Rather than just have a set of terminals for each zone, I'd like the ability to send a binary code to the hardware to trip (or nor trip), for example, an alarm condition, by some sort of serial bus connector.
This would mean that systems attached to the bus could send codes to the board saying "I'm okay" or "Yikes!" or whatever.
I'd personally use this with Pi or Beaglebones, who'd monitor various sensors, and would repeatedly connect to the motherboard reporting on the various states of the sensors. Some of these may be alarm sensors, some may be other types of sensors etc.