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SmokeCatcher - Early Fire Detection System

Fire detection in real time: The ExCam SmokeCatcher Series

A system that detects a fire earlier than conventional fire detectors? A system that does not only report a fire but also delivers a detailed assessment from a safe distance? A system that can also be used in aggressive environments as well as in hazardous areas?
The new ExCam SmokeCatcher makes all this possible. The particularly developed software is integrated into a conventional IP CCTV camera which then continuously examines the video images to detect smoke and immediately reports an emerging fire. And in contrast to conventional video-based fire detection analysis, all this takes place in the camera itself so that the data does not have to be sent via the network to a central server hence keeping the network load low, saving on expensive hardware.

Fire detection via Smoke Catcher Software

The Software scans the image for smoke.

Fire detection on a recycling compound

A fire is detected very quickly and an alarm released.

Araani: Works even well in high buildings

Works better than classic fire detection systems.

Applications in hazardous areas, the chemical industry, mining and offshore

Whether flame detectors, combustion gas detectors, or standard smoke detectors are used: Each system has its advantages and disadvantages.

Particularly in the chemical industry, in the engineering sector, or in the food and pharmaceutical industry, classical systems such as fuse wires or heat detectors, regularly reach their limits. Sometimes the problem is that, for example, the low ignition point of phosphor makes using temperature sensors impossible. At other times, the environmental conditions are very aggressive so that the flame detectors’ sensors corrode quickly.  And all conventional systems have one thing in common: The fire detection is executed via a sensor which leads to the problem where to place it. Many times, the sensor is not located where the fire originates so that it either might take a certain period until the sensor is able to detect the applicable smoke or heat rise or, as a worst case scenario, turbulences or thermal stratifications even prevent the smoke to get to the sensor.

The Smoke Catcher System, on the other hand, already detects the fire during its formation since the camera scans the picture to detect whether smoke is visible. A training mode allows the camera’s parameterization so that certain picture sections which are supposed to be monitored can be determined and the camera’s sensitivity can be adjusted. In addition, whether the smoke is white, grey, black, or even red – it does not make a difference for the system.

The Smoke Catcher System can be integrated into neraly all static cameras of the ExCam Series and due to the particular design of the ExCam Series,  it can be used in hazardous zones I and II so that it is suitable for the chemical industry, the engineering sector, pharmaceutical factories, the backing industry, or even saw mills. The usage in refineries (up and down stream) as well as in the onshore and offshore industry is also possible.

From fire detection to a secure fire evaluation

The biggest advantage of the ExCam Smoke Catcher Series is the option to immediately analyze the fire so that the scene of fire does not need to be located first. Times are over when it was necessary to look for the fire source on a map, when the operator had to monitor the screens to detect a fire, or when it was necessary to examine the fire scene in person to get an overview of the current situation.

Smoke Detector Security Camera with resource friendly evaluation

During continuous operation, the camera uses a resource friendly evaluation concept as the software only runs when one of the following four modes is active:

1.)    Running: Fire monitoring mode is active and in short intervals its operational readiness is transmitted. In case the fire monitoring fails, an error message is sent
2.)    Error: Fire monitoring mode is inactive, an operator has to intervene
3.)    Pre-Smoke Alarm: The video analysis shows significant patterns and the operator is informed accordingly
4.)    Smoke Alarm: The fire is reported to the operator via dynamic-text-overlay as well as an I/O alarm if this is required.
        E-mails are transmitted to a group of people which can be defined individually

The biggest advantages of the smoke detection system in a nutshell

-  Significantly quicker response time
-  Usage in chemically aggressive environments possible
-  Usage in all Ex-Zones I and II (dust and gas) possible
-  Usage in offshore, onshore, and mining
-  No additional hardware components required
-  Remote diagnosis of fires possible instead of mere fire detection

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the effect on the network capacity?
The Smoke Catcher software is installed on the camera’s Linux OS so that the video analysis is done in the camera itself. This means that no network streams are transmitted through the network and the only network load created is the messages regarding the system’s conditions (Running, Error, Pre-Smoke Alarm and Smoke Alarm). The network load is hence insignificantly low.  

