The house that Ivar built

December 2001 Fire & Safety

Fire & Instrument Services, which started operations in 1992, specialises in designing, installing, commissioning, documenting and servicing complex fire protection systems and process control instrumentation. A second company, Scansoft Technologies, was added later.

Founder, Ivar Kvale, had been a director of a company in a similar field, but decided the time had come to go on his own, and did so, he recalls, with 'rather limited resources.' But he was already well-known in the business, his ideas were excellent and he gathered about him a small but excellent staff of highly qualified people. As a result, the business and its reputation for excellence grew quickly.

Ivar Kvale
Ivar Kvale

In the course of his work, Kvale found himself increasingly struck by the fact that many large buildings were inefficiently and expensively run, in most cases without the owners even being aware of the fact. Existing systems were too complicated and not very user friendly - and a major fault was that they were invariably tied to a particular brand, and thus to any shortcomings that particular brand might have.

He became so impatient with this state of affairs that he decided to design and create his own building management system, and IBMS (Intelligent Building Management Systems) was the result. The system was written on Windows NT2000 platform, with Linux and Unix versions being made available not long afterwards.

Integrated management system

The IBMS system, with software written by his second company, Scansoft Technologies, provides a true, real- time, totally integrated control and management system for buildings, factories, hotels, data processing environments and similar enterprises. It covers all aspects of building management and facilities control, monitoring, maintenance and management (including financial management), through one simple user friendly graphical interface. Additional features include networked CCTV, access control, fire detection, air conditioning, process control and power management. "IBMS allows you to talk directly to systems and monitor operations, remote control the system, diagnose faults or problems and reprogram as desired," Kvale says.

Since early this year, IBMS has really taken off. Major national companies such as Sanlam, KWV, Shell SA and Anglo's giant Namakwa Sands mine have opted for the system, and three other national companies are close to doing so. In addition, two major real estate management groups with properties all over the country are in discussions aimed at introducing IBMS throughout their organisations.

Old-fashioned business values

There has also been interest from companies in Canada, the US and Britain, whose visiting executives have seen a demonstration of what the system can do. And the company will also be demonstrating the system at an exhibition in Dubai in January next year.

Kvale is delighted with this, seeing it as a vindication of his pursuit of excellence, and his insistence on old-fashioned business values. "My word is my bond, and I do not make exaggerated claims," he says. He hardly needs to, because the IBMS system is affordable and user-friendly. Users do not have to learn how to manage a different user interface for each system they are operating, but can concentrate on learning to operate just one 'very intuitive' interface. In fact, an inexperienced nontechnical person can be taught to operate the system in an hour or so, without having to pore over complex manuals.

Moreover, Scansoft Technologies is quite happy to write software drivers for any type of equipment not already catered for, and is compatible with all systems. It is a totally shared system, with accountants, managers, security staff and technical staff all running off the same interface. It will requisition quotes, trace quotes, issue works orders or job cards, trace work in progress, carry out automated invoicing and meter reading, and then provide an invoice for the tenant company which will appear directly onto his office computer - thus moving ever closer to the paperless control system.

Further, if a client using the system has a cellphone, he can be alerted within a matter of 3 s of a fault or problem developing through an SMS message on the cellphone screen, giving details of the type of alarm and its location.

With all these features, Kvale comments, "IBMS is remarkably affordable, because it saves considerably on manpower and amply repays the initial cost through increased efficiencies. Buildings that are more manageable, he points out, gain value and become more marketable.

"Is all this too good to be true? Not so," he says. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and we are happy to give any potential client a working demonstration of IBMS at our offices in Parow, where a full operational system with all the correct associated hardware is on permanent display."

For further details, contact Ivar Kvale, Fire & Instrument Services on tel: (021) 930 3228.

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