International Fire Fighter Magazinecovers Unifire’s advanced robotic nozzle control systems in its September, 2019 issue.
Unifire’s ONE App–the first app on the market for the control of robotic nozzles (aka remote controlled firefighting monitors, or water cannons)–is a full-featured virtual joystick for any iOS or Android device. Unifire also offers computer-based / web-based graphical user interfaces (GUI’s) for controlling its systems, which can include valves, lights, logic sequences, inputs and outputs for interaction with other systems, etc.
Read all about it in this article.
Advanced Control Systems for Remote Controlled Monitors & Robotic Nozzles
At Unifire AB of Sweden (Unifire.com), technology is rapidly progressing in terms of controlling its robotic nozzle (remote controlled monitor) systems for fire fighting and numerous other applications.
The Swedish robotic nozzle manufacturer now offers systems that can be controlled by simple-to-use, extremely powerful Graphical User Interfaces (GUI’s). These advanced systems can be controlled and monitored from anywhere in the world, by computer or any iOS or Android device.
Unifire also now offers custom GUI’s to control and react to an unlimited number and variety of electronic peripheral devices, including valves, lights, alarms, tank level gauges, anemometers and virtually any other electronic device. Systems can include any logic sequences, system behaviors, look and language settings desired.
These capabilities are all made possible by Unifire’s advanced TARGA™ programmable logic controllers (PLC’s) supplied with Unifire’s optional InterAct™ core technology suite.
InterAct is comprised of a CAN bus cape, which translates the robotic nozzle system’s CAN bus protocol to Internet Protocol (IP) and vice versa, a USB Router, and highly specialized software—all developed in house by Unifire specifically for its advanced robotic nozzle systems. The InterAct system also comes with a built-in, miniature, full-function personal computer (PC), which acts as the system’s web server.
These combined technologies create a seamless, bi-directional communication pathway for complete control and monitoring of Unifire’s CAN bus systems over any local-area network (LAN) or wide-area network (WAN).
Unifire currently offers several graphical user interfaces (GUI’s)—the ONE™ app for iOS and Android devices, Unifire Topaz™ for control of fire trucks and special vehicles outfitted with Unifire’s monitors, and Ammolite™, an administrative dashboard for system setup, configuration, and programming.
Among a host of additional technological capabilities of Unifire’s advanced control technologies is a fully autonomous, automatic fire detection and suppression robotic nozzle system, called the FlameRanger™, and other automatic systems utilizing variety of fire detection technologies.
ONE™ App for Control by Phone or Tablet
Unifire’s newly-released ONE app is a GUI created for the control of its robotic nozzle systems from any phone or tablet running iOS or Android. The ONE app is available for free on Apple Store and Google Play, and only requires the InterAct system and software license to fully function.
The ONE app is likely the market’s first phone/tablet based app for the wireless control of robotic nozzle/monitor systems, and completely does away with the need for a joystick.
Features of the ONE app include:
- An intuitive touch and aim virtual joystick control pad with variable speed and direction control
- Nozzle tip spray pattern control slider, allowing control from tight jet stream, to wide-angle fog pattern, and everything in between
- Real-time record button, which records all movements and pauses during recording
- A “play” button for playback of the exact recording made, looped continuously until interrupted
- A valve button for opening and closing the system’s valve
- A “park” button for stowing the monitor after use (in any desired, simple-to-program position)
- A “take control” button, allowing multiple devices to take turns controlling the system
- Two auxiliary buttons that can be assigned to any peripheral electronic devices desired, such as lights or additional valves
- Menu button for set up and system settings
- Power on/off button
According to Unifire’s Director of International Sales and Marketing, Roger Barrett James, “Now, with the ONE app, Unifire’s customers can use their own phones and tablets to control our robotic nozzle (monitor) systems easily, intuitively and securely. They can use their devices instead of a joystick, or as supplemental controllers for systems that also have a joystick. The app makes it simple to control all the functions provided by our handheld joysticks, right from a phone or tablet. And, it’s not only powerful, economical, simple to use, and convenient, but it’s also really fun to use.”
