Waves of Protection: A Closer Look at Wireless Mesh Networks

Honeywell recently brought the reliability and flexibility of wireless technology to the fire alarm market with the new Smart Wireless Integrated Fire Technology (SWIFT) devices. Although the technology has a lot of very cool features, one of the most exciting aspects of the SWIFT devices is the way in which they communicate: through the innovative use of a Class A mesh network.

In the last 10 years, mesh networks have become increasingly common in consumer applications, primarily for providing reliable, widespread Internet access. And by bringing mesh-networking technology to the fire alarm world, Honeywell has given installers and end users the flexibility they’ve been wanting for a long time.
Let’s take a closer look at mesh networks to get a better understanding of how they work in the SWIFT system.

Basics of Mesh Networks
Honeywell’s SWIFT wireless modules form a Class A mesh network within a facility, which means that each device in the array of smoke detectors and monitor modules forms its own bi-directional communication structure. Each device also acts as a repeater, so communication goes from point A to point B.

The mesh network ensures that SWIFT systems are incredibly reliable. It uses frequency-hopping to prevent system interference. In addition, the Class A mesh network creates redundant communication paths between each device, so if one device is lost, the devices immediately find another path for communication.

The mesh network uses a patented time-slotted communication scheme called Cascading Wave Protocol to send information back and forth between the wireless devices and the Gateway, which is the system’s main controlling element. Each SWIFT device features bi-directional communication for reliable data transmission. We call it a “parent-child” relationship: Every child device has two parents to send information through to the fire panel and every fire panel command is routed through two paths to the destination devices. That way, inbound and outbound waves of information—including alerts, remote test functions and other commands—can cascade their way through the parent and child devices, ensuring that every message is received.

Every device transmits information to their parents at a specific, repeatable times. In each system, the Gateway is the master timekeeper for the entire mesh network. This ensures that every device “checks in” continuously.

Learn More
To find out more about the SWIFT line of wireless devices, click here. And be sure to join us for our next mesh technology blog, in which we’ll explore how mesh networks stack up to other wireless communication alternatives.

 

 

About the Author
Andrew Berezowski is an ACS Engineering Fellow at Honeywell Fire Systems

Fire-Lite SWIFT Wireless – Top 10 Questions & Answers

Fire-Lite Alarms recently introduced the new and innovative SWIFT Wireless solution. Wireless technology can help you overcome installation challenges, which makes SWIFT ideal solution for your applications. There is great interest in SWIFT Wireless and we would like to help you learn more by providing the top 10 questions and answers about the products.

1. What is a Class-A Mesh Network? Why is that important with this system?

Class-A is a communications classification where a single fault does not obstruct the system operation. In our case, the mesh network implements redundant paths for all communications, so a single instance when communication is disrupted will not impede the products performance. In wired circuits, this means that a single open circuit or a single short circuit on the communication lines will not prevent the circuit from functioning (typically because there is an alternate/return path). In wireless communications there are no open or short circuit conditions, but there are times when a communication may be blocked (interference or physical blockage). SWIFT implements two communication paths, so even if one is blocked, the message still gets through.

2. What panels are supported? Any plans for the 9050?

The MS-9200UDLS and the MS-9600(UD)LS are supported in LiteSpeed™ mode. There are currently no plans for the MS-9050UD.

3. What do you mean by overlapping? Examples of overlapping?

Overlap occurs when a mesh network is in radio range of another mesh network, creating the opportunity for a transmission in a mesh to interfere with the communication of another mesh. This could be with a system installed on the 1st floor of a multi-story building overlapping with a second network installed on the 2nd floor of a multi-story building. SWIFT Wireless supports a scheme where 4 mesh networks can co-existence in the same RF environment (overlapping) without interfering with each other – This is the limit. If there is a 5th mesh network added to the overlap condition then a system trouble will be indicated for each network that is compromised by the condition.

