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Fire Alarms & Detection Systems

Open and Closed Protocols – What Does It All Mean?

As technologies continue to evolve, the options for fire detection and suppression systems come with increasing variety, offering today’s businesses and property owners a welcome, but sometimes confusing, choice.

Your main decision is to ensure that the system you choose meets your requirements and specification. Understanding what you want and turning that into a specification is paramount to ensure the system you have installed meets your requirements.  We offer a Consultancy, Design, Supply, Install, Commission, Service, Maintenance and Remedial Works to ensure that your system from inception through to daily operation meets your requirements.

The overall key factor in deciding which type of fire system to choose is working out which system is going to be the best long-term investment in terms of ease of maintenance, on-going support and overall cost.

What are protocols?

In Electronic term the word‘ protocol’, refers to the way in which the products communicate with each other and are known as ‘open’, ’closed’, ‘digital’ and ‘analogue’.

Fire industry protocols

In the fire detection industry analogue addressable systems use control panels, detectors, interfaces etc. which communicate with each other by means of a protocol (Open or Closed)

Closed Protocols

  • Some Companies manufacture both panels and detectors. These companies have no obligation to disclose the nature of their protocol to anyone, since they offer all the elements needed to provide an analogue addressable system.
  • No equipment supplied by other manufacturers is compatible with such systems, so the protocol used is said to be ‘closed’.
  • Manufacturers of equipment using closed protocols claim that all elements of their equipment will work harmoniously with each other, since it is all designed and made by the same company. This implies that systems comprising detectors and interfaces from one manufacturer and panels from another cannot work as well with each other.  (This couldn’t be further from the truth).
  • There is no compatibility between the equipment produced by different manufacturers of closed protocol fire systems; with this type of system you choose the same company to supply, maintain and upgrade all the components.

Advantages

  • Because the components all come from the same source, they benefit from a unified design approach and work together with no difficulty.

Disadvantages

  • There is a complete dependency on one manufacturer for spare parts, and for access to the protocol for servicing, modification and upgrades, all of which may put a premium on on-going maintenance.
  • System upgrades are restricted to the innovations of the chosen manufacturer, removing the freedom to choose from new solutions and to access the wide pool of expertise available in the marketplace.
  • Organisations with closed protocol fire systems are a captive market and so may endure poor service, slow response times and uncompetitive on-going maintenance costs.
  • It may be considered to be too disruptive and expensive to rip out and replace the existing system, so organisations might find themselves sticking to their original supplier when they would rather switch to another.
  • Overall once you have a closed protocol system you are then locked into a specific manufacturer who are not tied so tightly to the open market place for competitiveness, service and customer care.
  • Manufactures of closed protocol will get to a point where they will no longer support older equipment which means you have no other choice but to do one of the following:
    • Upgrade, this might just be a panel at higher price than open protocol panels might cost.
    • Install a complete new system.

Open protocols

  • A number of manufacturers of detectors make no control panels; they have built up partnerships and work closely with independent panel manufacturers and. The detector manufacturer determines the protocols used by the detectors and publishes the information and technical data required by panel manufacturers in order to design panels that will drive the detectors. Since all details of the protocol must be disclosed, it is referred to as an ‘open’ protocol.
  • The manufacturers of open protocol panels and components have to work in an open market place so it is imperative that design, function and interaction with each other is as good or better than those manufactured by companies of closed protocol systems.  This is achieved by the two manufactures working closely together in partnership.

Advantages

  • You or your installers are free to choose components which best meet the precise requirements of your fire system design.
  • You can elect to use different suppliers according to their specific areas of expertise.
  • You can choose to use a company other than the installer to service the system, or to provide upgrades to access new features.
  • Component upgrades are tested by both companies to ensure they work with the manufacturer’s other devices before release, ensuring they will remain compatible with the rest of the fire system. They are usually backward compatible which means they will operate on older systems.

Disadvantages

  • If an open protocol component is upgraded, there is a small chance that it may no longer be compatible with every other part of the system. However there is a much high possibility of finding compatible solutions at reasonable cost than those offered by closed protocol manufacturers

After sales service

  • Open protocol systems may be serviced by most companies as there tends to be no restriction when testing and inspecting an open protocol system. This means that your servicing company has to give you excellent service back-up and support at the market rate, or you have the choice to change supplier.
  • The problem lies with closed protocol systems as the owner is dependent on just one manufacturer for all parts, servicing, modification and upgrade of the system, since no other manufacturer’s products will be compatible. If the supplier delivers poor service, or increases their prices, you are not free to take your business elsewhere without completely replacing your fire alarm system, a position no consumer would ever want to be in.  Some testing and servicing can be done by other companies, subject to codes being released but you are still at the mercy of the manufacture of the components and their pricing policy which may be uncompetitive if you are not using their registered engineers.

Fire Defence Policy

  • We recommend and will only install open protocol fire alarm systems.