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26 Jan 2024

Smart Fire Prevention

Electronic Manufacturing Solutions Ltd Stand: A75
Smart Fire Prevention

Electronic Manufacturing Solutions Ltd present HobSensus: the new device from EMS and Prefect Controls 



Electronics manufacturers have played an increasingly important role in the development and making of life-saving devices in recent times.

When wildfires occurred in places across the U.S. and Europe last summer as the effects of global warming came to fruition, electronics manufacturers helped create fire-fighting solutions, which control and prevent the spread of these devastating natural disasters.

These solutions include remote-controlled drones, which are equipped with thermal imaging technology and hoses to provide live insights into wildfire outbreaks – and help to extinguish them – even in remote or inaccessible locations.

Such innovative electronics have helped keep people safe in difficult times last year. And now, organisations are bringing the safety benefits of tech-driven products closer to home: in the kitchens of university halls, where fires are an alarmingly common, extremely dangerous occurrence.

Keeping students safe

Whilst some students make a habit of returning to their accommodation late at night (or in the early hours of the morning) to cook a meal under the influence of alcohol, others may be more careful — but simply lack experience in the kitchen.

As a result, halls residents can easily make a plethora of dangerous mistakes at mealtimes.

Research from Electrical Safety First found that:

  • One in seven students, the equivalent of almost 300,000, had fallen asleep with food cooking.
  • Over half of students admitted to cooking whilst drunk or after drinking.
  • One in four students were guilty of putting a knife or fork into a toaster.
  • A fifth said they’d misused the microwave — either for fun or by mistake — by putting something inside it that shouldn’t be put in a microwave.
  • Almost three quarters confessed they’d been distracted whilst cooking food, subsequently leaving it unattended.

All this can (and often does) lead to fires.

In fact, the problem of fires in university kitchens is so bad that from 2015–2020, London firefighters attended 1,262 fire-related incidents at universities, with over 90% of these fires being caused simply by unattended cooking or overdone toast.

Prefect Controls set out to do something about this issue in 2023, having supplied energy controls for student accommodation providers for decades. Which is how HobSensus came about…

Designed to prevent accidental fire in university kitchens, HobSensus monitors the temperature across 64 zones on the cooking surface and triggers flashing amber lights and a beeping sound if temperatures exceed 250 degrees Celsius. If temperatures reach 290 degrees Celsius, the power to the hob is cut off.

The device also features a built-in timer, which can be set to 15, 20, 30 and 120 minutes, and automatically switches the hob off when time runs out — covering all eventualities.

To use HobSensus, users just need to press a button to start the timer. HobSensus can also be connected to smoke and fire alarms and call a designated number to inform the receiver the unit’s been triggered.

It wasn’t easy to create a product this innovative. So, how did we do it?

Manufacturing excellence

To ensure HobSensus met the highest possible standards required to effectively prevent accidental fires, Prefect Controls enlisted help from Electronics Manufacturing Solutions (EMS): a global electronic manufacturing services provider with experience across a wide range of sectors, including energy and building controls.

EMS was involved in this project from a design-for-manufacturing point of view. That meant the organisation was responsible for optimising the construction and assembly of Prefect Controls’ product, all whilst accounting for any potential post-installation challenges.

For instance, EMS didn’t just handle everything from HobSensus’s integrated heat sensors and timers to its packaging, but it also developed prototypes and conducted numerous tests before the final product was completed to minimise the risk of errors.

What’s more, EMS moulded the device’s timer in polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (PC-ABS), which is fully UV stable and resistant to cleaning products, and finished the final product with a gloss overlay, meaning any surface dirt can be simply wiped away. Plus, EMS helped tamper-proof the device, ensuring meddling from students won’t interfere with HobSensus’s effectiveness.

And the results speak for themselves!

At last year’s annual Electrical Safety First (ESF) conference, held in November by the leading authority on electrical safety, HobSensus was granted the Safety Innovation Award 2023.

The ESF panel noted that HobSensus is tested and approved to BS EN50615 Category B whilst praising its robustness and ability to be affordably retrofitted into existing installations and integrated with other fire systems. They also commended its ability to identify patterns of risk in student accommodation settings, in addition to the fact that it’s targeted to installations that are higher risk.

It’s an immense honour for Prefect Controls and EMS to have been recognised by such a prestigious institution and speaks volumes about the significance of HobSensus. Though it might’ve been designed for university halls, there’s no doubt that this device should be (and surely will become) a safety consideration in all kitchens everywhere.


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