Setting up the system is simple and only involves connecting a router to the TARGA PLC (outfitted with InterAct), downloading the free ONE app to a device, connecting the device to the same router as the TARGA PLC in the device’s WiFi settings, and then entering the IP address of the TARGA PLC in the ONE app’s settings page.
Another benefit of the ONE app is that it allows multiple users with secure access to control the system. Because most people have phones and/or tablets, the ONE app allows a customer to provide qualified users with their own controller, at no additional cost. According to Mr. James, “an unlimited number of users can access control of a system, and the system is designed to only allow a single user to control the system at any one time. The app allows users to take turns by using the app’s ‘take control’ button. This is designed to prevent simultaneous competing instructions to the system, and is a powerful and useful feature of the ONE app.”
Unifire Topaz™ GUI for Vehicles
Unifire has also developed the Topaz GUI for controlling vehicle systems comprised of one or multiple monitors, rotating side turrets, sprinklers, valves, display (and react to) tank level gauges, and joysticks. An unlimited number of other peripheral devices can also be custom added.
Topaz is designed to operate on one or multiple touchscreen PC or tablet stations, each with configurable levels of control and system access. For example, a commander station can be set to control all devices on the system, and a second and third station can be limited to controlling a specific monitor only. Moreover, logic sequences can be configured so that, for example, only one monitor can operate at a time, automatically ensuring that other valves are closed before it is operated.
The GUI displays an outline of the vehicle and all system components in their respective positions on the vehicle. It also shows tank levels in real time and provides warnings when water, foam or other tank levels are low.
Ammolite™ Administrative Dashboard
Ammolite is Unifire’s graphical user interface designed to provide a simple computer-based interface for the setup, configuration and administration of InterAct systems.
Users simply connect a standard personal computer to the TARGA PLC and are then able to calibrate the system, view and configure system settings, see in real time all CAN bus system data, including motor positions and loads, etc.
If customers desire and provide secure login credentials to Unifire, Unifire can also remotely login to a system to assist with setup, troubleshooting, programming, updating software and firmware, etc.
“Ammolite is a very powerful and flexible interface, which provides complete system visibility as well as system and component configuration and monitoring. Because it runs on Internet Protocol, it allows any connected computer with secure credentials to interface with the robotic nozzle system for comprehensive system management,” explains Mattias Eggert, Unifire’s Managing Director.
Customized Graphical User Interfaces
With the InterAct core technology now fully developed and proven in the market, creating new and customized graphical user interfaces for customers is, in essence, as simple as building a web site. Unifire is able to quickly develop GUI’s with its customers’ desired system arrangement (with any number of monitors, valves, and other peripheral system components), functions, logic sequences, buttons, language(s), colors, logos, and graphics.
Further development of additional GUI’s are also underway at Unifire and expected to be released in the near future. Among them is a GUI that will combine multiple systems into a single, intuitive dashboard, allowing users to view, monitor and control an unlimited number of robotic nozzle systems, from any remote location in the world.
FlameRanger™ Fully Automatic Fire Detection & Suppression System
Unifire also offers its FlameRanger system, which takes in signals from two or more independent flame detectors and, completely autonomously, detects fires in seconds and triangulates and tracks their size and positions. The system then accurately aims the robotic nozzle at the fire’s source, opens the system’s valve, and suppresses the fire (or fires) dynamically, as would a live human firefighter, directly on the fire. Shortly after the fire is suppressed, the system closes the valve and goes back into stand-by mode, ready to react again should another fire break out.
Unifire also offers other fully automatic systems for recycling and waste management facilities. Systems can be integrated with thermal imaging cameras or a variety of fire detectors. Unifire has supplied systems, for example, in which large areas are broken into pre-defined zones, each with a fire detector. When fire is detected in any of the zones, the robotic nozzle automatically suppresses that zone by means of a pre-recorded spray pattern programmed on site to protect that zone.
Further information and details about Unifire’s technology, including the InterAct system and Graphical User Interfaces is available at Unifire.com. Detailed information about the FlameRanger fully automatic fire detection and suppression system are available at FlameRanger.com.