Interview: Hasna Nahdi, Export Manager, PASO
a&s Adria: Mrs. Hasna Nahdi, thank you for sparing time to talk to our readers. Could you please present yourself, your educational and professional background, and what business area are you in charge of at PASO?
Hasna Nahdi: First of all, on behalf of the PASO team, I would like to thank your team for dedicating space in a&s Adria magazine to present our company through this interview. We want to once again give our thanks for the great hospitality and dedicated support they have shown to us during the Adria Security Summit in Zagreb. In the field of audio business in general, I am in charge of PASO’s worldwide international markets. A mix of my education in the fields of electrical engineering and business economy allowed me to get a job at the PASO company which I consider to be the temple of electronics and audio in general. I am very proud to be a part of this team for more than 18 years during which I played different roles. For 12 years I worked in the pro audio and MI fields of businesses. Therefore, I can confirm that I have 30 years of experience in the audio industry as well as in taking care of international markets.
a&s Adria: PASO’s inception goes way back, to 1973, when your company was established by the managerial and technical staff previously employed by the historical Milan-based company GELOSO, a leader in the market of professional sound broadcasting. A lot happened in almost fifty years. What were the most important milestones for PASO and what kept you at the forefront of the Italian PA/VA market? In 2012, you were acquired by FBT Elettronica, what did you gain by that?
Hasna Nahdi: Yes indeed. A lot happened in almost 50 years. From GELOSO, PASO did not only inherit the intellectual property of brands and patents but, above all, technical know-how of high value. This made PASO one of the main Italian brands specializing in the production of amplifiers, mixers, microphones, and speakers for the public address, i.e for 100V field, and now a leading company within EN54-16 and EN54-4 certified voice alarm systems manufacturers. In fact, our 50th anniversary – a matter of great pride for us – will take place in 2023 and it will be the occasion for special celebrations and events.
In 2012, FTB’s acquisition of PASO did mark a new era by building a kind of bridge between two companies: FBT, a well-established Italian brand within the pro audio market, and PASO with a legacy in the Italian Electronic industry with a strong history within 100V – which is considered a niche within the audio field. Together, FBT and PASO are putting their respective synergies while each one is safeguarding proper identity and relevant peculiarities. PASO is likely much more present in the markets and events focusing on safety and presiding over themes involving EN54 standards and voice alarm systems evolution within the global market, while FBT is focusing on events and markets where the spotlight is on pro audio and MI.
As our CEO Antonio Faccioni said talking about both companies’ plans and strategies: “We will propose a sort of common platform where the solutions developed by the two companies will converge according to their respective peculiarities: we will therefore be able to approach even very complex projects both for professional sound diffusion and for purposes related to EVAC.” This is what we are working on and how we are putting together our synergies, and respective R&D activities to plan our strategies and future.
a&s Adria: Investing in the Lainate plant in 2017 was definitely one of the turning points. What did you gain by revitalizing internal production? Did you achieve the level of producing all electronic components locally?
Hasna Nahdi: In fact, highly important investments in our factory were dedicated to our production processes, like the automated line for SMD circuits equipped with two pick & place machines, a brand new automated vertical warehouse, with the storage and recovery of the materials necessary for the various work processes of production. This has led our company to cutting-edge industrial technology 4.0 and enabled us to have stronger and better control of the different steps of our key devices manufacturing i.e to be in the position to carry on in-house production of the main electronic parts of our key devices.
a&s Adria: Could you briefly present your product portfolio? What are your core technologies?
Hasna Nahdi: Our product portfolio is subdivided into two main macro segments of products: PA sound broadcasting, with a vast range of pure public address solutions and conference systems. The second macro range is our voice alarm portfolio; with EN54-16 and EN54-4 certified electronics and a wide variety of speakers certified according to EN54-24 standards. Therefore, our core technology is, undoubtedly, electronics and how electronic block systems can sound while complying 100% with the EN54-16 and EN54-4 standards.
a&s Adria: An audio distribution system in high-traffic spaces requires a combination of stringent safety regulations and a high degree of versatility of use. PASO has accepted the challenge to respond adequately to the EVAC sector needs and demands with two smart voice evacuation systems: PAW5500-VES and PAW51K-VES. What are the features of these two systems in terms of nominal power and the number of alarm zones to manage, as well as all other functionalities?
Hasna Nahdi: Our VA compact all-in-one solutions feature a wide line-up of devices, amongst which we can list two families. EN 54-16 & 4 certified PAW5500-VES is specifically designed for wall-mounting and equipped with control units. It has a rated audio output of 500 W overall, distributable freely among the zones with a maximum limit of 250 W per single zone. The system is capable of managing 2 to 6 alarm zones and that’s the reason why it comes with 3 different models: PAW5502-V 500 W (2 zones), PAW5504-V 500 W (4 zones), and PAW5506-V 500 W (6 zones). Each zone is driven by a single amplifier, as well as a remote microphone station and controlled inputs to be connected to a central fire-fighting system.
