Bright Ideas in Lightbars

It's been a great year for innovation in emergency vehicle lighting systems and control heads.

For much of the last century, emergency vehicle lights consisted of a flashing single-color light on the roof of the vehicle, the “cherry top” immortalized in Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 rock ‘n’ roll epic “Jungleland.” But in the last three decades, the “cherry top” has become the sophisticated lightbar that flashes in multiple sequences of blue, red, and white.

Today, law enforcement lightbars are becoming even more high-tech with the adoption of light emitting diodes (LEDs) and computer controls. Many lightbars also now feature modular design that allows an agency to replace and repair modules rather than the entire system.

The following is a quick look at some of the most innovative emergency vehicle lighting systems now on the market.

Code 3
If you want to see red (or blue) for awhile, look right at a vehicle fitted with one of Code 3‘s new Defender lightbars with TriCore technology and have somebody throw the switch. The Defender is one of the brightest, if not the brightest, emergency vehicle lightbar systems on the market.

Code 3 reps won’t say what makes the multipatented TriCore twice as bright as the company’s LED, halogen, or strobe light-equipped lightbars. All the company will reveal is that TriCore is truly a departure from conventional lightbar technology. “Everything about the light head is different,” says Code 3 vice president of sales Kelly Kyriakos. “It is our own new technology.”

The TriCore system was developed to make the light more visible at angles and make officers safer when they enter intersections. Other benefits of the TriCore system include: brighter alley and takedown lighting, lower energy consumption, and longer life because the system runs cooler. The TriCore system is also easier to maintain and repair than Code 3’s conventional lightbars.

Code 3 says that considering its greater durability and ease of maintenance, the Defender lightbar with TriCore technology is competitively priced with other Code 3 lightbars. Existing Code 3 lightbars cannot be retrofitted with TriCore.

Federal Signal
The latest innovation from Federal Signal is the SmartSiren Platinum control system. The SmartSiren Platinum is an update of the company’s SmartSiren system. Like its predecessor, the SmartSiren Platinum controls lightbars and sirens. The new SmartSiren Platinum system also has 14 solid-state relays for controlling a wide variety of equipment.

But the real innovation in the SmartSiren Platinum is Federal Signal’s new Convergence Network. The control head of the SmartSiren Platinum is actually a microprocessor, and the Convergence Network is a combination of software and hardware that facilitates plug-and-play installation of lightbars, sirens, and other equipment.

“Think of the Convergence Network like a computer,” says Paul Gergets, Federal Signal’s director of engineering for mobile systems. “You can go out and order a Dell computer today, pick out a processor, a monitor, a printer, a scanner, and they all work together. The Convergence Network gives you that kind of plug- and-play capability.”

In addition to its plug-and-play capability, the SmartSiren Platinum features onboard diagnostics capability. The diagnostics makes it easier for installers to troubleshoot problems that occur in the field. “The diagnostics feedback shows if you are transmitting and receiving information; it shows what device you are sending the information to, and it’s fused on the outside so you can look and see what the problem is,” Gergets says.

The SmartSiren Platinum is fully programmable. Users can hook it up to a computer via an ethernet connection for programming. A programmed control head can also be hooked up to other heads for cloning.

The SmartSiren Platinum works with four of Federal Signal’s latest lightbars, and all future Federal Signal products will be designed to work with the system. It is priced comparably to the first generation SmartSiren, and Gergets says it will save users both money and time. “It takes less time to install. Once installed, it’s easier to diagnose a failure so that takes less time and your service costs go down,” he explains.

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