St Albans entrepreneur, a finalist in Ideal Home Show inventor competition, launches first ever standalone texting smoke alarm

(March 28, 2011)
Peace of mind possible for home owners as competition-winning alarm now available in the UK

A local St Albans inventor, who won £50,000 in the Barclays Take One Small Step competition last year to help him develop his revolutionary idea of a texting fire alarm, has launched the product to the UK market.

Matthew Newman, 31 of Ashwell Street, the central region winner in a 2010 nationwide competition run by Barclays Bank to find innovative new enterprises, used the £50,000 he won in the contest to fund the manufacturing of 1,000 Firetext smoke detectors in a factory in Scotland.

Firetext is the only standalone battery-operated smoke alarm that uses text messages, as well as an audible alarm, to remotely alert home owners to a fire in their house.  
 The alarm, which also impressed the judges in the Inventor of the Year competition at this year’s Ideal Home Show and made it to the final four, can store up to four numbers, so users, for example, could input their number, a neighbour's, family member's or a friend's.
firetexct suziperry

Matthew, who is currently an account manager for a plastic-packaging company, said he stumbled across the smoke alarm idea. “It is the first time I have ever invented anything. It was one of those lightbulb moments that most of the time you don’t pursue.

“I moved into a house in St Albans last year that needed a lot of work and I travel a lot for business so I was always a bit concerned about an electrical fault leading to a fire in the house while I wasn’t there.

“I was looking for a smoke alarm that could text me to tell me if there was smoke in my house when I was away, but I didn’t want one that had to be wired into the mains. When I couldn’t find one on the market, I invented my own.  

“The great thing about this product is it is not only the person who lives in the property who can receive the alerts, but also up to three others too. This makes it very useful for people who are concerned about vulnerable relatives and friends, such as the elderly and infirm.”

Matthew is planning to launch a number of early-warning safety products and has set up his own company called Emergency Life Systems to help him achieve this.

The Firetext smoke detector has been trialled by the Alzheimer’s Society and the Hertfordshire Fire & Rescue Service.  The Hertfordshire Fire & Rescue Service says: “The FIRETEXT smoke alarm has been going through extended concept trials within the Herts region since 2010 and once it is a fully commercial offer we are sure it will provide further and enhanced warning to a fire threat. We particularly think this type of alarm is greatly beneficial to carers of the elderly or those with severe disabilities who wish to live independently.”

Matthew’s invention also won praise from St Albans MP Anne Main last year. She said: "Matthew’s smoke alarm idea is brilliant but simple, with the potential to make a real difference and even save lives. In my experience, simple ideas are often the best.”

Firetext is particularly good for:

·    the hard of hearing

·    people with vulnerable relatives, such as the elderly and infirm, who live alone

·    people who travel a lot and leave their property empty

·    People with disabilities

·    people who leave teenagers alone in the house on occasion

·    people with pets being left in the house on occasion

·    landlords

·    small business owners


Matthew was voted by the public as the central region winner in Barclays Bank's Take One Small Step enterprise competition in 2010 (a competition that attracted more than 3,500 entries) with the Firetext product.

In 2009, Matthew received funding from the East of England Development Agency to work on his idea. He used the money to develop 30 Firetext smoke alarm prototypes before entering the Barclays Take One Small Step competition last year.

Suzi Perry, presenter of The Gadget Show, and of the Ideal Inventor of the Year competition at this year’s Ideal Home show, called Firetext “an amazing entrant” and said there were “so many uses for it, when you start to think about it.”

Firetext is currently available online from and retails at £89.99.

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