The ‘connected home’ is expected to be the next technological revolution. There are already an estimated 10 billion devices connected to the internet globally, with this figure is set to rise to 50 billion by 2020.

But what does the delivery of services over broadband mean for safety in the home? Sprue Safety Products has teamed up with Humberside Fire and Rescue Service to trial connected home technology, installing a number of smoke, carbon monoxide (CO) and cold alarms that feature enhanced remote functionality in the homes of those who are most at risk.

Sounding the alarm

The trial forms part of the larger Hull 2020 transformational project, which sees health organisations working alongside emergency services and community groups to improve people’s quality of life and help individuals live safer, independent lives in their homes.

The project was launched in December 2014 and focused initially on temperature sensing and protection from the cold for those who are most vulnerable. Cold alarms were installed and a single trigger threshold was set at 12-14°C, meaning if the temperature dropped to this level, an alert would be sent through to a call monitoring centre who were on hand to make contact with the vulnerable person and check on their wellbeing. Alarms were also able to communicate whether any devices had been taken out of the network or tampered with in some way.

All of this was achieved using a technology called Wi-Safe 2, which allows information to be sent to a gateway device that reports the events to a cloud server. This constant monitoring allows for a family member, tenant, landlord or the fire and rescue service to be notified if an alarm is activated.

Analysis of the data recorded during the coldest winter months showed that at least two elderly people were saved from a potentially life threatening situation by an alert from the system. One elderly man with a serious lung condition had allowed the temperature in his home to drop below 13°C when his heating failed and he didn’t notify his landlord. The alarm system alerted the fire service, which took blankets to the man, and the property’s heating system was then restored to full working order.

Phase two of the trial is underway as James King of Sprue Safety Products explains.

“This project has already demonstrated the value that connected home technology can deliver and the next phase will see smoke, heat and CO alarms installed in up to 300 properties. Humberside Fire and Rescue Service is working with local partners including housing associations, social services and charities to identify vulnerable residents who would benefit most from the real-time support that networked home safety systems can provide,” he said.

Outside the box

Connected home technology can be used to help overcome some of the most common problems that can impact on an alarm’s ability to protect lives, many of which are behavioural. Residents will often ignore low battery warnings, their lifestyle may lead to multiple alarm alerts that can drain battery life or they may disable alarms, all of which can result in people living with non-functioning alarms. Landlords can also experience difficulties if residents restrict access, when they need to test an alarm or investigate why alarms are being triggered.

Networked asset management systems eliminate many of these issues, by allowing real-time uploading of data on alarm events and network status to a cloud-based portal. The technology enables remote testing of devices and monitoring of maintenance requirements, which means landlords can remotely manage estates and fulfill their duty of care to protect more vulnerable tenants. Alarm networks have been tailored to enhance individual care packages and notifications have been set to alert family members, carers and fire and rescue services.

“There has been much discussion around the connected home and how this technology can improve the quality and safety of people’s lives. Thanks to the support of Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, we are now turning this into a reality and are looking forward to seeing the results of this next round of trials,” said Mr King.

Sprue Safety Products has been working with fire and rescue services since 2007 and now supplies alarms to over 90% of the UK’s brigades, under the FireAngel brand.