analysis in a lab. The constant, real-time monitoring offered by Airthings Wave represents a meaningful advance given that radon levels fluctuate depending on climate, ventilation levels and time of year, among other factors.

The rise of the internet of things (IoT) has emboldened Airthings to believe that radon monitoring could – and should – become as affordable and commonplace as smoke detection.

Find out more about this innovation.




5. Norton Cure IoT router

OK, so we’re cheating a bit here: it’s not a fire safety innovation as such.

But bear with us. Anything connected to the internet can conceivably be hacked – and that includes smart smoke alarms.

Therefore safeguarding your Wi-Fi network and attached devices against the nefarious intrusions of cybercriminals is wise. Of course, you could draw the conclusion that the cyber risk – which you can never 100% eliminate – means that you’ll stick to your analogue smoke alarm thank you very much.

If you do want to go smart, then you may be interested in Symantec Norton’s new product, which it claims is the most secure router in the world. If that’s the most relevant insight about the product – if the claim stands up to scrutiny – then the most fascinating one – to non-technophiles at any rate – is surely its appearance. A geodesic orb, it looks like it could be an object of portentous power in a sci-fi fantasy film.

One might presume that the shape is purely aesthetic. Not so, according to Symantec Norton. The antenna is apparently “inspired by defense and weather radars” for better wireless coverage.

The Core will inspect every packet of data for known malware and will automatically quarantine any device running firmware known to be a security risk. It’s powerful too, boasting a 1.7GHz dual-core chip processor and 802.11ac Wi-Fi broadcasting on both 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands, with a maximum throughput of 2,500Mbps.

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February 18, 2017 7:29 am

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