The PAW51K-VES 1000 W compact wall-mount EVAC range includes two integrated voice evacuation systems for emergency purposes, designed specifically for wall-mounting: PAW51K4-V 1000 W (4 zones) and PAW51K6-V 1000 W (6 zones). It is possible to connect up to 15 devices of this model one to the other or mix these 2 families’ devices between them and manage 90 zones!
The features of these devices include: backlit 4.3” display with touch screen for selecting the alert and evacuation zones and enabling navigation for adjusting volume levels, configuring the equipment and viewing failures; handheld fireman’s paging microphone, sending out pre-recorded evacuation and alert messages, as well as broadcast messages (i.e. spots, announcements, sound bells); 7 off-controlled input contacts, configurable for playing the evacuation and/or alert messages; 1 off music input for sound sources; 1 off auxiliary input configurable as a music source, a call with precedence activation or a call with automatic activation (VOX); 3 off configurable relay outputs; double A+B output for each zone; event log (list of failures and/or alarms that have occured in the system); double link line for connecting other PAW; multilanguages management; 3-band equalization for each zone and music output; optional internal expansion card ACPAW-2IN for two additional music inputs (EXT 1 and EXT 2); optional internal expansion card ACPAW-6IN with DSP for 6 additional music inputs; up to 8 pre-recorded messages can be retrieved from outside through input contacts (of which 2 fixed emergency messages plus 6 that can be classed as emergency / evacuation / broadcast messages); up to 16 PMB106-G and/or PMB112-G broadcasting microphone stations can be connected; up to 4 of the above mentioned stations can be set for local calls only (zones of the card-cage to which they are connected); up to 4 PMB132-V and PMB132/12-V remote emergency units can be connected or (as an alternative) up to 2 touch screen TSB8500-V units, etc. These devices are all-in-one compact voice alarms with 1000W or 500W, but they also represent a perfect audio matrix.
a&s Adria: At this year’s events, you presented the latest Audio Network Adapter ACNET. How can it be used with PAW5500-VES and PAW51K-VES and connect remote microphone stations to the PAW?
Hasna Nahdi: The latest Audio Network Adapter ACNET we have introduced this year can be used with PAW5500-VES and PAW51K-VES and can connect remote microphone stations to those two systems. ACNET can transmit and receive RS485, convert audio ADC and DAC, pack and unpack digital audio and serial data using a proprietary IP format, and send and receive IP packets. ACNET is able to perform a complete transparent cable substitution over the network. This is a point-to-point PAW to PAW allowing communication via LAN network through RS485+LAN or LAN-only connection. Double link connection enabling system status monitoring, faults monitoring, messages reproduction over the link connection, USB audio player (.wav, .mp3 format), and web server interface.
a&s Adria: For smaller applications such as offices, restaurants, and shops but also private homes, you have designed PAW Mini. What are the features of this “light” integrated voice evacuation system?
Hasna Nahdi: PASO PAW Mini family of all-in-one evacuation devices is amongst our R&D exploits for the simple reason that it was finalized during the hardest period of lockdown. This range of compact systems has been realized thanks to our dedicated listening to what the market demands from voice alarm systems – solutions easy to install, but still compact, all-in-one, and small in size. PAW Mini is a family of five models, characterized by a highly reduced and compact cabinet size. It features two different audio-rated power settings: 100W for PAW1101-V, PAW2101-V, and PAW2102-V models, and 250 W for PAW2251-V and PAW2252-V models.
Like the previous PAW, PAW Mini features a 4.3” touchscreen backlit display for alert & evacuation selection, levels adjustment, settings, and failures visualization. On the front panel, there is a fireman’s monitored microphone, a button for operating the emergency system with an LED indicator, and a reset button. And, of course, it features sending pre-recorded evacuation and alert messages, monitored control inputs, AUX input for external sound sources, configurable relay outputs, and the possibility to connect paging units or remote emergency microphone units. It can manage 1 or 2 alarm zones via local controls, a remote microphone station, and controlled inputs. PAW Mini range is an ideal solution for small evac installations, like shops or restaurants, and does represent a very cost-effective solution because of the good combination of quality and price. We can confirm that in some international markets this family of devices is having a great trend.
a&s Adria: As stated, these systems are EN54-16 and EN54-4 certified. What do these standards stand for, and what are their benefits for installers and end users?
