Published on 01 Feb 2018

Fighting False Fire Alarms

From June 2018, all new homes in Singapore will have to be installed with smoke detectors due to a recent rise in the number of residential fire-related injuries. As this is likely to cause an increase in the number of false alarms, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) partnered the EEE to develop a system that can determine if a fire has actually broken out in the home. 

Most home fire alarm devices have a sensing chamber containing a beam of light, and are triggered when enough smoke enters the chamber to obstruct the light beam. Smoke, however, can come from dangerous fires or from more innocuous activities such as cooking, cigarette-smoking or incense-burning; the alarm devices cannot tell the difference. 

The EEE system involves installing additional sensors in the home to detect motion, gas particles, sound, temperature and humidity. The data from these sensors is then fed into a computer algorithm that will determine the likely cause when the fire alarm is triggered, and alert relevant parties such as the SCDF via text message or a mobile app if it is a false alarm. 
Professor Gan Woon Seng from the EEE, the project’s principal investigator, noted: “Once new homes are mandated to have home fire alarm devices, the number of false alarms will go up, and this could have a significant impact on the SCDF’s resources. Our invention can help the SCDF to understand and prioritise the alarms to get help to people who need it.” 
Prof Gan, who is the ex-director of EEE’s Centre for Infocomm Technology INFINITUS (currently known as CISS), which focuses on information and communication engineering, including communication and network systems, data analytics and cyber security, added that the system could be especially helpful for the elderly who live alone. 
“The elderly might not know how to reset the alarm or ask for help to do so after it goes off due to a false alarm. Our invention, by alerting the authorities to false alarms, can be one way to help them,” he said.