Security alarm systems, whether for the home or office, are so ubiquitous today they are usually taken for granted. Yet despite their economic and strategic importance – the sector is worth EUR 16.4 billion a year in Europe alone – the technology does not enjoy a level playing field across the EU’s internal market.
The reason is historical: technical and certification rules developed separately by each Member State have fragmented the sector into isolated national markets. This imposes duplicative costs for manufacturers, which have to certify their equipment multiple times, and increasingly exposes the sector to market penetration by non-EU suppliers.
It also frustrates customers who want the advantage of similar systems across Europe.
“We are not pushing this idea of harmonisation simply because we want a bigger market,” Rolf Sigg, vice-president of Euralarm, the pan-European association of alarm system companies.
“It is coming from our customers who tell us they want to use the same system wherever they are in Europe. But as things are today, you can’t have your holiday home in Spain with the same security system as you have in Belgium because mutual recognition [of national certification norms] has not reached our sector at all,” he said. “‘Europe’ does not exist in our industry.”
Sigg and others addressed their comments to a 24 September conference in Brussels of industry representatives and EU policymakers organised by Euralarm.
A solution is on the way, however: the Commission is working with alarm manufacturers and national authorities to craft EU legislation to harmonise certification procedures across the internal market.
“We want to develop a more harmonised EU market because by breaking down the barriers in your sector, you’ll get a bigger market in Europe, lower costs and increased confidence in your products,” a DG-ENTR official told the conference. “If you can succeed in the risk-averse market of Europe, then you’ll be perceived as able to sell anywhere in the world.”
Harmonisation is also needed to accelerate the time-to-market cycle from development to commercialisation of alarm systems, says industry.
“It takes us two years for our R&D to develop a product, but another two years just to [get certification to] sell it into European markets – and sometimes an additional year, depending on the country!” said Rene Jungbluth, head of Fire Safety and Security at Siemens. “We need more innovation from the EU regarding technical certification.”
Commission officials at the conference said they are gathering new economic data on the security industry to help frame an eventual legislative proposal for the sector – likely to be unveiled sometime in 2014.
“We have asked a contractor to come up with a plan for collecting all the data across the member states in collaboration with their national statistics offices,” said one official. “However, we need their buy-in on this effort because it will be a major undertaking.”
Meanwhile, the official said that preliminary cost-benefit analysis carried out by the Commission suggests that “impressive” savings could be generated by having an EU-wide certification system for Europe’s security alarm sector.