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Unifying Europe's security standards.

EUROPEAN SECURITY PROFESSIONALS ARE AHEAD OF their American counterparts in their demands for the latest technology and in their willingness to pay for it. The development of common security equipment standards throughout Europe and the Scandinavian countries will enhance this trend.

Europeans have fully embraced the move toward PC-based systems and digital video and phone-line video systems. They see advanced technology as a must, and they understand that it can enhance and simplify their lives.

An example of the European demand for state-of-the-art security technology is the large number of color video monitor systems sold in the region. About 80 percent of the monitors sold in Europe are color and 20 percent black-and-white. In the United States, those numbers are reversed.

There is no practical reason why Europeans should select the higher-priced color systems more often than their US counterparts, although color does aid somewhat in identification. Basically, Europeans are willing to spend the extra money to get the latest technological advancements.

In the United States, new technology is often viewed with suspicion as something that may displace people and take away their jobs. While this is also a concern in the European community, Europeans generally welcome technological solutions.

The unification of standards for security equipment throughout the European and Scandinavian communities is expected to keep Europe on the technological fast track.

Currently, equipment and safety standards vary from country to country. Each piece of equipment must be approved by each country's regulating body, and approval from one country does not necessarily mean automatic approval from another country. This system results in costly delays, and it tends to limit market size, effectively slowing down the progress of new technology.

A system that may be compatible with equipment in one country might not be compatible with a system in another. For example, the cellular system in Europe is not standardized and one type of cellular phone cannot be used throughout the continent.

The economic unification in Europe was supposed to change all that. By December 31, 1992, communication systems and equipment were to be standardized. At that time, joint electrical interference standards and common safety standards were to be put in place.

The end of the year deadline was ambitious, and cannot be met. The European community has not had the benefit the United States has had of working together as one body for more than 200 years. The standardization date has now been pushed back to 1996, although some equipment standards may be set sooner.

Recently, the European Fire and Security Group (EFSG) was given formal recognition by the European Organization for Testing and Certification (EOTC), the body that sets European standards for quality assurance and product testing. The EOTC's job is to promote product standards across the single market and enable testing to be carried out only once, with the results acknowledged throughout Europe.

Based in the United Kingdom, EFSG is comprised of three leading European certification bodies specializing in the fire and security field. These are the UK Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB), the German Verband der Sachverficherer eV (VdS), and the French Assemblee Pleniere des Societe d'Assurances Domages (APSAD). EFSG is responsible for testing and examining for product quality assurance.

The EFSG wants mutual recognition agreements across a range of topics, including quality assurance assessment for intruder alarms and safes. With such agreements in place ahead of time, the EFSG would set the standards and the European countries would automatically recognize those standards.

Equipment that is used in conjunction with phone lines will be scrutinized by another European body comprised of telephone utility companies. But the two organizations will be working toward the same goal of one-time testing and standardization of equipment.

While Europe's security needs are similar to those of the United States, the type of equipment European companies choose to meet those needs and the equipment's applications are often more advanced.

Recently, a Swedish power company purchased a computer-based video phone-line system that allows the company to monitor dams in remote locations and detect jams caused by ice or timber. By using this type of system, the power company can maintain constant visual contact with a remote site and take care of problems quickly.

A similar application is taking place in Spain, where a major oil company is testing a system to monitor its pipeline. Again, the system provides the company with visual contact and allows it to save time and to locate problems early.

Companies look for systems that can transmit high-quality pictures to compatible hardware via readily available media such as phone lines or radio. Update times and information storage capabilities are also important features.

In Italy, a private police agency is using computer-based video technology for central station monitoring. The agency uses the system to monitor a number of large factories and buildings. The system allows private officers to efficiently monitor a number of sites from one location. If problems arise, the officer calls the local police department or dispatches an officer to the area.

Also in Italy, a large financial institution is interested in a system to make identifying bank customers easier. It wants a way to verify the transaction as well as the identity of the customer. This would all be done through photos and video that can be sent via phone line to a central computer and stored there as a record of the transaction.

A bank teller would then have a computerized photo of the customer for bank identification and a recording of the transaction for confirmation should it become necessary at a later date. If a question arises over a transaction, the bank would have a video record on computer disk.

This type of system could also translate easily to the bank's ATM systems, where remote monitoring is even more important. In the United States, some financial institutions are looking into this type of system for use in ATMs. They are particularly interested in using the system while employees are repairing ATMs or restocking them with money.

In Europe, financial institutions are taking the system beyond this use and looking at it not only as protection against theft but also as a video record for each transaction that can be easily transferred via phone line into a central information system.

European interest in remaining on the cutting edge may be due in part to the fact that European users of high-technology security systems tend to be more institutional than US users. In Europe, more of the larger utility companies and banks use high-technology security equipment. In the United States, users are smaller convenience stores and gas stations. This may also explain, in part, why European users appear to be less concerned with product prices.

There are other market differences. In the United States, businesses are not only concerned with securing themselves from outside theft and intrusion but also from inside sources. The use of video security systems to observe employees is increasing in the United States. In fact, many businesses look at such systems as a management tool. These types of systems can be used not only to keep down employee theft but also to check on employee productivity, aid in training, and cut down on management time and expertise.

But in some European and Scandinavian countries, it is illegal to monitor employees. Businesses must apply for permits to place a video camera in a public or private space, and they must prove that the camera is being used to monitor external sources.

Countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway do not allow direct monitoring of employees. They also often have laws requiring the posting of signs to alert the public that a specific area is being monitored.

Some security technology applications in Europe reflect the region's environmental consciousness and sense of limited resources. In Norway, some municipalities use video surveillance to limit access to the city. To avoid overcrowding, each vehicle entering a city must pay a toll.

Toll booths are automated so that drivers cannot ignore the toll and enter without paying. Those attempting to do so will have their license plate photographed, and they will receive a notice to pay the toll plus a fine.

For the most part, European security needs are similar to those of the United States. The same trend toward high-technology PC-based systems exists--perhaps with a bit more enthusiasm for the newest technology in Europe. The goal of economic unification for the European Community should make the road to more sophisticated equipment even smoother and faster. The push toward unification of standards will also make Europe a more accessible market and one with more clout.

Unification should lead to greater opportunities for US security equipment manufacturers over the next few years as the maze of different European regulations gives way to standardization in the industry.

Standardization will provide a large unified market as opposed to many smaller and fragmented ones--the type of market in which US manufacturers can successfully compete.

John P. Stahler is president of Robot Research Inc. in San Diego.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Stahler, John P.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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