A new type of detected based on infrared technology can, in the event of hotel fires, let the emergency services know which rooms contain unconscious people. Development is expected to be complete in 2017.
Has the hotel been completely evacuated, or are there still people in some of the rooms? That is one of the questions faced by the emergency services when they attend a hotel fire. Often, there will be people who have not left their room because they either have not heard the alarm, they are unconscious or they are panic-stricken.
Therefore, a new Danish invention will help the emergency services by providing information about the rooms in which there still are people. It’s hardly likely to eliminate the need for a complete search of the hotel but it will enable the emergency services to target their efforts – and ultimately save lives in the event of major fires in, for example, hotels, institutions or ferries.
Behind the invention is a three-man team who have jointly set up Safetytherm A/S. It is ideas man Daniel Bergroth Hansen, economist Michael Johansen and Martin Svendsen, who is co-owner of the electronics company CB Svendsen who are behind the development of the product and will be responsible for its production, when the time comes.
People found by means of heat radiation
The invention is simple to explain but a technological challenge to realise. It’s all about being able to effectively rescue those people who have been unable to reach safety on their own.
– We have integrated an imaging IR sensor in an ordinary smoke detector. When the smoke detector is activated, the IR sensor will perform a 360 degree scan of the room using a special system in order to find any people via their heat radiation, explains Daniel Bergroth Hansen, who informs us that the combined detector has been patented.
The detector is so sensitive that it can even ‘see’ people who are lying in bed under a duvet. However, that should not cause anyone to fear that they are being watched. Firstly, the sensor is only active when the smoke alarm has been activated. Secondly, it involves thermal images (heat recognition) which requires the advanced image editing of a pixel pattern to detect a person.
The idea then is for the emergency services to receive information on where there are still people via a screen or a hand-held device. Even if they are unconscious or unable to move.
– Initially, we are concentrating on the hotel market. Therefore, we have tested a prototype in a room of a major, international hotel chain which finds the invention very promising, explains Michael Johansen who believes that the new sensor has huge potential.
An important element in the strategy is that the new combined detector must be able to function in conjunction with the existing detector and alarm systems so that the actual installation does not require anything other than the dismantling of the existing smoke detector and installation of the new one.
Software a challenge
One of the major technical challenges is that, by its nature, the new detector must be extremely reliable. This applies not least to the software that interprets the infrared data and determines whether there are people in the room or not.
– The software for the pattern recognition will be an important part of the development task in the future, believes Martin B. Svendsen.
The team behind the invention are making no secret of the fact that there is still some way to go to the final detector, which will be ready for the market in 2017, if everything goes optimally. Consequently, Safetytherm has started collaborating with an international company as technology partner for the infrared technology on the alarm system side and with DBI, who will test and certify the new product at some point.
The team behind Safetytherm points out that it has been rewarding to discuss the idea with DBI who are happy to take on the role of sparring partner when it comes to innovation and new products.
– We are always extremely interested in hearing new ideas which, with our knowledge, we can help develop further and realise, says Finn Massesson, Senior Consultant with DBI.