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“Secom”, Southwark: not impersonal but inscrutable

“Secom” burglar alarm, Southwark • I’ve never been very interested in these polite Secom alarms – both the graphics and the name are so impersonal, like something from a Swiss clinic. Even their unique proprietary sounder, a flattish sort-of-triangle reminiscent of a clunky British electrical plug, is fundamentally boring. Having always assumed that these were the signifiers of a dull European multinational, I was surprised to discover a far more exotic provenance: for Secom are Japan’s biggest, and oldest (according to them) private security firm. So, inscrutable rather than impersonal – my impressions were at least semi-correct. Founded in 1962 by Makoto Iida and Juichi Toda, Secom claim to have pioneered the “man-machine philosophy” – not, sadly, an army of tiny robots, but a combination of “highly trained personnel and high technology security equipments” (sic). They expanded in a similar manner to the classic British alarm outfits of the 60s – except, rather than being eventually absorbed by an external multinational, they did the absorption themselves, listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 1978. In 1991 they acquired the large UK firm Caroll Security Group, itself a successor to the family-owned Lodge Lock and Safe Company, founded in 1918 (I’ve never spotted a Lodge alarm, though Caroll’s unusual round-topped boxes are still around). There are now Secom operations in 12 countries, including the USA, Australia and much of Indo-China, and I bet they use the same boring identity in every single place. Secom’s Japanese website certainly uses the same colours and logo, alongside a version in Japanese script and a badly-designed tangle of cute cartoons. It’s so impenetrable that I haven’t been able to find any images of native Japanese Secom boxes, but I can report that they do to offer Secom food, which looks pretty revolting. • Spotted: Farnham Place, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark

1 reply »

  1. A few versions of this ounder case exist. Originally, the sounder case was developed for Ambassador Security who were aquired by Secom. Beneath the original over was a circuit bord covering a teal case encasing the sounders electronics. The circuit oars had ‘tacks’ on them, so that if anyone drilled the cover, the drill bit woud short out the tracks and activate the alarm. Mounted internally to the cover, on the internal metal box was a strobe light, the problem was that the strobe light operated it could hardly be seen through the cover, this resulted in the above bell box being designed which has the strobe light at bottom which can clearly be seen when operating. The lens also houses a couple of ‘comfort’ LEDs. More often than not you will see a red, separate strobe light on the wall next to he bell box. Ths is used to indicate a ‘Confirmed Alarm’ activation, as defined by he current rules and regulations. Sadly, I have yet to see inside one of the new sounders above.

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