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August 4, 2022


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IFSEC Interviews

“Networked, integrated IP audio can bring just as much value as cameras” – In conversation with Zenitel’s Koen Claerbout at IFSEC 2022

In May at IFSEC International 2022, IFSEC Global sat down with Koen Claerbout, CEO of Zenitel, discussing the importance of audio security as part of a comprehensive security unit in today’s ever-advancing physical access control environment, as well as the company’s recent acquisition of UK-based ASL. 


Koen Claerbout, CEO of Zenitel

IFSEC Global (IG): Hi Koen! How has IFSEC been? What are the main things that have peaked visitor’s interest?

Koen Claerbout (KC): First of all, it’s good to be back at trade shows, we haven’t seen many people for a while, but our industry lives from the ecosystems and partnerships of complementary technologies. We make a lot of effort in our organisation to build these partnerships, as of course it’s based not only on technology, but interpersonal relationships – and that’s what comes to life at trade shows.

What comes next is our technology, where we have a strong focus on being the audio expert in a safety and security environment. For our specific products, the Intercom Voice Alarm and Public Address Voice Alarm, but also our integration solutions, tie into these ecosystems. Zenitel represents reliability, intelligibility, superior audio quality – all the things you need to have safety security systems for – and our intelligence and additional features in the security systems. When there are integration needs functioning together with other technologies in an ecosystem, we are at our best, but we can fit in to a lot of different applications.

IG: Yes, that’s great as we’re talking about the same topics in FIREX and Safety & Health Expo, and that’s why we bring these shows together under one roof; is that what you are seeing – more integration between job roles as well?

KC: Yes indeed, that’s an integration we see, as well as integration with IT departments. With cyber security, the cloud and everything around artificial intelligence, processing data and how to deal with that is key, so you start to see a convergence towards similar disciplines that come together.

IG: Tell us more about your recent acquisition of ASL – what does it mean for your offering, with ASL’s focus on public voice address systems?

KC: Within the Zenitel group, we already provided public address voice alarm systems. With the acquisition of ASL, a UK-based company, we now have stronger technology that fits the vertical market in what we call onshore or safety security applications as well, which are slightly different areas to where we’ve been focused before with public address voice alarm systems.
ASL in its history and product offering is very strong in providing solutions for the transportation sector, such as in rail infrastructure, airports, tunnels and similar applications. Due to this, we have a stronger footprint in these growing markets, too, where we see a lot of opportunities.

IG: How do you feel the evolution of network audio solutions has developed over the last five to 10 years?

KC: Well, you used to have a time where there were a lot of different protocols, but IP network audio is the approach we’ve focused our solutions on with a commitment to open protocols. Zenitel was involved in IP solutions 20 years ago, being one of the front runners, and today we still are. We strongly believe in open networks and open protocols, and from that perspective there’s only one way of doing that which is with IP network solutions.

Open protocols allow us to operate more collaboratively and effectively in the security market – providing integrations with solutions such as VMS providers, where we become part of the overall solution for the end user. It’s a trend that is continuing to grow we believe, with proprietary protocols less valued – certainly in the commercial sphere.


The Zenitel stand at IFSEC International 2022

IG: What role does IP audio have to play in physical security as a whole?

KC: The advantage of audio is that it listens in all directions, so you immediately have the environment scanned in a very cost-effective and reliable way. If you think about cameras, they cover large areas, but with audio you can get an additional dimension, which enables two-way communication, so you can communicate in a specific area from a control room.
For example, if you have a busy shopping street which is very silent at a normally busy hour, there is something wrong. Audio solutions therefore provide an additional touchpoint with the environment, in aspects that cameras and access solutions may not be applicable to. I think audio can often be a forgotten part of the solution – audio can bring just as much value as cameras.

IG: There’s a lot of focus on AI’s role in security that people immediately think of surveillance cameras, but AI works in audio as well, right?

KC: Yes definitely. Solutions such as gunshot detection and breaking walls detection have existed for some time, but today it’s a lot more sophisticated and easier to implement. There’s so much added value. Of course, you always need to look at the right solution for the right environment – to keep people and premises safe and more secure!


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