Detecting fires with the Internet of Things – Advanced Science News

A new fire alarm technology integrated into children’s clothing can be connected to a mobile device for early detection and proactive safety measures.

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes a network of ordinary objects that can share data over the Internet, such as home appliances, baby monitors, and bathroom scales.

Almost any device you buy for your home could be designed to be part of the IoT, allowing you to do things people once thought impossible, like adjusting the thermostat on your way home from work or making sure your pet pet has enough to eat when it’s you. distant. IoT can also be used to help hospitals monitor patient health remotely or help cities automate traffic systems and energy usage.

Now, a team of scientists from Shenzhen University also believe that IoT can help protect you and your children from fire. Their results were recently published in Advanced functional materials.

An integrated fire detection technology

Worldwide, house fires are a leading cause of death. In the United States they are responsible for nearly 4,000 deaths each year; in Europe, the annual estimate of mortality from house fires is around 5000 deaths.

People regularly list home fires as a top home safety concern, but they don’t always take the necessary steps to protect themselves. In the United States, for example, only about half of homes have smoke detectors, even though they are required by law.

Similarly, the European Fire Safety Alliance reports that in nine European countries, smoke alarms are not installed in more than half of the homes where fatal fires occur. Having built-in early warning systems could help save lives in homes that lack smoke detectors or have improperly installed detectors.

The Shenzhen University team developed fire alarm technology that could be integrated into children’s clothing. The technology is designed to alert parents when a fire breaks out near a sleeping or unattended child, for example while playing alone in the bedroom.

The detection system uses carbon nanotubes, tiny hollow tubes made of carbon atoms to convert both the light and heat produced by the fire into electricity. When the sensor detects a fire, it triggers an alert message that is sent to the parents’ mobile phone.

Guangming Chen, a distinguished professor at Shenzhen University and one of the researchers working on the project, said the sensors’ ability to detect both light and heat results in an enhanced signal and faster response times than a heat sensor alone. Those extra seconds, Chen said in an email, can provide enough time for parents to act quickly to ensure their children’s safety and prevent the fire from spreading further.

Although the paper focuses on children’s clothing, Chen said the sensors could also be used to send a fire alarm to someone who is sleeping or not at home. With proper configuration, the online computer can further broadcast the burning house message to the user’s cell phone, she said. Also, when response is triggered, a relay on the unit can be connected to an alarm or similar device to alert neighbors or people around that the house is on fire so they can assist the homeowner with a timely response.

The alarm’s accuracy in the lab was nearly 100%, making it less fallible than a battery-powered smoke detector, he added. Chen also believes the technology could be integrated into household appliances, especially those that generate heat and are often involved in starting house fires.

This innovative material can monitor temperature changes in various devices, including stoves and heaters. After detecting a temperature deviation, this technology can help prevent overheating and potential fire hazards, he said.

Challenges and limits

Prabal Dutta, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Berkeley who was not involved in the study, said the material described in the paper could find unconventional applications, but that it might not be practical for use in children’s clothing. .

You’d also need to include a variety of electronics in addition to tracking, which doesn’t seem particularly practical today, Dutta said in an email.

He also added that it’s difficult to know exactly how the technology might be used, since research isn’t clear on some details, such as the material’s specific characteristics and what makes it better than other technologies that have similar applications.

The paper describes an interesting material that responds to heat and light, Dutta said, and perhaps opens the door to new types of sensors. But, he notes, it may be a little early to draw any conclusions about its true potential.

At this stage, it’s difficult to know whether the material will work in new applications or simply be used to improve existing technologies. Real-world applications can have limitations and complex demands, so more research will be needed to uncover the true capabilities of materials and their potential place in the IoT.

Reference: Chunyu Du, Guangming Chen, et al., Thermoelectric and Photoelectric Dual Modulated Sensors for Human Internet of Things Application in Accurate Fire Recognition and Warning, Advanced Functional Materials (2023). DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202303861

Feature Image Credit: Signature June at Unsplash

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