Will the Fire Market Ever Embrace Wireless Technologies?

A new report by IHS notes that an interest in wireless and IP-enabled products in fire-related projects is increasing, but installers are still reluctant to market the solutions.

AUSTIN, Texas – An interest in wireless and IP-enabled products is beginning to increase in the fire market, a segment that is traditionally slow to embrace new technologies, according to a report from research firm IHS.

Wireless products have typically been used in specific applications where wiring is difficult, such as historical buildings, but outside of this the market has been virtually non-existent, according to Justin Siller, manager of the security and building technologies group at IHS.

“Barriers such as reliability, price, variations in frequencies and installer reluctance have slowed adoption [of wireless products in the firm market],” he says. “However, wireless is starting now to be embraced.

The United Kingdom and Nordic countries are showing the most interest in utilizing IP technologies in fire-related projects, as IHS estimates some 25% of sales of wireless products in Europe are taking place in the UK.

Additionally, the research firm finds that end-users are now willing to spend a bit more upfront for the product, in exchange for lower installation costs since wiring is not necessary.

The main barrier to mass-market adoption is the integrator/installer channel. Installers continue to be reluctant to market wireless products because they would need to complete more installations to make the same amount of money as they do with wired installations. So while end-users see benefits, installers struggle to see any advantages, Siller says.

For IP, increasing demand to integrate multiple building systems is driving acceptance. Large facilities, centrally managed chains and campus-style buildings want to connect multiple building systems together to gather higher levels of data on a single platform.

Surprisingly, most demand for these solutions is coming from the Middle East and Southeast Asia where legislation is more lax on integration standards. In these regions, buildings are integrating fire equipment with building management, security, and lighting equipment to improve operational efficiencies and have fewer people reviewing/monitoring the information. It is expected to not only increase adoption for networked addressable panels but should also increase use of more sophisticated communication channels such as IP and Modbus.

Demand for these technologies is expected to remain modest in the short-term. However, as other building technologies such as access control, video surveillance, intruder alarms, building automation, elevators, and visitor management systems move to use wireless and IP-ready products, and be integrated, the fire industry may be hard-pressed not to follow-suit.

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