Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fire Control Panels, M2M, Mobile Solutions & Australia


Flying home last week from Sydney, Australia I had about 18 hours to kill. My seat mate for this trip owns a company in Portugal that develops, sells and distributes fire control panels. The kind of control panel that detects fire in a specific room, automatically shuts fire doors, stops elevators, takes over control of the ventilation system (denies air to the rooms with fire, ventilates the hallways to allow visibility to those escaping the fire), turns on the sprinklers and alerts the fire department. These systems are complex and must be tested regularly.

The problem - it takes a long time to go up the elevator to the 14th floor, down the hall, unlock suite 1467, enter fire zone 82 and test the fire detector, then return to the control panel in the basement to see if it worked, reset the fire panel and then return to the 14th floor to test the next fire zone.

My seat mate was asking if handheld computers with GPRS/GSM (PDA phones) might be the answer. They not only need to record all the test results (which is currently done on paper), but they would like to be able to review the results of the test and reset the fire panel without leaving their inspection location. Hummmm....It is easy to use PointSync to create all the inspection applications on the handheld and to integrate this data with a backoffice database system using GPRS, but how would we control and reset the fire panel?

Machine-to-Machine (m2m) SMS messages are often used to control other devices. Our software partners Sybase/iAnywhere have designed a way to send a message to a hibernating PDA phone, wake it up and have it synchronize with the enterprise database. So the technology to control another piece of machinery certainly exists.

The fire panel would need a radio device that could receive SMS messages that are programmed to command it to perform various functions and then acknowledge the results to the sender. This is very doable. I hope we can get this project, it would challenge my engineers and stimulate their creativity.