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Fire Alarm Protocols - Whats The Difference?

Grainger Fire & Security Only Ever Use Open Or Managed Protocol Systems...

The term ‘protocol’, when used with reference to electronic products, refers to the way in which the products communicate with each other.

People use ‘language’ to say things to each other; electronic products have a simplified ‘language’ which is termed ‘protocol’. Protocols are often referred to as ‘open’, ‘closed’, 'managed',‘digital’ and ‘analogue’. It is important to be sure what each term means when comparing different types of intelligent fire detection system.

Building Services Protocols
With the development of more and more products that need to communicate with each other, in particular products used for building services in sophisticated modern buildings, the need has arisen for protocols to be agreed across a whole range of manufacturers or even entire industries.

For instance, the electrical trade has systems for switching large numbers of current-consuming devices, such as lights, by using simple loop wiring and a protocol, rather than miles and miles of cables for individual circuits. Examples of such protocols are ‘LonWorks’ and ‘EIB’.

Fire Industry Protocols
In the fire detection industry intelligent systems use control panels and detectors (and, of course, devices such as callpoints, sounders & interfaces) which communicate with each other by means of a protocol. Some manufacturers offer both panels and detectors. These companies have no need to disclose the nature of their protocol to anyone, since they offer all the elements needed to provide an intelligent system. No equipment supplied by other manufacturers is expected to be compatible with such systems, so the protocol used is said to be 'closed'.

A number of manufacturers of detectors, including Apollo & Hochiki, make no control panels; they have built up partnerships with independent panel manufacturers and, in some cases, companies who offer special equipment such as aspirating detection systems and beam detectors. The detector manufacturer determines the protocol used by the detectors and publishes the information and technical data required by panel makers in order to design panels that will drive the detectors. Since all details of the protocol must be disclosed, it is referred to as an 'open' protocol.

Managed Protocols
Some manufactures supply fire panels with their own devices, such as smoke detectors, callpoints, sounders and interfaces etc. which communicate own their own protocol, how-ever, these companies release information, training and software to companies in the fire alarm industry. These are called 'Managed' protocols. The benefit of a 'Managed' protocol is that the end user will have piece of mind in knowing that the engineers working on their fire protection system are fully trained.

Closed Protocols
Manufacturers of equipment using closed protocols claim that all elements of their equipment (detectors, panels, call points, interfaces, special detectors such as beam detectors) will work harmoniously with each other, since it is all designed and made by the same company. The implication is that a system comprising detectors and interfaces from one manufacturer and panels from another cannot work as well with each other.

Open Protocols
The manufacturers of the components of a system with an open protocol would reply that products from different manufacturers of fire products work just as well with each other as does, for example, a Maclaren racing car with a Mercedes-Benz engine. Indeed, there might even be an advantage in having different specialist manufacturers concentrating on their own skill areas.

Aftersales Service
Whatever the arguments for either system may be, one point is indisputable: the owner of a fire protection system with a closed protocol is dependent on just one supplier for all spare parts, servicing, modification and upgrade of the system, since no other manufacturer's products will be compatible. The owner of a system using an open or managed protocol can freely choose a different company to service the system or to supply different upgraded equipment.

Grainger Fire & Security only ever use managed or open protocol systems, for more information on these, please see our links page.


Fire Alarm Protocols


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Added By Ian Ditchfield, 26/05/2015