Intervju: Eduardo Afendi-Coutinho, Sales Executive, TOA Electronics

a&s Adria: Mr Afendi-Coutinho, thank you for sparing time to talk to our readers. Could you present yourself, your educational and professional background, what business area are you in charge with, how long are you working for TOA?
Afendi-Coutinho: Thank you very much for this interview. I have both an educational background as an Audio Engineer and professional experience in Sales in the telecommunication industry. I think this combination helps me a lot at my daily work, when I support our partners and customers in different projects. I came to TOA in 2017 and I am responsible for our sales activities in different countries, the Balkans region being one of my focus areas right now.

a&s Adria: TOA Electronics has more than 80 years of experience in research, development and international sales and marketing of numerous products in the field of public address systems. On the road of becoming one of the global leaders in this area, TOA has experienced a lot challenges and milestones. Tell us more about your company’s history, its important milestones, statistics, number of employees and subsidiaries, revenue, number of sold products, etc.?
Afendi-Coutinho: As you have already mentioned, the history of our company dates back to 1934, when TOA Electric Co., Ltd. was founded by Tsunetaro Nakatani in Kobe, Japan. Back then TOA had 12 employees. Today we are present at 31 locations worldwide with over 3000 employees. During this long period, a lot of events ocurred that are worth mentioning. I would point out the development of the world´s first electric megaphone, the EM-202, in 1947, and the launch of the Emergency Warning System TA-265 S in 1969 as two early accomplishments that underline our historical focus on Public Safety and Communication. As a Japanese company, tragic events such as the Kobe-Earthquake in 1995 and the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011 also had an impact and pushed the company to always maximize their efforts to the development of technologies that can save lives and ensure public safety.These efforts led to the launch of many groundbreaking new products like the networked Voice Evacuation Systems SX-2000 and VX-3000, as well as long-range Speaker Systems like the HA-1010. From a business point of view, I think the opening of our European Branch in Hamburg, Germany in 1974 was an important milestone on the way to the internationalization of TOA.

a&s Adria: Could you present your product portfolio, types of products and theirs most important characteristics and application?
Afendi-Coutinho: Our portfolio ranges from Voice Alarm Systems and Building Communication to Pro Audio, as well as Presentation and Conference Technology. A key role is played by our wide selection of different speakers, whether for security, commercial needs or entertainment. In summary, one can say that TOA has always been commited to excellent sound. Facts like that Mr. Nakatani started TOA as a microphone company, or that we supplied one of the world´s first fully digital mixing consoles in 1986, show that TOA has been leaving their mark in the Audio business throughout the years. This puts us in a good position when we face projects like Stadiums, Hotels or Concert Halls, since we can not only provide the solution for Building Safety and Communications, but also all the necessary Audio equipment for entertainment purposes like digital power amplifiers, speakers and subwoofers, matrix mixers and wireless microphone systems.

a&s Adria: What product or product group would you stand out as flagship of most sold and why?
Afendi-Coutinho: I would clearly call the VX-3000 Voice Alarm Series our current flagship product. The system has an excellent reputation for its longevity and stability, and is constantly being adapted through software and hardware enhancements, so it is always up to date. Not only the modular design of the VX-3000 but also its networking capabilities make it a perfect choice for many applications. After the latest System update, we can offer it from small to really big systems, including such applications that are distributed over wide areas like Metro and Railway. The number of possible zones and maximum power is huge, and no matter how big the project turns out, the compliance to EN-54 standards is always given. Plus, we now have a wall-mount version of it, to make it even more effective and simple to install.