How does the Smoke Catcher System affect the camera performance?
The video stream analysis happens inside the camera for which the camera’s CPU is used. In average, the CPU-load increases by 10 – 15% resulting into a higher CPU temperature (2-3 °C). Due to the design of the ExCam Series, this temperature increase does not have any negative effects as the heat dissipates via the housing. In high temperature conditions, an additional cooling system (CoolJacket) can also be used.

How secure is the system?
The system is very safe. During the training mode, the camera is parametrized and adjusted to reflect the conditions found at site.

Is the system certified according to DIN EN 14604 and DIN 14676? How does the VdS evaluates the system?
Standard fire detectors are often certified according to DIN EN 14604 and DIN 14676 . In hazardous areas and critical environments an individual acceptance of the system has to be executed which means that the complete system and not just the individual components are checked. To allow a proper functioning of the Smoke Catcher System, it has to be parametrized to reflect the conditions at site. As a result, a general certification is not possible.

Is it possible to use Smoke Catcher with PTZ systems or motor zoom cameras?
No. The Smoke Catcher System can only be used with static cameras that have a fixed picture display. The installation of the software on motor zoom cameras or PTZ-systems is not possible.

How many cameras are required?
Only what is visible in the camera’s display detail will also be analyzed; the fire detection system is directly connected to the camera. Hence, areas that cannot be monitored by the camera, e.g. dead angles, cannot be analyzed. So the quantity of cameras depends on the area that is supposed to be monitored.

Is it possible to use the Smoke Catcher in combination with conventional fire detectors or thermal / infrared fire detection cameras?


What impedes the usage of the Smoke Catcher System?
Whenever a strong backlight or a glare occurs, for example due to direct sunlight entering the camera, the system is affected. Protective hoods mounted to the camera or replacing the camera can compensate this effect. Also difficult to analyze are picture details with a low contrast (grey smoke in a grey environment in front of a grey background). To compensate this, the camera has to be particularly adjusted during the training mode.

What hard and software requirements are necessary for using the Smoke Catcher System?
Apart from the Smoke Catcher Software, no additional software is necessary. SAMCON install the Smoke Catcher Software camera’s Linux OS and SAMCON parametrizes it. Additional hardware, interfaces, or PCs are not required so that no extra costs arise.

Is it possible to use this system also with analog cameras?

Does this camera come with an explosion proof housing / blast proof housing?

Yes, the housing of the camera is extremly rugged and can be used in explosion risk areas. 

The Smoke Catcher System in comparison to other fire detection methods:

Flame detectors
Infrared and ultraviolet measurements, measuring the flickering frequencies.
Advantage: Not the smoke generation or the increasing temperature is measured but the flame.
Disadvantage: The flame has to be visible so that a smoldering fire or a restricted view on the flame cannot be detected.  

Combustion gas detectors /flue gas detectors

Detection of increased carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide concentrations.  
Advantage: It can be used in warm, dusty, or smoky rooms.
Disadvantage: A certain concentration has to be reached. Depending on the conditions in the room and the air ratio it might take some time before the alarm is triggered.

Heat detector
The temperature in a room exceeds a certain value or the temperature increase is above average.
Advantage: It is possible to use them even in smoky and dusty rooms.
Disadvantage: Usually the response time is rather slow and a usage in warmer environments is not possible. Danger of suffocation as usually the concentration of combustion gases increases before the general temperature.

Smoke detector

Photoelectrical / optical smoke detectors work on the basis of reflecting particles. As soon as the smoke includes some particles, the alarm is triggered.
Advantage: Not depending on the temperature.
Disadvantage: Regular gases including particles or steam can cause an alarm event.

Ionization detector (rare)

Corresponding to photoelectric detectors, however with a higher measuring sensitivity due to certain procedures (radioactive radiation).
Advantage: More precise
Disadvantage: Radioactive radiation = expensive and high usage restrictions

… or a mixture of the various techniques


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