Interview with Francesca, managing director Comelit UK
How has business been in the last twelve months?
The UK’s security industry has never been more important, supporting our national security and making an ever greater contribution to our economy. UK companies are providing a range of advanced technology and services, in the domestic market and overseas, delivering a safe and secure environment for people and businesses.
Specifically to home, there has naturally been an impact of ongoing Brexit negotiations, but generally from a Comelit perspective akin to the UK Security Sector Outlook reports we are experiencing good strong growth in product ranges and service offerings. This is as a result of expanding existing business, new business opportunities in the UK and on a global basis.
We believe at least, the last 12 months have offered much to celebrate in the security sector. This is especially true with the emerging concerns around Data and cyber protection, where we have a duty to act on behalf of our customers to provide peace of mind solutions.
And we can now look forward to further growth, with a healthy pipeline of activity, and ever stronger relationships between industry and our international partners.
What would you say is the big trend at the moment?
The big trend for us at the moment without a doubt is the ability to integrate with third party products and applications.
The market demand is shifting at a rapid rate towards embracing smart technologies, with latest statistics suggesting that by 2022, a typical home may contain more than 500 ‘smart home devices.’
Security is integral to the smart home design, and as product manufacturers we are challenged to create solutions that go beyond offering novelty and simple control functions.
Smart homes must deliver on more integrated solutions that present control, real time data and connectivity, for all components of a home. And do so without compromising on assurance or ease of use, and in our case, style.
With such offerings available, installers can also take advantage of the smart home phenomenon and demonstrate solutions with added piece of mind, that can easily integrate into everyday life.
Comelit’s Mini Handsfree monitor with integrated WiFi, operated with our free downloadable app is just one example of our commitment to integration and the installer.
We believe despite its recent launch, it has already proven so popular as it allows existing monitors to be removed and WiFi monitors installed without requiring extra wiring or power supplies.
You’ve recently announced a fire division. Why are you going down that route?
The simple answer is because of market demand. The fire industry is currently going through significant changes, primarily with the impacts still being felt on the tragic events surrounding Grenfell Tower.
With the FIA introducing new formal qualifications too, there is an added pressure on companies to achieve very specific standards when it comes to fire safety. And this is on top of increasing use of technology and the increasing awareness of what can be achieved.
This is something we were very mindful of in the launch of our fire division, and ensuring products and services available can accommodate the connected and online environment.
Not least, from a fire, security, data and entertainment stance, clients expect more, they do more research and they know what they require.
Today, discerning customers want to choose a partner that can provide integrated, all-encompassing bespoke solutions and achieve compliance as standard.
Overall, Comelit carefully planned its launch into Fire, to complement its renowned security portfolio and it’s proven successful across Europe and choose products and services that could instantly have an impact.
Why did you join the FIA straight away?
Again, the simple response is it was our way of pledging our commitment to the Fire sector, one we recognise is going through an evolutionary period.
We wanted to make our mark as soon as possible and one of the best ways to achieve this goal is to belong to an association that is influential in helping to promote and shape legislation and professional standards in the fire industry.
But even more so, it was a chance for us to demonstrate that we are not just entering the market with our proposition, but also working hard on a continuous basis to ensure all our product portfolio and services continue to achieve the necessary standards as set by the strict FIA membership criteria.
We’re also looking forward to attending their events and conference opportunities to ensure we grow with the industry and can continue to present products that achieves the highest safety standards, without compromising on the style and aesthetic that is synonymous with the Comelit brand.
Back to access, has the introduction of products such as Ring affected your business?
This is a question we are being asked on a regular basis currently, especially since the launch of our Visto video doorbell range.
Specifically on video doorbells, we knew we were entering an already competitive market. We believe the difference we can make is the focus on style, without effecting any of the security aspects one would expect from a global company.
But there is a deeper reason why such products do not impact on our business. And that is with every product we design, we consider the installation process and how the system will eventually fit around busy homeowner’s lives. We also don’t necessarily operate on a one kit solution per product option.
At every point of decision making, whether is an apartment building or for a homeowner, the decision to integrate smart security will be one carefully considered with research carried out on time and ease for installation and simple and quick to use, whilst still achieving peace of mind.
Our ambition is always that our products are simple for our installer base to use and become second nature to homeowners, ensuring the security of their home and their family at all times.
Are connectivity and integration the main R&D drivers today?
Absolutely! Comelit has a big R&D spend, that can be viewed as part of our efforts to direct resources into creating consumer demand and driving innovation into the integrated security and connected smart home channels.
In a recent interview, our R&D Director Sergio Nicoli, highlighted how new products need to have a connection to the cloud. From Comelit’s perspective, this means new groups of people are involved in R&D, including now software designers and app builders.
As he says, quite simply: “Today, if you don’t have an app for a new product, you are missing a piece of functionality that people want.”
Integration with other solutions outside of fire and security provide added business intelligence and building command and control solutions, whether for residential or commercial services.
How much longer will we use keys for?
I think despite all the advances in security, there is still a known comfort in homeowners at listening to the alarm and ensuring it is set before leaving the house, and the ‘clunk’ of the traditional key, to know the lock has been turned and a home is secure.
And this is likely to continue, especially with rising concerns over cyber security, and increasing issues such as well documented resource and budget stretched Police forces not always responding to Burglaries.
But I think the role of the key may still be important for longer than we think. But its role has changed from being the primary security point for the door entry, to a support mechanism.
From Comelit’s perspective, we offer fob entry systems, alongside our access control and mobile connected devices. But should there be an issue with the entrance system for any reason, there is always a key override option.
And until there is full confidence in WiFi and mobile security, the case for the humble key will remain in place.
How has your market changed over the years?
I joined Comelit in May 2008. In the last decade, it’s fair to say the industry and completely changed, and this is in line with the global trend towards adopting mobile and connected technology.
The security industry has responded to the fast paced world we live in and quickly advanced from traditional systems to 2-wire offerings, through IP and now presenting wirefree and connected solutions.
And it’s not just the technology that has evolved, it’s the style trends that have supported security and the sectors where bespoke security solutions have been specified. For example most recently, we have been increasingly asked for coloured video door entry panels to suit property types.
Security as a specification is a very different concept, with a different approach to every aspect of business and it means that since I became Managing Director in 2015, we have had to evolve the company to suit the changing market.
What changes will we see in the future for the industry?
I genuinely believe this is a really exciting time for the security industry. Not only are we at the forefront of tackling some very complex and global issues such as terrorism and cyber-attack, but also facing a constantly changing consumer requirement.
The industry has to keep up with such continuous changes and market demands. And as I said right at the beginning, all the reports indicate we are succeeding as an industry and seeing growth year on year.
There will be continued changes in product design as we continue to evolve and achieve mobile and connected security solutions for home and business owners. And this is in security and fire safety, which as we have discussed is seeing its own big growth potential.
I also think that will be largely due to the next generation of engineers and product designers coming through, who inevitably will have grown up with such technology as their own preference.
I personally believe third party integrations and partnerships will also grow in significance as we need to continue to work together to ensure what end users want and what security systems can deliver continue to harmonise.
This way, we can continue to achieve expectations as standard – and that is in technology, technology and design – for everything that Comelit stands.