Date: Oct 23, 2014 Author: James Niedzinski Source: (
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LONDONDERRY — One local resident has made the first major breakthrough in smoke detecting technology in years and is up for a statewide award.
Matthew Erdtmann, 39, has patented a smoke detector that can tell the difference between smoke from a fire and a false alarm.
It's called ESP smoke detection.
It works by scanning the area right below the smoke detector with two different kinds of light, according to Valor Fire Safety's website.
Particles from nusiances sources, such as steam or dust, reflect differently than actual smoke particles.
When the area is scanned, particles from other sources are larger and scatter the two lights equally. Smoke particles, on the other hand, are smaller and scatter more blue light compared to infrared light.
The new technology can tell the difference between actual smoke and other particles.
"The biggest benefit of our technology is that it's resistant to nuisance alarms," Erdtmann said.
In 2012, firefighters across the country responded to 2.24 million false alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Those put a drain on resources, Erdtmann said.
If a false alarm does go off, many people tend to yank the batteries out of the smoke detector, he said.
"But then, if you have a fire later on, you are put at risk," he said.
The new technology also detects smoke and other particles faster, because it scans open air. Current smoke detectors, he said, detect particles by collecting them in a chamber.
The smoke detector patent is up for a product of the year award from the New Hampshire High Tech Council.
Judges selected five finalists who will compete "for the New Hampshire technology community's most prestigious award."
Valor Fire Safety and four other contestants will make a final pitch in front of a voting audience on Nov. 13 in Manchester.
Erdtmann has always had a passion for the imaging industry.
"I thought it was a really neat field; you could see something your eye cannot," he said. "It's almost like a superpower in a way."
The inventor and engineer said he holds a few patents from a previous job, also involving infrared imaging.
"Iv'e been doing infrared imaging in one form or another for 20 years," he said.
Erdtmann received his undergraduate degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Northwestern University.
Erdtmann built a smoke detector prototype and co-founded the company in 2012 with two friends.
The infrared technology has been around for decades, he said, but the imaging technology has become cheaper to manufacture and use, similar to when computers were first introduced decades ago.
His neighbors and friends Jeff Silvestro, 36, and Mike Rizzo, 48, also have business experience, and ended up becoming co-founders.
"None of us were in fire protection at all," Silvestro said.
He said Valor is not looking to manufacture the new smoke detectors, rather to license the patent to different companies.
The company has four patents on the technology so far, and is looking to get six more soon, Silvestro said.
The three hope the technology will change the world of fire detection and help eliminate false alarms.
"The technology used to detect smoke hasn't changed in years," Silvestro said.
The NFPA is set to put out new fire codes in 2016, Erdtmann said, that will force smoke detector manufacturers to limit the number of false alarms.
"We feel that our technology is the solution (for these codes)," he said.