The future is wireless

With a career that transitioned from an engineering apprenticeship to spearheading developments in fire detection, Martin Lee, Business Development Manager at Hyfire brings nearly three decades of expertise to Hyfire, a company recognised for its innovative approach in the sector. Founded in 2007 and later acquired by Halma in 2018, Hyfire has made considerable strides in the market with its advanced wireless and hybrid fire detection systems.

Hyfire’s flagship product, Taurus, is designed for efficient installation in various architectural environments, reducing the need for extensive cabling and thereby facilitating quicker and less intrusive setups. IFSJ Editor Iain Hoey sat down with Martin to find out about Hyfire’s wireless detection systems, overcoming installation challenges, and the future of fire safety.

What was the inspiration behind the development of the Taurus wireless and hybrid fire system technology?

Taurus, which has been on the market for around four years, is our flagship offering, which most people opt for today, especially when purchasing a new system. For most end-users, a fire system is a passive element in their building—tested periodically and mostly unnoticed unless a fire occurs. It quietly performs its critical functions in the background. It’s the engineers who install, commission, service, and maintain these systems that interact with them the most, so when we developed Taurus, we thoroughly considered it from an engineer’s perspective.

What are the advantages of using wireless fire detection systems over wired ones?
Typically, a traditional fire system involves installing thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of metres of fire-rated or fire-retardant cables throughout a building. Eliminating the need for such extensive cabling reduces material costs and decreases the needfor containment and the infrastructure necessary to support these cables within the building. When retrofitting a wireless fire alarm in an existing building the  reduction in builders’ work, redecorating and fire stopping involved offers substantial cost savings. The speed of installing a wireless system is particularly beneficial in scenarios involving refurbishments, retrofits, or upgrades of existing buildings. For the end user, replacing a fire system in a fraction of the time means less disruption and a shorter period during which engineers need to be on-site, allowing for a rapid return to normal operations and ensuring business continuity. Wireless or hybrid systems are an excellent choice, especially in occupied or older buildings such as hotels, student accommodations, care homes, and hospitals. In these environments, the presence of construction teams and the associated disruption from traditional installation methods can be particularly challenging. A wireless or hybrid approach minimises these disruptions.

What are some of the key features of the Taurus system?

One of the standout features is its incorporation of the latest technology and components. This aspect is crucial, given the rapid advancements in technology across all sectors. Taurus systems utilise cutting-edge technology to achieve a reduction in size, a vast improvement compared to the bulky early models of wireless systems that were used mainly as a last resort. Early models were
large due to their high battery and power demands. Now, our devices look good and are also comparable in size and appearance to their
wired counterparts, ensuring they integrate seamlessly into any building’s aesthetics.

As Taurus is designed with the engineers in mind, each product features a unique QR code, simplifying the installation process. Engineers can scan the QR code with their webcam or any handheld scanner, and then drag and drop the device within our software. This eliminates the need for manual programming and the use of additional programming devices, which previous systems required. The process is as intuitive as using a laptop – it’s a case of ‘click, drag and drop’, a sharp contrast with older systems, where programming could be so complex that it almost required a qualification in software coding.

What are the challenges around maintaining wireless fire detection systems?

One of the primary challenges was battery life. Since these products are independent and not physically connected to a power source,
they rely entirely on their internal batteries. Historically, frequent battery changes have been offputting for potential users. With the development of Taurus, we focused on improving battery life. Our detection devices now offer up to 10 years of battery life – a substantial increase over the industry standard of up to three years.

How does Hyfire you maintain communication integrity and synchronisation across devices?
A common question I often address in business development discussions concerns the reliability and dependability of wireless
systems. With Taurus, we specifically aimed to make the system robust and reliable. The system utilises transmitters which are strategically placed throughout the building. These devices handle the send and receive communications for all fire alarm detectors and sounders within the facility. In the past, early systems relied heavily on amplifiers or large aerials to boost signals across a site or attempted to hop signals from one device to another – all of which often lacked reliability. Instead, Taurus utilises multiple transmission devices, akin to having several Wi-Fi routers to ensure comprehensive coverage. This setup ensures a robust, reliable network across the building.
Another key aspect of our system is its ability to synchronise communications effectively. This synchronisation is essential for the operation of sounders and visual alarms, which must activate simultaneously to avoid disorientation or confusion among the building’s occupants. This capability is both an engineering achievement and a critical safety feature, enhancing the system’s effectiveness during emergencies.

How do you see the fire and safety industry evolving in the near future?
We believe the industry is moving from wired to wireless systems. Historically, wireless systems were a niche solution suited for environments like stately homes or museums where wiring is impractical. However, as these systems have improved in reliability and the costs associated with maintenance, like battery replacements, have decreased, they are becoming a more mainstream choice. This shift is partly due to the scarcity of skilled engineers. The falling number of apprenticeships over the years has led to a reduction in skilled labour, making the easy installation and setup of wireless systems particularly appealing to the current generation of engineers. Over the next decade, I expect we’ll see a shift towards predominantly wireless systems, as the industry and its practitioners increasingly recognise and trust the reliability of wireless technology.

What projects or product innovations is Hyfire currently developing?
Recognising the increasing demand for mobile connectivity, we have developed a new product specifically designed to integrate with the Hyfire Taurus system. This will enable the fire detection system to connect to the cloud, allowing for enhanced interaction through a mobile app. Users will be able to receive notifications about fires and faults, as well as access detailed diagnostics and compliance
information directly from their mobile devices. We’re looking at developing apps that could allow for the full commissioning and setup of systems directly from a smartphone. This is part of our long-term roadmap to integrate more sophisticated digital tools into our offerings, enhancing both functionality and user experience.

How does Hyfire plan to contribute to the future fire safety landscape?
I believe the future of fire safety is moving towards greater use of wireless technology. Installing a new fire system within this limited
timeframe is a considerable challenge, yet with a wireless system, it becomes achievable. This efficiency is leading many to recognise the benefits of wireless as a preferred solution due to its quick and easy installation, whilst allowing for more projects to be completed
with fewer engineers, enhancing productivity. Hyfire is at the forefront of this movement, and we see enormous potential, particularly in Europe, where many historic buildings could benefit from wireless systems. The technology is not as widespread in mainland Europe as it is in the UK, presenting an opportunity for expansion. We have operations in Italy and strategic partnerships in Norway and South Africa and anticipate further expansions across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The future is also digital. The trend is moving towards managing fire safety systems via mobile devices rather than traditional methods involving laptops and physical connections. This will likely lead to systems being monitored, controlled, and configured entirely through mobile phones and tablets. The fire safety industry, while traditionally slow to adopt new technologies due to stringent regulations, is beginning to embrace these changes.

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