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Smart Talk.

pdf icon Smart Talk. (1040 K)
Holmberg, D. G.

Fire Chief, Vol. 50, No. 8, 54-58, August 2006.


communication networks; first responders; building systems; standards; information dissemination; computers; control systems; building automation; sensors; building intelligence


Today's modern buildings function with multiple control systems programmed to run different building systems. Network communications carry commands from controllers to actuators and switches, and a host of sensors feed data back to controllers. For the most part, however, all this information is bottled up in the building even though it could provide tremendous situational awareness to those outside the building - telling them where a fire is, where smoke is, where occupants are, which devices are operating, which lights are on, or which doors are open. Why should first responders need to do a size-up at the scene to find out what's happening inside? Real-time information regarding building systems should be available while they're en route to the scene. Why can't a dispatcher "see" into the building from the start of an incident, even before the apparatus is dispatched? That day is coming. Lacking now is a standard method of moving real-time building data out of the building and into the hands of emergency responders. But things are changing steadily. Building automation systems have been the subject of continued development over the past few decades. Early building control systems were isolated entities attached to heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment and separate fire protection systems. With the development of computers came the move toward digital control with computers talking across the wire to tell motors to start and stop, reading sensor values, writing set-points, and more. This was still done within separate systems and using proprietary protocols, with each company developing its own data messages. The advent of the Internet, combined with standard communication protocols, has brought about great opportunity for new applications. No longer does the HVAC system operate in its own world; the temperature sensors in a room, for example, also can provide data to the fire protection system. The access control system might note the identity of an entering building occupant and provide that information to the HVAC and lighting systems so the ventilation and lights are turned on in an office. This kind of information sharing within the building is beginning to happen. With the coming of connected intelligent control, building automation systems can provide greatly enhanced functions.