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A collaborative project has been announced which will trial the use of a new type of smart carbon monoxide (CO) detector and its potential for preventing deaths or illness from CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is difficult to detect because it has no smell, taste or colour. Breathing in carbon monoxide can be fatal as it blocks the ability of the blood to absorb oxygen. Around 40 people in the UK die each year as a result of CO exposure with around 4,000 people requiring hospital treatment or visits to the doctor.

Scottish business, Smart Compliance Ltd, has spent four years researching carbon monoxide to develop an intelligent detector. Unlike traditional CO monitoring devices, which only give local alert warnings and require weekly checks by the user, the Smart Compliance device sends SMS notifications of any CO alerts to a nominated mobile phone. The detectors also issue weekly reports confirming that they are fully functional and that the battery still has sufficient charge.

The project is being supported by the Energy Innovation Centre, which works with the UK’s electricity and gas network operators and others to accelerate the discovery, development and deployment of energy innovations to a global market. The Centre has helped Smart Compliance to secure backing for the project from three of the UK’s major gas distribution networks: National Grid, Northern Gas Networks and Wales & West Utilities.

For the gas network operators, the trial has the potential to demonstrate the benefits that intelligent CO detectors can have on protecting vulnerable customers, accelerating emergency response times and ensuring the appropriate response from first responders. It will also provide vital understanding of behaviours and acceptance of the technology in the home, and create opportunities to inform future CO awareness raising and education.

Scott Wallace, Director of Smart Compliance said: “This is an exciting step towards reducing the harmful effects of low levels of carbon monoxide and raising awareness of this killer. The Energy Innovation Centre has been proactive in helping us shape the project, and facilitated support and funding from the gas network operators.  We want people to be safe in their own homes and to be aware of this potential risk to their health.”

Ian Coates, innovation engineer for Energy Innovation Centre, said: “Smart Compliance is a great example of an enterprising business with an innovative technology that has the potential to create real value for energy customers, and for vulnerable groups in particular.”

“We’re delighted that three of our gas industry partners have come on board with this project as an industry-wide issue, such as carbon monoxide monitoring and detection, really calls for a collaborative response.”

Eileen Brown, Head of Customer Experience at Northern Gas Networks said: “Our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and raising awareness about the dangers of CO across our network and protecting them from the dangers is very high on our agenda. By trialling this innovative new CO detection equipment collaboratively with the other GDNs nationally, we are able to go further than ever before in our relentless fight against the silent killer.”

Steve Edwards, Head of Regulation, Wales & West Utilities, said: “We are always looking for new ways to engage with our key stakeholders to raise awareness of the dangers of CO.  We are delighted to be involved in this partnership encouraging innovation in minimising CO related deaths and injuries across the UK.”

Richard Court, head of stakeholder delivery, National Grid said: “We are passionate about keeping our customers safe from the dangers of CO poisoning and we are actively working to raise awareness and change behaviours.  Innovation plays a key part in this and we are delighted to be backing this intelligent CO alarm, which will help to bring us one step closer to less deaths and injuries from CO poisoning.”

The project officially started on 16th July 2014 with the installation of the units due to commence at the beginning of November 2014. The trial of the units will last for seven months. Smart devices will be installed in 600 properties throughout the country including social housing, student accommodation and other vulnerable people.  Data from the detectors will be closely monitored and shared with the gas network operators so that the benefits of the trial can be thoroughly assessed.