4. What information can you pull from the wireless detectors?

In panel read status you will have all the capabilities you would get with your wired device (snapshot of chamber values, database settings). With SWIFT Tools, you can retrieve statistics which will have the battery voltages, communication links and signal strength, noise floor measurements, etc. You can also retrieve wireless history from the gateway.

5. What does the SWIFT tool help with?

The tool provides visibility to the radio communication. It has three main functions.
–  Extract and analyze site survey data; providing recommendations.
–  Installation (assigning profiles, removing profiles, starting/stopping mesh formation, etc.)
–  Diagnostics (viewing mesh infrastructure, statistics, history, signal strengths, battery information)

6. Will there be more information on the SWIFT tool available? Online training?

There are a series of short videos on YouTube to demonstrate the capabilities of not only the SWIFT tool, but the SWIFT products in general.

7. How can you get a local AHJ to accept wireless?

Wireless technology is already accepted in many jurisdictions. If you need help with approval in your jurisdiction, please contact a Regional Sales Manager.

8. What is Clip Mode v LiteSpeed™?

Both are communication protocols between the Fire-Lite fire alarm control panels and the addressable devices. LiteSpeed™ is an advanced communication protocol capable of higher speeds enabling additional features. LiteSpeed™ is only supported on the MS-9200UDLS and MS- 9600(UD)LS.

9. What happens at the panel when a device is off or out of service? What shows on the panel? Or ANN-80-W?

The point will be an invalid reply (INVREP) at the FACP. In addition, on the ANN-80-W you may have a latching event to indicate tamper if the device was removed from the base or you may have a latching low battery trouble if the device is completely inoperable.

10. Is there a wireless system guide? Any way to work up a quote without doing a site survey?

A simple site survey is the best way to gauge if the environment is conducive to wireless technology. Without doing a site survey, there is a risk that certain aspects of the building have a negative effect of signal strength.

 

Want to learn more? Visit www.firelite.com to watch a 2 minute video, view a full-length webinar, or read the product literature.

 

 

About the Author
Richard Conner is the Director of Marketing for the SED Channel – Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight, and Honeywell Power. Richard joined Honeywell in 2002 and has over 15 years of experience in the fire alarm industry in Marketing, Engineering, and Product Support positions. Richard is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs for all brands.

In the Thick of It: Pros and Cons of Bid Work

As we continue our discussion on negotiated work versus bid work, we see that both approaches can help establish and grow a fire alarm business. The trick is finding what works for your company, depending on the industry and your career.

Here, we’ll dive a bit deeper into the pros and cons of bid work and discuss a few ways you can secure more contracts for your own company.

Pros and Cons
One of the biggest pros associated with bid work is that it can be very profitable—if you play your cards right. To succeed in the bid market, you need to make the most of the time it takes to prepare each bid. If you have a very skilled estimating and project management team, you become very knowledgeable about the costs associated with each bid, as well as how to structure them to streamline the process while still putting forth a competitive bid.

Another positive aspect of the bid market is that it can help new dealers establish their business, form professional relationships and prove the quality of their work—all of which can help lead to additional jobs in the future.

As for cons facing the bid market, perhaps the biggest one is a high number of competitors. Especially in the public sector, your company could be bidding against hundreds of others, which lowers your bid success rate. If you bid 100 jobs, you might win contracts for three. You have to ask yourself: Are we getting enough wins to make the bid process worthwhile?

The bid market is also more likely to experience slow periods, as many of these projects are linked closely to the strength of the construction industry. Finally, projects that bring in a lot of bids are more likely to be decided based on a dealer’s price—which is not always in the case with negotiated work.

Find More Bid Work
The most successful dealers realize that bid work is a time investment, both up front and throughout the bid process itself.

To find more bid work, it helps to get out there in the industry. Become a fixture in your local market: join industry associations, reach out to architects and engineers, and foster those relationships. You’ll not only get your company’s name noticed; you’ll also be among the first to hear about new opportunities, local projects that didn’t go quite right, new trends and more. Over time, you’ll become familiar with local codes and requirements and even the expectations of area inspectors. Doing this type of legwork up front will pay off when it comes time to bid on new projects.

