Video entry systems aren’t just for posh flats. Oliver Ashbee of the Entryphone Company explains how it’s supplying social landlords and commercial clients, too.

The Entryphone Company, established in 1958, designs and makes access entry systems. Initially it specialised in phone entry for upmarket residential blocks in London; it now supplies video and smartcard entry systems to the domestic and commercial markets across the capital and the South-east.

The market has expanded as concerns about security have increased, but the firm remains a relatively small outfit with 25 employees at its south London base. Last year’s turnover was a healthy £1.7m. Here Building talks to Oliver Ashbee, the company director.

Who is your market?

It’s effectively within Greater London, where we supply and fit for private clients, smaller developers and more recently housing associations. Outside London, we supply to security companies that then install our products. We don’t have approved fitters, but we do provide free training for all our products and we give technical support on the phone and online.

How competitive is the market?

It is definitely getting more competitive; there are a lot of people in the game now. We’ve been around long enough to know that the edge in the market is in the after-sales service, an aspect we’ve really tried to push. It gives clients confidence to know that if you fit the system, you’ll be around to maintain it.

What have you been working on?

We’ve been doing a lot of work replacing outdated systems in private residential blocks in the West End. But we’re also getting increasingly involved in housing association new builds, especially as we’ve got a new press-to-speak video screen system that is aimed at that sector. Most recently, we’ve fitted access systems at Plaza Estates’ Boydell Court development in St John’s Wood, with the penthouses designed by Found Associates.

Which products are most popular with suppliers?

Our 2.5-inch screen video access system, which is an upgrade of our mainstay telephone one. These are more complex to install. It probably costs about £110 per flat to install a phone entry system, but the video access pack would be about £350 per flat. Both get supplied with robust stainless steel speaker consoles at the point of entry.

Do you provide bespoke products?

Most of what we do is off-the-shelf, but we do liaise with architects and specifiers if they want a particular kind of door fascia panel or housings for the LCD screens. All of these would be produced in-house. We have a small works attached to our offices where we can fabricate them to whatever the specification requires. Specials are made from standard components and the same warranties apply.

What are your lead times?

For supplying off-the-shelf items, it’s obviously immediate. To supply and install, we’re probably talking about two to three weeks.

Special requirements or modifications will stretch the process. It probably only takes a few days to make the elements, but you do find that the contractual process of producing drawings and having them approved will add to the time needed. You could add another couple of weeks, depending on the complexity.

What developments do you think are going to have the biggest impact on the sector?

It’s difficult to say, but we are keeping a keen eye on IP (internet protocol) technologies. Our newest access control system has a web server controlling it using the internet. There are people concerned that it could be breached as a result of its dependence on broadband technology but, as an access system, we can only currently provide a low level of security.

Access systems can be compromised quite easily – intruders can enter the common area of a building by waiting for someone to leave or enter. We try to make access reasonably secure, but nothing anyone provides doubles up as a burglar alarm. It’s not quite Big Brother, but the monitoring and storing of images of who enters and leaves buildings would present privacy issues to some.