Hasna Nahdi: Discussing the EN54-16 & EN54-4 standards would probably require a dedicated interview but let us try to sum up what these standards stand for. EN 54 describes the minimum quality standards required for fire alarm systems, from smoke detectors and visual indicators to amplifiers and speakers. This ensures that life safety systems function clearly and reliably during emergencies. For example, voice alarms, which deliver pre-recorded spoken messages instead of a siren, are covered by two specific parts of EN 54 [EN 54-16, EN 54-24]. The EN54-16 and EN54-4 standards are part of the European standards linked to the larger world of fire detection and fire alarms. They are referring to the series of electronics and devices built to use audio to manage building evacuation for the complete safety of the people present within the buildings.
The manufacturing of these devices has to be carried out in accordance with specific rules. The production process has to be supervised by third-party laboratories and inspected regularly, while the devices must always be certified by an authorized third party. The device has to be identified by a CPR number. We can perfectly understand the level of tranquillity and peacefulness when we are in a hotel, a mall, or in any public place knowing that there are always the necessary devices to detect fire risk and safeguard our lives and secure our safe evacuation in case of emergencies. This does matter since our safety and our lives are most precious.
As for the installers, besides the specific certifiable skills they have to have, they are compelled per law to be identified as “fire field installers” to manage the maintenance of these installations. The relevant maintenance is mandatory per law to be carried out once every six months. Therefore, it requires certifiable skills but it is also an opportunity to widen the business opportunities by regularly doing the necessary maintenance.
a&s Adria: “Our main idea is decentralizing the EVAC system, something that years ago was not conceivable,” said Roberto Megazzini, Paso’s Sales Department Director. What does that mean in practice?
Hasna Nahdi: In fact, in the past when you were designing a big paging system, you had your big rack or central system located in a control room, from which you managed all zones. An EN54-16 certified voice alarm system decentralized per building or per facility allows you to isolate the area where you could have any kind of fault or specific alarm or specific maintenance activities while the rest is perfectly working as per the standards and as per the whole design concept and specification. In fact, you can use our PAW and your design will include, for example, a certain number of PAWs per building that are connected. If for any reason one of these PAWs is disconnected, the other PAWs will continue to operate perfectly.
a&s Adria: You are developing new amplifiers using modern GaN technology (gallium nitride or gallium nitride). How does that help you to obtain high performance? How did it reflect on your latest PMG1000-V Class D amplifiers 1000 W?
Hasna Nahdi: We have developed and started marketing our new GaN amplifiers 1000 W Class D equipped with a modern GaN (gallium nitride) technology, which provides high performance in terms of efficiency and space-saving. The main innovation relating to the use of this cutting-edge technology in the field of PA audio applications is the extreme speed and the ability to operate with high-voltage mains. The features of these new cascade devices allow operation at 300 volts with frequencies of 400 kHz at the same time – despite the extreme operating conditions. Thus, they can offer better performance than those of the equivalent silicon components, which have the limit of working with lower voltages. With these devices, it is also possible to have a 100-volt transformerless output line with a single amplifier (not two bridge amplifiers, as it is the case with silicon devices).
a&s Adria: Could you present some of the latest and most successful case studies, like the implementation of the EVAC system at the new Asclepios 3 Pavilion of the Bari Polyclinic? What verticals do you generally focus on?
Hasna Nahdi: Some of our latest case studies are the Vetra building located in a very famous area of Milan, Fundació Catalana de l’Esplai in Barcelona, Haapavesi High School in Finland, FAO Schwarz store in Milan – the Sign building in Milan, Hospital of Al Madinah Al Munawwarah in Saudi Arabia, the 17th century Church of S. Monica in Cremona in Italy, the Mall of Sanremo in the Ligurian Riviera of Italy, etc. In general, our VA/PA main vertical markets are health, hospitality, retail, education, and industrial infrastructures.
a&s Adria: What else can we expect from PASO in the near future? Do you plan to open new offices in Europe?
Hasna Nahdi: We will continue expanding our export network and we are continuously developing our VA solutions in accordance with EN54 standards. EN54 are European standards but there are differences even within Europe from one country to the other. Thanks to good listening to the market, PASO R&D is always adapting and customizing our main solutions in response to some local and specific additional requirements with regard to local standards and global legislations. We act locally and go globally through strong partnerships to which we always transfer specific parts of our expertise.
a&s Adria: How do you intend to increase your share of the Adriatic region’s market? Are you looking for partners? Was Adria Security Summit a good opportunity for you to meet new potential customers?
Hasna Nahdi: Adriatic region is a very specific area composed of small markets within which export exchange is not always smooth. Thanks to our second participation at the Adria Security Summit, we progressively started generating interest around our brand and solutions. We hope that this trend will continue and will be converted into real and specific opportunities and businesses. Besides those two countries in which the Summit was held, we are not present in other countries of the Adriatic region. We do believe that your conference and exhibition has a very good format and can only help us establish our brand in other markets.