Attack on false alarms

Published:  02 March, 2016

A new range of optical smoke, heat and multi detectors has been launched to great fanfare – so what is all the fuss about? Jose Sanchez de Muniain takes a close look at the Soteria collection.

Now finally available after a long soft-launch period, Soteria is described as ‘the next generation in fire recognition technology’ and one which has been developed to improve detection, reduce false alarms and deliver improved reliability.

Soteria has been designed and manufactured by Apollo Fire Detectors, a company based in Portsmouth, UK and one of the largest manufacturers of fire detection solutions for commercial and industrial applications. With offices in the US, China, Germany and a network of partners and distributors, its devices can be found in places such as the Statue of Liberty, New York, the Royal Albert Hall, London and the Kremlin, Moscow to name a few.

The main drivers for the Soteria range are false alarms which, according to Apollo’s own literature, cost in the UK alone around £1 billion (US$1.5 billion) through missed sales and increased charges by first responders.

Apollo estimates that 19.5% of these false alarms are caused by contaminants; 35% by system issues; and 45% by human actions. It is this 19.5% of contaminants that Soteria has been designed to address, and which is mainly constituted by dust (51%) and steam (24%).

Soteria’s innovation resides in a number of redesigns that have been collectively named Purelight Sensing Technology. One of the most significant is a new air inlet in a serpentine shape that provides a complex pathway to the detector, reducing the amount of dust that gets in whilst enabling smoke to quickly reach the detector.

The inside of the new chamber contains an optical sensor consisting of a high-intensity infra-red LED and a sensitive photo detector, as Phil Watson, senior technical specialist at Apollo, explains: ‘We use new cone technology to prevent any light from scattering anywhere we don’t want it. This means inside the chamber there is a very dark, well-controlled stable environment. The result is that when we get dust building inside the detector – and there will be some of that over the years – it has less effect on the detector, so it will last longer and be more reliable.’

Coupled with the hardware is a sophisticated algorithm that provides transient rejection and compensation for drift, whilst maintaining accurate sensitivity. The sensitivity mode is selected at the fire control panel, which in turn also dictates the minimum time to alarm.

Notwithstanding these changes the three Soteria detectors are compatible with existing bases and the XP95 and Discovery protocols, as well as its latest enhanced protocol, called Coreprotocol. The latter was recently introduced to provide significantly more loop power and devices – 504 Soteria device addresses and 2,048 addresses for other devices – as well as greater overall control through last-event logs; access to sensor values for building management systems (eg to control temperature control and ventilation systems); and future data-transfer capabilities.

Considering the radical design enhancements of the air inlet and detection chamber it is perhaps unsurprising that Apollo has taken the opportunity to make a number of other changes too. 

First is an easy-fit base, which means the lower-profile detectors can be quickly mounted. Next is a quick-test mode that enables testing in only four seconds, as opposed to 40 seconds traditional test time. And lastly, an integrated isolator in the head of the detector as opposed to the loop, which enables a quicker installation while providing higher protection for the loop itself.

‘An evolution in fire detection starts now’ is one of the catchy marketing slogans being used for Soteria. It might sound somewhat aspirational but, considering what Apollo has served, on the whole it could be rather apt.

  • Operation Florian

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