- Public Address Voice Alarm systems (PAVA) are a staple of large modern buildings. These systems reduce the evacuation time of buildings by increasing responsiveness of building occupants and providing additional evacuation guidance.
- Voice alarms are commonly used in North America today but are being incorporated into building projects more frequently in other regions such as the Middle East and Asia. These regions are seeing a surge in PAVA systems due to a combination of building stock, construction and regulations. The Middle Eastern and Asian voice alarm markets were worth a combined $304 million in 2015 and are expected to grow with a CAGR of 7.4 percent to 2020.
- The main factor driving growth in these markets is the high number of large building projects in these regions. However, fragmentation and a lack of life safety regulations in the Middle East and Asia is holding back growth in voice alarm adoption.
- Manufacturers of American voice alarm systems must comply with the Underwriters laboratories (UL) certification process, while European manufacturers are certified by the European Committee for Standardization (EN).
- Other regions are typically split between UL and EN products with a good presence of both equipment standards. In the Middle East and Asia it is more common to install UL certified fire detection and suppression systems, although EN products are still common as well.
Trend Toward EN-certified Systems
- It might be expected that voice alarm systems show the same strong preference for UL over EN products. However, EN-certified voice alarm systems are much more competitive in the Middle East and Asia, resulting in similar market sizes for the two standards. This trend is driven by better quality speakers and versatility in EN certified systems. This is due to a number of factors:
- A UL based voice alarm system is typically incorporated into the fire alarm control panel. The speakers on this system cannot normally be used for public address purposes such as playing music or making service announcements, reducing versatility.
- Due to the limited use of UL voice alarm speakers these products tend to be very functional and low cost. This means that standard speakers are not very good for playing music.
- EN certified systems are controlled by a separate control panel to that of the fire alarm system. They are designed to be used for public address purposes and the speakers in these systems are higher quality in order to fulfil public address purposes such as playing music with good audio quality.
- Higher quality audio equipment requires fewer speakers to cover a large area, as a message can be played loader without distorting and overpowering the speakers. In the past, messages from different loudspeakers could overlap and cause the message to become unintelligible. This was overcome by using a larger number of less powerful speakers. However, with advancements in acoustic analysis and software able to compensate for overlapping messages, these systems are now able to deliver messages clearly with fewer, higher powered speakers than before. This can be achieved by using specially designed speakers that limit the area in which they can be heard, and specialist software that can control the delay between different speakers and reduce interference.
- Projects in the Middle East and Asia opting to include voice alarm systems often have a preference for higher quality equipment, and being able to use the system to play music and make announcements is important. This has given EN systems more of an edge in the voice alarm market than in the fire alarm market.
- Voice alarm systems are more frequently required by law in high-rise buildings; however, a lack of incorporation into national buildings codes is limiting adoption in most of the world. In the Middle East, it is normally the decision of the local civil defence whether the inclusion of a voice alarm system is necessary.
- The Asian market suffers from similar challenges, as the countries that show the most growth such as India and Vietnam, have little regulation to support the use of voice alarms, and countries with stronger regulation and a lot of high rise buildings, such as Japan and South Korea, are currently experiencing low growth in construction. This combination means limited growth in Asia in the short term, but as the legislation of the developing countries is revised to incorporate and enforce the use of voice alarms, this market will experience massive growth.