Fire, Camera, Action: Inside Ciqurix’s video flame detection technology

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Paul Seligman, Chief Executive Officer at Ciqurix discusses new video flame detection technology that can spot fires quickly and reliably

Detecting fire has been a human preoccupation since the day it was first discovered. This constant threat has led to ever more sophisticated and imaginative methods of detection. The human eye was replaced as the most efficient way to detect fire with the widespread adoption of smoke alarms in the second half of the twentieth century.

Beam detectors, aspirating detectors and CO detectors followed, but all were blighted by the same problem: they were designed to detect the by-products of fire, not the fire itself. Ultimately the goal had to be a device that could reliably detect flame, not smoke or heat. Many things get hot, many things produce smoke, but only the presence of flame is undeniable evidence of a fire.

Flame, however, is an uncooperative medium. Its behaviour is unpredictable, and its range of potential shapes, colours and patterns of movement varied. To produce a flame detector that will reliably distinguish a flame from other sources of radiation was an endeavour that saw only limited progress for decades.

Rack mounted units proved too clunky, thermal imagers and UV/IR detectors too prone to false alarms and the vaunted IR3 detectors were unable to pinpoint the source of a fire or reject false alarms. Those devices that did hit the market required huge flames at short range, rendering them counterproductive, and prices were often too high for widespread adoption. The advance in video technology, however, has provided new opportunities to record and study flame, and so Video Flame Detection was born around the start of the nineties.

Detection today

The year is now 2022 and Video Flame Detection is here and quickly establishing itself in the market. There are several ways in which video technology can be deployed in the pursuit of reliable fire detection. Visual feeds can be run through algorithms to detect the specific shape pattern of a flame; sensitive thermal imagers can attempt to detect the fluctuations in temperature typical of fire; even the colour of a flame can be used to trigger a detector. The greatest success, however, has been found by selecting some elements from each column.

The result is a video flame detection system that can spot fires quickly and reliably without having to wait for particles to build up in detection chambers. There is no confusion between a vehicle exhaust and a fire and no need to wait until the temperature hits a certain point.

Video Flame Detection systems have made ground in the market despite a lack of regulatory requirement for them. The regulatory frameworks have simply not kept up with the pace of progress. The days of ticking boxes have emphatically passed, however, and businesses in particularly fire prone industries now need serious fire protection systems that do the job in a reliable manner.

The opportunities presented by Video Flame Detection led to the birth of our company, Ciqurix. We had been experimenting with new ways of detecting fire since 2012 but it was in the second half of the last decade that it became apparent that there was a gaping hole in fire safety and that we had the technology to fill it.

We created the FCam: a superpowered video flame detection system that is fully compliant with regulations. Our dual sensor technology combines video and near-infrared analytics to provide reliable, versatile, long range detection in any environment, able to accurately pinpoint a flame and mark it like a sniper’s scope.

The potential footprint of Video Flame Detection is amply demonstrated by the geographic and market spread of the users of Ciqurix’s systems. FCams are now protecting timber yards in Scotland, power stations in Australia, palm oil facilities in Malaysia and hotels in the Mediterranean. Industrial freezers, methane processing plants and a UNESCO World Heritage Site are all availing themselves of various versions of our products.

Solutions for all situations

Our user-led design model has given us a very wide product list, with an FCam system to suit all tastes. Although video detection is currently outside the scope of EN54, our CORE system has been designed specifically to take account of BS5839-1 and EN54 parts 2, 4 and 10, while the FLEX system acts as an add on to an existing fire detection or warning system. The reaction to an alarm from the FCam can be tailored to the needs of the user, but precision-guided suppression systems have proven increasingly popular.

A set of crosshairs and coordinates are produced and used to target suppression cannons and sprinklers to ensure that the fire is immediately controlled with minimal waste and Many things get hot, many things produce smoke, but only the presence of flame is undeniable evidence of a fire. minimal downtime. Systems with highly accurate zoned suppression have been designed for offices that cannot afford a moment of unnecessary loss of service, and for waste disposal sites dealing in flammable material, for whom even a momentary fire could be disastrous.

There is a camera variant for every situation: The FCamX, our workhorse, can be fitted with an anti-dust air nozzle and a heater for use in low temperatures; the FCamSolo, a slick-looking dome camera, is for the indoor use and is protecting hotels and banks around the world; the FCamEX is fully ATEX compliant, while the FCamXCR is suitable for use in corrosive environments.

Our technology is still evolving and we see many user-led developments for the FCam in the coming years. The pace of development is such that it is hard to see where the road might end for Video Fire Detection, but fire remains high in the public consciousness and the time is ripe for a tech revolution to make us all safer.

This article was originally published in the November edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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