a&s Adria: What is the role of TOA’s solutions in overall security system? How do you overcome integration issue with other security products?
Afendi-Coutinho: Toa’s security solutions are based on audible communication and thus address one of the most important senses: the human ear. Specially in emergency situations, but also for daily information purposes, the paging of spoken word and sound is still the main way to inform people, along with visible signs. As it has been researched and proven by many scientific studies, the communication with spoken word can significantly increase the reaction and escape times of people in emergency situations. And nowadays, the need for intelligible and clear paging has increased due to noisy environments and the constant distraction of people. This is why we are always improving the intelligibility and overall performance of our systems. Speaking of integration, our systems are triggered by many other equipments, most usually Fire Detection Systems and CCTV, but also Intrusion systems to start automated or live paging scenarios. More recently, we are working on solutions based on the Modbus-Protocol, that allow the operator to control our equipment along with other systems in one application.

a&s Adria: Your products are used by millions of people. What verticals do you primarily focus on and do you meet their specific requests?
Afendi-Coutinho: Our solutions fit perfectly for infrastructures and buildings like Airports and Railway Stations, Shopping Malls, Hotels, Factories, Stadiums etc., thus we have a focus on the Infrastructure and Transportation market. Besides that, we concentrate on supplying integrators of Audio solutions for Houses of Worship and Retail Chains, since we have specialized product series for both applications. We are always trying to add new services to our offers that really make sense and help integrators to fulfill their customers needs. For example, in the Transportation market we have a close cooperation with Aviavox, a leading provider of Intelligent Artificial Voice Systems for Airports and Airlines.

a&s Adria: Could you present some of the most successful case studies on European and SEE soil?
Afendi-Coutinho: Most recently I´d like to mention that we have a large VA-system installed at the biggest Shopping Mall in Serbia, the Promenada in Novi Sad. In Bulgaria we have an interesting networked VA-system in the Tower Building Millenium Center in Sofia. One recent, very exciting case study from Germany is that of the Louise-Otto-Peters School in Hockenheim, where we have an installation that combines Voice Alarm and Public Address with an emergency and danger response system (EDRS), using Intercom Stations with RFID-Technology.

a&s Adria: What are the most important trend in PA and Intercom Systems market and, regarding that, what can we expect from TOA in the future?
Afendi-Coutinho: Currently, demand for IP-Audio technologies is increasing. There is a trend towards using network connections right through to the end devices rather than laying separate audio cables. This, of course, opens up many new possibilities, for example to build additional technology into a speaker, be it a microphone, a dedicated CPU and memory, but also intelligent software, e.g. for voice control. We keep an eye on these new technologies, whereby as a safety-focused manufacturer we also pay attention to the monitoring functions and emergency power supply of such systems.

a&s Adria: Your opinion about Adriatic region’s market, its pros and cons? In what Western Balkans countries do you do business, do you have a distributor and are you looking for a new one, what is the way to become one, etc.?
Afendi-Coutinho: To be honest, I can only tell positive things about the Adriatic region´s market. We have business partners in every country of the Western Balkans, and the spirit in general is positive, highly professional and dedicated. I don´t work with distributors exclusively, but also like to get involved with Integrators, Consultants and Investors in order to be closer to the projects. So basically, I am open to contacts from whichever part of the market, as long as they are serious and commited. I think that the region has a great culture and history, and I am sure there will be a lot of positive development in the near future. The only point where I see room for improvement is the necessary application of the European EN-54 Standards for our market. For us as a supplier of Voice Alarm Systems, this can be a crucial factor. But I am confident that we will see progress in this field, too.

a&s Adria: In September, Adriatic region’s largest conference and exhibition Adria Security Summit, with more than 1,200 visitors, will be held in Northern Macedonia. Will you be present there and do you find it a good opportunity to meet new customers and partners?
Afendi-Coutinho: Yes, of course we will be there! I find the concept of the exhibition with the same booth size for every exhibitor very attracting. This way, I think it will be a true networking event. I will try to activate all of our regional partners and contacts to come around and I am expecting to meet a lot of new people from the business. I am also eager to see the city of Skopje and appreciate the local food. I am really looking forward to this event. For us, local exhibitons and conferences are becoming more and more important. At those events, we get a better chance to talk to local professionals from the region than at the big international exhibitions like ISE and Intersec.

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