Fire & Rescue, Smart Home, Social Housing

IoT Roundtable in Focus: In conversation with Nick Rutter

As part of FireAngel’s IoT Roundtable in Focus series, we spoke with our Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder, Nick Rutter, to hear more on his vision to see zero deaths from fire in our communities.

Nick Rutter is Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at FireAngel Safety Technology. A graduate of Industrial Design, Nick worked as a Product Designer for Philips in Hong Kong, before returning to the UK to channel his passion to improve fire and home safety through technological advances, leading to FireAngel being founded in 1998.

Since then, Nick has helped to evolve the sector from basic and low-value alarms to sophisticated IoT solutions utilising AI with the potential of averting fires before they even start. FireAngel has achieved numerous safety industry firsts, deploying over 70 million products, and holding over 80 granted patents.

As FireAngel’s range of cutting-edge products and solutions has expanded, it has not only grown to become a leading name in both trade and retail markets but is also influential within UK Housing and is currently undertaking one of the largest IoT deployments of its kind into 14,000 social housing properties.

During the roundtable, Nick shares how the latest connected safety solutions and data analytics can support Fire & Rescue Services and social housing providers to take a data-driven approach to pinpoint, and actively reduce, fire risk in our communities.

Transitioning to active fire safety

Nick Rutter

Although fire fatality figures seemed to have been plateauing around the 250-mark in recent years, the advancements in emerging technologies—especially the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence—provide a route to smarter fire safety, argues Nick Rutter during the roundtable.

There is massive scope for improvement by being able to connect a whole host of different devices,” he says. “Through applying technology such as AI we can move from passive or responsive fire safety—using alarms to keep people alive, out of fire situations—to active or preventative fire safety.

“By employing predictive, AI-powered technology, we’re able to prevent fires even happening in the first place. It gives a fantastic insight into what’s happening in a situation, which allows fires to be more accurately pinpointed and for nuisance alarms to be more accurately rejected.”

Strengthening the golden thread of information

Nick Rutter

While technology can’t necessarily change everyone’s behaviour, Rutter states that by making fire safety data available to friends and family then connected communities will be safer as they can raise the alarm if an individual is putting themselves at risk.

The app that FireAngel products have is exactly the type of technology that can drive engagement and adoption with users,” he says.

“We know from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and reports of other fires that communities have adopted WhatsApp, for instance, because it’s flexible and familiar and good in a group environment. There is a natural, innate desire for communities to look after members, and this tech can strengthen that bond.”

FireAngel technology and innovative products can also strengthen the golden thread of information about a property that, according to government literature, “allows someone to understand a building and keep it safe, and the information management to ensure the information is accurate, easily understandable, can be accessed by those who need it and is up to date … Without this information, it is very difficult to manage buildings safely.”

Nick agrees, urging housing association leaders to shift their mindsets for the digital era and upgrade their systems to gain a more comprehensive view of properties and the behaviour of residents so they can provide a better service.

It’s very easy to look at the short or the medium-term, and miss the potential,” he says. “It comes back to the goal of getting towards zero deaths. That has to be the long-term vision, and if you work backwards from that then you will be aiming in a better direction earlier.”

Providing holistic protection for social housing residents

Nick Rutter

Stressing the power of connected data, Nick says: “You’ve got to look at the overall quality of life of residents. Fire safety is a critical element of that, as is carbon monoxide and gas safety. But now, we have the technology to look at temperature and humidity within the property. And there is the potential integration of other care and protection technologies to look after the more vulnerable people in society.”

He adds: “Technology enables housing associations and local authorities to go beyond and take a holistic approach to ensure that the quality of life of residents is improved. Now we can use tech to level up.”

Watch the full roundtable to hear Nick Rutter and the rest of our expert panel discuss how technology is improving management of fire risk and empowering connected communities.