Video cameras are already at the forefront of the security industry; now new technology being developed by UTC Fire & Security is bringing cameras into the front line of fire protection as well.
Video Fire Detection (VFD) technology uses the same analytics as security cameras and combines them with algorithms that add intelligence and responsiveness. The result is a fire detection system capable of providing sophisticated threat analysis and advanced warning that exceeds many of today’s detection and alarm technologies.
At the heart of UTC Fire & Security’s VFD technology are highly complex algorithms capable of analyzing fire’s unique characteristics such as flicker, color and structure.
"We studied how humans recognize fire and came up with a list of key characteristics and then programmed the algorithms to look for these attributes," said Alan Finn, research fellow at the United Technologies Research Center, the R&D arm that provides the brainpower behind many of UTC's most complex products.
"Computing fire’s chaotic movement is really difficult however, so our algorithms use a number of proxies – like a check and balance system," he continued.
The system also uses what Finn calls a “fusion algorithm” which plays a critical role in helping to reduce false alarms – a problem that has plagued the industry for years.
The fusion algorithm does what its name implies – it reviews all the information from each of the algorithms and insists that a set combination of fire characteristics be present in order to trigger the alarm.
For example, if the system sees certain combinations of motion and color that suggest fire, such as an orange leaf moving in the wind, but other important factors like smoke are absent, the system won’t alarm.
"The fusion algorithm enables us to incorporate the certainty of each individual detection algorithm to make an overall decision as to if it’s a fire or not," explained Finn. "The key to high probability detection and low false alarm rates is to have as many different measures of what is flame and what is smoke and then combine them into one reliable system."
UTC Fire & Security’s VFD system is designed to be as customizable as it is accurate.
Suited for a wide variety of applications, customers can make adjustments by type of fire, type of installation, or the type of variables in the environment where the cameras are being installed. The system also comes pre-programmed with a number of default settings, giving users a highly technical solution that is also easy to configure.
As an early innovator in this area, UTC Fire & Security will soon release its new suite of video fire detection capabilities. In development since the company first entered the industry in 2003, the VFD launch exemplifies the company’s commitment to interoperable solutions that meet a wide variety of customer needs and that work with each other.
"VFD provides a good example of interoperability by linking our security software platform with traditional smoke and fire detection systems. It is the next logical step in our goal to provide customers with real-time data across their entire enterprise."
said Michael Regelski, chief technology officer for UTC Fire & Security’s global security products group.
"VFD is integrated into the same network as the existing security system, enabling users to cut right to video when an alarm is sounded to verify the cause," Regelski continued. "This also enables users to receive alerts on their cell phones, blackberries or even on their home computer."