The functionality and performance of fire and smoke alarms in shared accommodation facilities will be significantly heightened by the introduction of new smart systems to the market.

Although in many legal jurisdictions around the world the installation of smoke alarms is merely optional for most types of commercial premises, they are usually a requirement in hotels and motels due to the potential for fires to occur at night, when buildings could be packed with sleeping occupants.

In Australia, New South Wales and Queensland legislation requires that smoke alarms be installed all forms of residential building where people sleep, including hotels, motels, hostels and backpackers. In Victoria the 2006 Building Regulations requires the maintenance and installation of essential safety measures, which includes smoke detectors and alarms, in all buildings built before 1994, while Western Australia imposes similar requirements for new properties.

Smart capabilities now promise to significantly heighten the performance of fire alarm and smoke detection systems in a shared accommodation context, thus providing a greater safety guarantee of occupants as well as increased ease of operation.

Whereas the most common solution at present is for smoke detection to be provided by single-station or multiple-station 120 VAC alarms, intelligent smoke detection systems, provided by companies such as Notifier by Honeywell, not only trigger alarms within the rooms in which their sensors are situated, alerting occupants to the immediate presence of potential fire hazards, they can also issue alerts or “supervisory signals“ to the front desk of the hotel. This ensures that staff are well apprised of the situation in advance, and have sufficient time to determine the best course of action.

One of the most pivotal advances in the field of smart smoke detection of late has been the development of devices which are capable of discriminating precisely between different types of smoke, and thus distinguishing genuine fire hazards from trivial disturbances to air quality caused by singed toast or indoor smoking.

The Nest Protect, developed by one of the creators of the Apple iPod and the smart thermostat, is on the verge of hitting the market, and promises to bring far greater ease and convenience to the provision of fire safety in shared accommodation.

The Protect is capable of detecting subtle increases in smoke or CO levels, and issuing alerts of graded intensity. The device triggers a mild alert when it detects a modest amount of smoke, and can be switched off simply by waving arms at its gesture detectors in order to avert needless perturbance or alarm.

Should the system detect the large amounts of smoke produced by a genuine fire hazard, however, it can activate a 85 decibel horn as well as instructions for occupants to flee the premises.

The system also possesses extensive networking capabilities which will be of major benefit to hotels and accommodation providers incorporating the latest smartphone technology to enhance communication between devices. The detectors can issue warnings about hazards or low batteries to both smartphones and tablet computers – an indispensable feature in era when such technologies are playing an increasingly prominent role in property management.