A reliable and responsive communications system is an essential part of today’s society. This is the case for individuals, public transport, the emergency services and public places such as shopping and entertainment areas, to mention just a few. Regardless of the seemingly diverse needs of these arenas, there are a number of imperatives which span each and every one.
- Reliability – communications systems must be available in the hour of need.
- Effectiveness – they must work in the designated environment. They cannot be under¬powered for the expected traffic, or be out of range for contact.
- Efficiency – they must offer sufficient capacity – who wants a busy line in an emergency?
- Economy – communicating with others is the name of the game – distribution of handsets etc, makes the system work so the setting up of the end-user network must be affordable.
The 24-hour market; workplace; entertainment; and social networking all put enormous pressures on communications systems. This has led to a specialisation of systems which are designed to operate best in defined environments.
The Tenant Active System (TAS) was developed for environments such as shopping centres – and the Princesshay Centre in Exeter was one of the first to install the system. ACCL, developer of TAS, talks to Andy Littlejohns, of Land Securities and the Operations Manager at Princesshay, to see how well the system is working.
Andy Littlejohns has overall responsibility for the TAS system at the centre and has been involved in the project from the outset. The aim was to give retailers, security officers and centre management the ability to be in constant contact so that any issue or problem can be dealt with quickly, and with minimal disruption.
ACCL’s TAS system fully meets those needs. It operates on an internet protocol, enabling the management company and the retailers to communicate – either on a one-way text basis or a multi-functional voice basis, depending on what is required at any given time. It is the flexible functionality, together with its speed of connection, that makes TAS the unique and cost-effective offering it is.
Effective results and client satisfaction
Andy says that, despite some slight teething problems, he is delighted with the system.
“When the system was initially installed, the phone sets were not positioned in entirely the best or most appropriate positions – some had even been housed in cupboards by the tenants’ fitting-out contractors! But once ACCL moved these to better positions, the system has generally run extremely smoothly.”
Post-installation, Andy took advantage of the excellent training recommended and provided by ACCL on the use of the TAS system. Because the training was taken up by the retail occupiers, it has resulted in a higher usage of the system making a big difference to Andy and his team.
“Our security team really like the TAS system,” Andy says, “as the flow of communication is made so much easier – our occupiers can call us at anytime, and we can react immediately at any time of the day or night.”
Land securities collect weekly turnover figures from retail occupiers in the centre, and these can be sent easily and quickly via the TAS system.
“Before we had the TAS system this was a time- consuming and very often inaccurate task. Now, at the touch of a button, occupiers can deliver their weekly figures to us, making the delivery of management information almost instantaneous.”
Another example of how the TAS system is providing added benefits to the smooth operation of the shopping centre is the weekly fire tests, as Andy explains:
“Before we set off the test (which we generally do before the centre opens for business in the morning), we are able to talk directly to the retail occupier and tell them exactly when we will be testing. This enables us to do carry out the tests on a block-by-block basis which is much quicker and more efficient for everyone involved. And this has also had a positive effect on our relationship with the occupiers.”
Andy has a good relationship with ACCL, with senior managers (including ACCL Managing Director, Wayne Connors) keeping a close eye on how the TAS system is performing. Although ACCL monitors the system remotely from the site but will be onsite at any time should the need arise. It is this speed of reaction that marks ACCL out from other suppliers, according to Andy Littlejohns.
“It has to be said that the maintenance costs associated with the TAS system aren’t cheap but it certainly represents excellent value for money. The service you get from ACCL is superb. Not only that, they comply with all the necessary regulations in terms of health and safety and other legal requirements.”
Another benefit of the system, according to Andy, is that, whenever there are software updates to be installed, ACCL installs these with absolutely no disruption to the system whatsoever and the centre can operate exactly as normal throughout the process.
Any downsides to TAS?
Well, Andy does have a small gripe and that is that messages stay on the system for a relatively short period of time which means it is quite difficult to retrospectively track a message. All in all though, Andy Littlejohns has no hesitation in recommending the TAS system to anyone else who has similar shopping centre (or any other mass-retail environment) issues to those he has at Exeter. Indeed, Land Securities have also installed a TAS system into a shopping centre in St David’s 1 and 2 in Cardiff, a site that is more than six times the size of Princesshay.
- Enabling comprehensive security alerts against threats such as organised gangs, opportunistic crimes, and terrorist threats.
- Assuring a demonstrably safer environment, and reducing risk through fast communications together with automatically generated audit trails.
- Providing a platform for packaged business applications such as the collection of retail turnover statistics and loyalty and incentive schemes.
- Allowing two-way data and voice Communications between centre management and tenanted units.
- Extending wireless data and voice connectivity to mobile operatives such as security guards, maintenance personnel and locally-sited police.
- Offering simple integration with other systems, leveraging legacy technology investments, suiting the system for both greenfield sites and existing centres.
- Opening the door to value added services, offering more customer choices and improving profit in the retail and leisure environment.
- Optimising valuable retail space through the use of small footprint, end-user devices with flexible mounting options.
- Gaining maximum return from essential platforms such as telephone systems, office application servers, and cabling infrastructures.