Alarms and regulations

With no universal standard across the APAC region, Hurrairah bin Sohail takes a look at how PA and VA system manufacturers navigate Asian waters and the strategies they use to remain competitive.

Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. This saying is probably one of the reasons why PA and VA systems are part of installations ranging from shopping malls to airports. No one wishes for a fire or a natural disaster to hit, but in case calamity does strike it is better to have the means to control the ensuing chaos and exert order.

It is for this reason that PA and VA systems are required, by law in many cases, to be included as part of buildings where large groups of people may congregate. How the laws are phrased and enforced varies from country to country.

Europe is considered by many to display the best practice when it comes to standards and regulations for PA and VA systems. The region has a homogeneous list of requirements that products must comply with in the shape of EN54 standards. Furthermore the standards are enforced and manufacturers, as well as their products, have to comply with them. While this approach may have its own drawbacks, manufacturers site hindrances to innovation as an example, all parties involved know what is expected of them.

The situation in Asia however is the polar opposite. With different countries having different levels of market maturity and economic development, the rules and regulations related to PA and VA system change depending on where you may be. Taro Togawa, manager of the marketing department at TOA says: “Europe follows one standard. But this is not the market character for Asia Pacific which has no established regional standards for public address system or voice alarm.”

The standards in Asia can be compared to some degree with the standards in the United States of America where regulations governing PA and VA systems vary from state to state. The two regions differ though in the enforcement of the standards. Daniel Quek, senior manager regional marketing for conference and public address at Bosch, says: “One of the differences between the Asian countries, the emerging markets in particular, and the more mature markets of Europe and America is the enforcement of the standards which may differ from country to country.”

One thing that can be said of Asia as a whole is that the PA and VA market is steadily growing. Having a direct relationship with construction, as Asia continues the recovery from the economic downturn more and more projects are being commissioned. Many of these projects have PA and VA system requirements. Ashley Ng, the managing director of Ateïs in Singapore, says: “There is a downturn in certain market segments in Asia in the last few years. But now we are beginning to see tenders come back again. The next cycle of growth is happening.”

Most of these projects are being undertaken in China. David McKinney general manager for China operations at Harman says: “There are a lot of local airports being built across China and the government is upgrading the infrastructure of the country. There are also opportunities in the high speed rail networks as well.”br />
Fortunately, there are ample opportunities for system integrators in other verticals right now and for the foreseeable future according to Ang. She said: “Definitely, the potential for growth in the Philippines is there. I see the market to keep growing for maybe the next five years.”

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