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Digi Wireless Gateway Enables Wildfire Early Detection System

Background
Firebreak USA Corp. is a leading manufacturer of perimeter wildfire detection systems. Their solutions protect wild land interface areas and remote forests from approaching fires. The company’s FirePosse™ system detects and reports wildfires to local authorities and area residents to protect homes, property and people.

FirePosse systems are deployed in remote areas where wireline data communication is unavailable. Firebreak previously used satellite technology for connecting their FirePosse systems. However, the system was slower than desired. It could take as long as an hour for an alarm to reach authorities. In fire protection, early detection is critical. Satellite coverage is also not available in many regions. 

Firebreak turned to Digi International for their ConnectPort® X4 gateway and XBee® ZB ZigBee modules for system connectivity. The XBee ZB modules connect fire detection sensors to the ConnectPort X4 gateway. The gateway then broadcasts sensor information back to the network in real-time via cellular or satellite. Alerts can easily be set up for notifying authorities, land owners and other individuals using Device Cloud by Etherios™, a cloud computing service that makes it easy to integrate information into a company’s back-end systems. Authorities are now alerted of a fire within a matter of seconds.

“We spent a lot of time trying to fix our previous systems,” said Frank O. Holemans, President and CEO of Firebreak Canada Corp. and Firebreak USA Corp. “We spent more time fixing than selling products because of connectivity issues. We needed a solution that was more robust and reliable than our previous system. When talking about fires where property and lives are at stake, you can’t afford to play with second best. We chose Digi because their system was easy to deploy and highly reliable.”

Cloud Computing Service Enhances System Functionality
Using Device Cloud, the FirePosse system can be easily configured to meet the unique needs of each customer. For example, the system can now send alerts directly to volunteer firefighters’ cell phones and pagers if an alarm is triggered.  

It can also be programmed so specific firefighters, city officials and area residents are notified in real-time of an incident. If a fire occurs, the FirePosse system can send alerts to first responders along with Fire Mapping and data visualization in real-time to their command centers, vehicular computers and PDAs. This allows firefighters to vacate an area if there is a wind shift putting them in danger.

“Prior to Device Cloud, the alarms would come to us and we would dispatch them ourselves,” Holemans said. “With Device Cloud, the customers’ equipment is securely hosted on the Device Cloud network allowing us to easily monitor the equipment without having to maintain the servers. It gives me peace of mind knowing that the equipment is backed by a company that has the resources that we couldn’t even think about. I know that if there is an issue, there will be a quick recovery.”

Digi products and the Device Cloud web-hosted service also allow for system expandability. For example, cameras could be added to the network in state parks where monitoring for remote drug activity is a concern, or used to monitor pipeline equipment in oil and gas applications.

“We can now modify our solution based on customer need,” Holemans said.  “Sky’s the limit with this equipment and we expect to offer broader solutions that will impact our sales.”

A Strong Partnership
Firebreak found the Digi products to be easy to use and deploy. The modules can be programmed in the field from a laptop, and Device Cloud allows for easy system configuration once the system is established.

“We can now provide customers with an off-the-shelf solution,” Holemans said. “A customer tells us what their communication system requirements are and what radio frequency to use, and we get the right module from Digi and the customer is up and running in a matter of days.”

Firebreak is also pleased with Digi’s support and customer support.

“I have never had this level of support from a technology vendor in my years of developing products,” concluded Holemans. “When I had the fire detection idea, other vendors asked me to pick a technology, and they would ship it to me. Digi listened to what I wanted to do and worked with me on developing a solution. Digi has provided suggestions and worked closely with me as a partner in developing this product. Digi provides a level of support that I have never experienced before from a technology provider. This support has allowed me to approach and secure business from organizations that I would never have been able to approach before.”
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“When talking about fires where property and lives are at stake, you can’t afford to play with second best.  We chose Digi because their system was easy to deploy and highly reliable.”

Frank O. Holemans, President and CEO, Firebreak Canada Corp. and Firebreak USA Corp.

Application: Remote fire detection and reporting

Industry: Wildfire detection systems

Company: Firebreak USA Corp.

Challenge: Firebreak USA Corp. needed a reliable way to connect in real-time to remotely deployed fire detection sensors in geographically challenging environments.

Solution: XBee ZB wireless modules embedded into fire detection sensors relay information to a ConnectPort X4 gateway. The gateway transmits this information via cellular or satellite to Device Cloud by Etherios™ where it can be accessed in real-time and alerts and notifications can be programmed for predefined events.

More about XBee ZB Modules, ConnectPort X Gateways and Device Cloud
XBee ZB embedded RF modules bring wireless network connectivity to remote end-point devices. These low-cost, lowpower modules require no configuration or additional development for out-of-the-box RF communications.

ConnectPort X gateways collect and process data from devices in wireless networks and send it to a parent application. They are ideal for centralized data collection and communication in geographically diverse applications.

Device Cloud enables secure access and management of network-connected devices and facilitates application development. This web-hosted service makes it easy to differentiate products, improve customer service, reduce maintenance costs and create new revenue streams.
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