Some dealers experience frustration when they lose bids solely based on price. In these cases, developing at least some level of relationship with the general contractor or owner can help you to distinguish yourself. And always pay attention to the areas in which you tend to win the most work. Sometimes, it pays to stick with what you know.

Finally, know your limitations. Resist the urge to go after all the high-profile projects, like the new city hall or refurbishing a historical building. These types of jobs can use up a lot of your resources in the bid process alone. Instead, find what works for you, and stick to it—even if it’s something like office buildings and apartments.

In this business, self-awareness is critical. Know your strengths and opportunities, define success on your terms, and stick with it.

 

 About the Author
Steve McCurdy is Director of Business Development at Fire-Lite Alarms by Honeywell.​

Building on Your Experience: The Pros and Cons of Negotiated Work

As we explored in a recent blog post, bid work and negotiated work can play a vital role in a fire alarm installer’s business. Both approaches have their own challenges and opportunities, each of which an installer will have to take into consideration throughout his or her career.

To help you weigh your options, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of negotiated work, as well as some strategies you can use to acquire more negotiated work.

Pros and Cons
With negotiated work, dealers are working directly with the building owner to establish the terms, budget and timetable of a given project. This direct relationship can be very beneficial to dealers because, unlike in bid work, the lowest price doesn’t often come into play. Rather than price guiding the project, it’s the established relationship between the end user and the dealer that provides the opportunity here. The more happy customers you have, the more negotiated work you’re likely to secure.

Another positive aspect of negotiated work is the fact that dealers are still connected to each system long after the install. Since you’re working directly with the building owner, you’re well-positioned to offer ongoing service and support following a negotiated bid project.

Finally, negotiated work is not as connected to the ebbs and flows of the construction market. Since these projects come from your existing customer base, rather than new builds, the work is available at any time. This makes negotiated work a strong source of continual income.

One of the challenges of negotiated work, which some may see as a con, is that it requires installers to be a “jack of all trades.” While bid work is often siloed by system – e.g., fire alarm, access control, telephony – negotiated work often involves a little of everything for a given customer. Although some may view this as a negative, I’ve always thought it was a positive. A wide variety of negotiated work bolsters your portfolio, which will only lead to more opportunities in the future.

Find More Negotiated Work
Most negotiated work comes from your existing customer base, so every successful install could lead to additional projects. You already have a relationship established with your customers; here is your opportunity to build upon it.

Reach out to your existing customers every quarter or twice a year to offer additional or updated services. Whether you work with telephony, electrical or access control technology, make them aware that you offer more than just security systems. You have the rare opportunity to save your customers money or provide them improved service. Don’t miss out on it.

Here are a few ideas for finding negotiated work opportunities in your existing customer base:

  • Ask, “Do you know we offer superior fire alarm monitoring that beats your current rate?”
  • Find out if they have carbon monoxide detectors. If not, make sure they know about CO requirements.
  • When fire alarm codes change in your area, contact each customer to inform them of any vulnerabilities and liabilities. Help them upgrade their system and stay in compliance.
  • Offer to upgrade their phone lines to GSM or IP – a proposition that could save your customers up to $200 a month by eliminating third-party phone company fees.
  • As customers approach the end of their service agreements, contact them and offer to upgrade their systems. This is a perfect opportunity to secure a new contract, which is a win-win for you and the customer.

Installers who make negotiated work an ongoing part of their business are well-positioned to create a strong, consistent cash flow. If you’ve operated primarily in the bid market up until now, this is the chance to start focusing on your customer relationships and putting them to work for your business.

 

About the Author
John Maccone is the director of sales for Fire-Lite Alarms at Honeywell. An industry veteran, John has worked in the industry for 35 years and with Honeywell for 14. In his role, John serves as the lead representative of the Fire-Lite/Silent Knight and Honeywell Power brands to the corporate offices of the nation’s leading and largest installation, service and monitoring providers.

