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The Internet of Things and New Potentials Better Fire Safety or a Safety Risk?

New technologies and web connectivity open up new prospects for making everyday life and living safer. While the IoT, the Internet of Things, provides an opportunity for improving safety, it may also generate safety risks. Information security, in particular, often receives little attention, as the Fire Prevention Technology Development Group points out.

System control, which is increasingly web-based, and remote services are modern features of fire safety equipment as well. For example, reliability has improved along with the development of technology.

The integration of fire safety systems will become more commonplace and uncomplicated in the future. As products are entering the market, information security solutions are often overlooked .

New solutions are also being introduced to control heating, ventilation and air conditioning as this is seen as financially advantageous. The same applies to firefighting equipment.

If sensors and other new technologies, such as the IoT, were integrated, it would be possible to better anticipate accidents and save both during the installation of automation as well as in construction costs. The introduction of remote services can also bring benefits. They achieve savings by making time management more efficient, so long as the actions are correctly targeted from the outset, as well as bring about indirect savings from lower travel expenses.

– When it comes to the design of these safetyrelated products, their safety principles may have been inadequate. Only a few products meet national or international standards.

As regards IoT products connected with the fire safety, care must be taken to see to it that they meet the requirements of the authorities and the insurance companies, says Petri Mero, Head of Loss Prevention, Finance Finland.

Information security is often only identified at the technical level. When working with networked equipment attention must be paid to processes and systematic approaches as well as to preparedness and personnel training. Human skills are essential.

Intelligent fire alarm systems, for example, utilise IoT technology. In addition to sounding alarms locally, they also send alarms to smartphones. Consequently, the owner must make sure that the alarms will be relayed to the necessary recipients so that the information does not only remain inside the equipment or at the location.

Notifications can be relayed to equipment users, the maintenance organisation or the alarm centre. Occasionally marketing efforts make the misleading claim that information is sent from equipment at home to the Emergency Response Centre, for example.

In addition to intelligent fire detectors, it is also possible to network old smoke detectors so long as they are fitted with intelligent batteries. Both solutions can be controlled with smartphone applications. The most modern fire detection systems can be connected to the Internet so that they can be controlled via computer user interfaces from anywhere.

Even unexpected data may advance criminal activity.

System designers consider an uncomplicated and undemanding introduction into use and use of their product very important so as to make their solutions attractive to users. User-friendliness may cause security risks.

The programs of the IoT systems often require regular updates so as to protect the data they transmit. Also, that fact that operating systems in equipment are often connected to platforms, such as Android or IOS, makes them both userfriendly and vulnerable to risks.

Equipment in open networks always provides an easy target for third parties. This means that the user – the human – must be the key element responsible for updating equipment and programs, and for necessary safeguards such as up-to-date firewalls and secure networks

Data collection and management also generate risks for information and cybersecurity and for data protection.

– Even as trivial an issue as hacking into thermostats may provide valuable information to burglars; for example, it may reveal whether a family is at home or away on holiday.

If the shields are easily broken, the hacker will gain vast amounts of information such as whether the front door or the garage door is locked, etc. Furthermore, personal information, including credit card information, may be at risk. Open, hence vulnerable, equipment may be subjected to indirect “attacks”, in which case the individual piece of equipment is not the target of malicious activity. Unprotected equipment may be used for purposes such as overloading building automation systems, says Matti Helkamo, Director of New Business and Technology, Siemens.

Information security can be addressed at home and at the workplace by paying attention to the following points:

  • Functioning networks and secure signal strengths. Using the required network structures, firewalls and passwords.
  • Documented implementation and an identifiable system structure.
  • Appropriate and interoperable components are in use.
  • The user as well as and the reason for and time of using remote access are known.
  • There is a plan for remote access, and remote maintenance personnel are identified through access permits.

– Firefighting must be viewed from a wider perspective in which the evaluation of human behaviour and implemented technology can improve proactive fire prevention. As information processing capability keeps growing, equipment and the data they compile must remain both user-friendly and safe, says Lauri Lehto, Safety and Security Expert, Finnish National Rescue Association.

What is the Fire Prevention Technology Development Group?

The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group is a group of experts whose shared goal is to advance safety and to develop the service and maintenance, qualityand technical prospects of fire prevention technology. The environment is constantly developing and fire prevention must stay up-to-date to meet the new challenges.

Lauri Lehto
Safety and Security Expert
The Finnish National Rescue Association SPEK

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