Articles by Ian Bridgewater
TOA Corporation (UK) Ltd discuss what changes COVID-19 has bought to the installation of VA/PA Systems and how the integration of IP has impacted on that. With a year and a half of global uncertainty, we have seen huge changes in what VA/PA systems will need to deliver in order to provide safe and robust solutions with advanced zone and directional messaging. The impact of COVID has pushed installers to re-think what end-users need long-term to manage any future changes in guidelines especially for large events and complex applications such as travel hubs and how the integration of IP will assist with installing safe systems in the future. Providing public announcements PA/VA has been one of the few parts of our industry that has remained consistent and buoyant during the lockdown. It has been the ideal time for public buildings to upgrade as restrictions did not apply to the construction industry and many installations were actually fast-tracked in the hope that when restrictions lifted commercial properties could open as quickly as possible. PA/VA has been one of the few parts of our industry that has remained consistent This was coupled with the knowledge that changes would have to be made to address the increased demand in providing public announcements outside the standard evacuation messages that most VA/PA have been traditionally used for and enable the impact of having to be flexible to deliver multiple messages. Flexible system management So what is changing? Leading in VA/PA is the availability of IP which enables more flexible system management. It allows installation/solution management engineers to offer remote access to complex systems from a central control room meaning that they can maintain and control systems from one hub and operate for multiple areas on large complex sites such as an airport or stadiums. This provides not only a better level of technical coverage across a whole site but also allows an engineer to monitor and fault find without the delay of waiting to being able to access a specific area. This is especially important for vulnerable applications such as schools and health facilities as it enables them to control and reduce the amount of interaction with engineers they need to give physical access to – therefore reducing risk. Potentially less maintenance This makes it more financially viable for both the end-user and the maintenance provider Long-term, IP also makes these systems much more cost-effective. For example, one engineer can manage a hub of multiple locations with potentially less maintenance call-out costs. This makes it more financially viable for both the end-user and the maintenance provider to justify the initial investment. With these systems being paramount to people’s safety remote intervention allows for swift fault finding and problem resolution in a more effective response time and cost-effective way. To enable this the biggest development has been the integration between product manufacturers and software developers. They have been able to collaborate greatly to get products such a horn speakers to connect via industrial standard network protocols giving much greater flexibility in remote system management. Multi-Rack systems The technology involved in VA/PA, especially integrating with IP, has seen huge growth recently and we are involved in projects that involve multi-rack systems to enable controlled zone management and evacuation options with greater collaboration between integrators to get the systems to work effectively. VA/PA systems must be at the forefront of long term solutions and sustainability As more people are allowed to gather in larger numbers public-facing buildings need to address their evacuation and voice announcement procedures in order to be compliant. They need to be able to deliver clear and effective messages to their visitors in order to remain open whenever guidelines change. VA/PA systems must be at the forefront of long-term solutions and sustainability. The other area of VA/PA that has changed immensely in the last 18 months is the vast difference in messaging requirements that organizations need. Public safety announcements Systems that have been used infrequently for emergency situations only are now delivering daily messages with public safety announcements. In reality, although we all hope that we will never go back to the peak of lockdown, installations must be robust to cope with any situation in the future. Many smaller spaces that wouldn’t have thought they would need a PA system at all now understand that they too have an obligation to deliver public information and guidance and on a regular daily basis and this will lead to system designs being scaled up and down to meet the broadening array of applications that require VA/PA and how this is managed in the event that new protocols have to be introduced. Detailed technical plans Systems should be certified on the European Standard EN 54-16 and should be expertly designed Design and planning should be key when sourcing the right solution. Systems should be certified on the European Standard EN 54-16 and should be expertly designed to specification with detailed technical plans and tailor-made to the requirements of the end-user. With people’s safety in your hands, you cannot get these systems wrong so it is important that installers are able to draw on the expert technical team resources that we, as a manufacturer, offer in adhering to this standard and for us to be able to provide a commissioning service to sign off on these important safety systems. Compared with traditional lights and sounders systems we believe the future of evacuation will be voice-based. In our ever-increasing culturally diverse world we have to embrace systems that need to be multi-lingual or be able to dedicate a message to a specific target audience and be able to be drilled down to zones and give much more directional information. Multi-Zoned academies As office buildings get taller, health facilities become super hospitals or schools upgrade into multi-zoned academies we have to be able to evacuate or hold back evacuation to enable safe crowd control. In order to facilitate this VA will have to replace traditional systems or work in tandem with them. We must point out that in residential high-rise properties the primary method of evacuation, to comply to BS 8629, would still be traditional lights and sounders even if you install a separate VA system. Voice Alarm and Public Address is a long-term investment, especially as the global situation may take many years to recover, and as manufacturers working with our integrators and software developers we must continue to lead in the development of the best systems to ensure we can keep everyone safe.
TOA Corporation UK, manufacturer of cutting-edge commercial audio and security equipment, has strengthened its senior management team with two internal appointments. Yuichiro Honjo has been promoted to managing director, while Ian Bridgewater takes on the role of director. Honjo’s impressive career includes vast experience gained through working in various management positions. He has worked at TOA Corporation for the last 15 years, initially as a sales executive, before becoming a marketing executive operating out of the company’s headquarters in Kobe, Japan. After that he became director of TOA Malaysia and was then charged with setting up a new sales subsidiary in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. There he established the brand by reinforcing and expanding the company’s business activities, allowing it to react to the market more promptly, enhancing its presales and aftersales services, and heightening consumers’ confidence in the company and its products. Bridgewater started his career as a bench engineer, repairing equipment and building systems, before moving on to the project team to design and commission systemsService And Innovation Commenting on his new position, Honjo said, “I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity to lead TOA Corporation UK into the next chapter of its history. I aim to continue to provide the industry-leading levels of service and innovation that our customers have come to expect, while further maximizing our potential in what is a highly competitive market and delivering value in order to improve our financial performance.” TOA Corporation UK’s new director, Ian Bridgewater, has been with the company for 28 years. He started his career as a bench engineer, repairing equipment and building systems, before moving on to the project team to design and commission systems – eventually becoming head of department. He was subsequently appointed technical sales manager and headed up the engineering department project team, liaising closely with the company’s research and development operation in Japan. Strategic Business Plan Bridgewater is tasked with increasing TOA Corporation UK’s profile, as well as setting the strategic business plan and sales strategy. He said, “I’m convinced that our products offer unrivalled levels of performance, flexibility and user friendliness, and look forward to promoting this message to installers and end users. "We are currently expanding our voice alarm range, while the expansion of IP audio has pushed us into new markets, with a whole range of new products and technology. I am looking forward to continued expansion and working closely with our highly experienced team in the UK.” Welcoming Honjo and Bridgewater to their new positions, Kazuhiro Takeuchi, chief executive officer (CEO) and president of TOA Corporation, said, “Our mission is to reinforce the company’s position as a leader in state-of-the-art commercial audio and security equipment in the UK. Yuichiro and Ian will play a major role in achieving this objective and I wish them every success in their new roles.”