Lite-Connect Obtains FM & FDNY Approvals

Fire-Lite’s new Lite-Connect solution now has Factory Mutual (FM) and FDNY approvals! These approvals will allow you to use Lite-Connect in more places and applications.

Lite-Connect is a solution that allows building owners reduce the number of phone lines by consolidating the central station communications to a single MS-9050UD fire alarm control panel. Using fiber-optic technology, the panels are connected together and the MS-9050UD sends point or zone information to the Central Station for the entire system. In addition, building to building connections with fiber-optic cable avoids potential ground fault issues and damage caused by lightning strikes.

With Lite-Connect you can:
• Reduce Callbacks
• Consolidate Phone Lines
• Improve First Responder Response
• Streamline Central Station Reporting

Learn more about Lite-Connect by watching a 2 minute video and by visiting our website.

 

About the Author
Richard Conner is the Director of Marketing for Fire-Lite Alarms, Silent Knight and Honeywell Power. Richard joined Honeywell in 2002 and has over 15 years of experience in the fire alarm industry in Marketing, Engineering, and Product Support positions. Richard is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs for all brands.

The Great Debate: Fire Alarm Bid Work vs. Negotiated Work

The fire alarm market holds incredible potential for installers – especially if they know where to look. For years, I’ve heard people in the industry debate about the merits of bid work and negotiated work, and why one is better than the other. In reality, they’re two sides of the same coin, and if you leverage them both effectively, your business will reap incredible benefits regardless of the strength of the construction market.

What is Bid Work?
Bid work refers to projects that are contracted out and awarded through the bid process, most often as a building is being designed and built. The project’s engineers and architects bid mechanical and electrical work out to a general contractor, who then breaks up the work into individual systems. This might include plumbing, electrical, framing, etc. The electrical contractor usually contracts with a fire alarm contractor (dealer) to handle that specific system.

Bid work entails very detailed plans and is typically awarded to the lowest qualified bid. For dealers who are new to the fire alarm market, the bid process can be a fantastic way to establish yourself in the industry.

What is Negotiated Work?
On the other hand, negotiated work typically comes from an dealer’s existing customer base. When a contractor is working on a project that has a need for a new system or technology updates, he or she can reach out to dealers directly and negotiate the specifications and price for the system. Also, dealer may have a direct relationship with the end user due to service and maintenance work. That relationship can yield opportunities for negotiated work.

Negotiated work is often a result of an installer’s previous work experience – and the trusted relationships he or she has built with customers. If you do high-quality work and maintain your relationships with your customers, they are more likely to reach out to you directly when they need a new fire alarm or security system.

Striking a Balance
Rather than opting for one or the other, the key to achieving long-term business growth lies in striking a balance between bid work and negotiated work. Ideally, you won’t be overly focused on bid or negotiated work and instead establish multiple ways to go to market. Why? Because the construction market can be unpredictable.

When the construction market is doing well, the bid market can be a source of continual work, as well as a great way to build your installation base. But when the construction market is down, and there aren’t a lot of projects going to bid, negotiated work can help bridge the gap. It’s somewhat cyclical: Once you’ve established yourself in the bid market, over time you’ll create relationships with your customers that will lead to additional negotiated work. Then, you can look to your established customers and leverage the relationships you’ve built over time to find additional opportunities for upgrades, retrofits or alterations.

Get Started
Whether you’re currently playing in the bid market or negotiated market, at Honeywell we always reiterate these three keys to success:

  1. Differentiate yourself.
  2. Educate your customers.
  3. And build on those relationships.

Armed with these goals, you’ll position yourself for success, now and for years to come.

Be sure to look for Parts 2 and 3 of this blog series, where we’ll look at the pros and cons of both bid work and negotiated work.

 

About the Author
Julie Laudano is a Pricing and Marketing Analyst for Honeywell Fire Systems. Her role involves monitoring economic indicators, strategic pricing, the bid market and industry sales trends to help identify new growth opportunities. She has been with Honeywell for 11 years.