An interview with Fitre SpA

Fitre SA, an Italian company located in Milan, has introduced a novel approach to a traditional communications area. A long-time supplier of industrial communications systems based mainly on fixed lines, Fitre exhibited for the first time at the Security Trade Fair in Milan.

It happens that my first contact with Fitre was back in the early ‘90s when we worked together on the large communication system for the Milan subway. We equipped dozens of stops with emergency communication and public announcement systems, including antiterrorist features in case a stop station was taken over by a terrorist attack. All that seems natural and expected now, after September 11, but back then it was really a novel approach. By the mid ‘90swe had the project under our belts. I have kept in touch with Fitre, on a personal level, and saw them moving ahead with a new approach to their standard solutions. As a result of far reaching and quite advanced strategy, hard work, and determination, Fitre has repositioned themselves on the market from purely an industrial communications vendor to a rugged, wire and wireless emergency security solution vendor.

I am sitting in front of Enrico Borroni, one of the founders of Fitre SA, in a comfortable office in Milan headquarters.

SB: Enrico, what made you move into security?

EB: During the ‘90s traditional telephone business was very good, if not excellent, and we saw growth rising steadily. Prognoses were very optimistic, and they continued until the dot-com economy bust and the 3G technology financial collapse. During these good times, we were able to put our profits into developing our own technology – one that delivers on the promises, not only providing a means of communications, but also a means of securing that communication in every possible industrial and public situation, sometimes bordering on the impossible. For example, we must guarantee that our systems will work in tunnels, some more than 10 km long, during fire, earthquake, floods, and so on. We must assure that the general public will be addressed at all times for orderly evacuation and retrieval of passengers or workers in mines, and so forth.

In order to deliver to our customers, we developed the technology in-house, and merged some areas of apparently unrelated bits of technology, for example, wireless, into industrial applications. We did it quickly and comprehensively to deliver working solutions for the many customers we had and for the new ones that we had to find, to offer them what they needed.

SB: But in order to achieve this, you needed new know-how, new expertise.

EB: Precisely. In the beginning, we made some key decisions. We had based our new technology on Internet Protocol (IP), and we chose ISDN for telephony. We had to hire new employees for this know-how and offer them attractive conditions to keep them in house.

As a result, we consider ourselves to be the only company in this business that offers a completely integrated solution based on modern technology standards. If some companies try to mimic us, they will still probably lack one or two bits of our technology. I am referring to our ASTRO System.

Fitre SpA has long experience in communications for safety applications and emergency calls into industrial plants and open-air areas. For over 60 years we’ve provided comprehensive communications solutions to the Italian and the international markets: a story of innovation, quality, and customer care. We have reliable and flexible solutions for a wide range of applications: the range spans from systems based on traditional analog and ISDN technologies up to the most advanced solutions based on IP technology. Especially IP technology has made the most dramatic inroads in the world of telecommunications, including the applications concerning safety, emergency calls, and industrial applications.

Based on such technology, we developed the ASTRO, a powerful system which, through an IP network, allows a wide range of terminals and remote units to connect in a flexible and configurable way, keeping their advanced diagnostic functions permanently controlled. Having in-house control, within our R&D labs, of our IP products’ hardware and software, starting from our DSP-based boards up to our PC-based call and control centers, accommodates changes in specs and evolution of our systems.

Such remote devices include (see Figure 1):

  • Points of call for emergency communications
  • Waterproof and explosion-proof telephones, both with a handset and hands-free feature
  • Intercom sets with rugged waterproof and explosion-proof cases
  • Horns and loudspeakers, also with built-in amplifiers and a feature that automatically regulates volume by ambient noise level
  • Cameras and monitors for tele-surveillance
  • Local and/or remote stations capable of graphically showing on the monitor the source and other information related to pertinent emergency calls
  • Local and/or remote stations for remote maintenance and remote and dynamic configuration of the system
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Figure 1: IP network
(Click graphic to zoom by 1.5x)

Main applications of ASTRO:

  • Industrial plants (also for safety regulations compliance)
  • Tunnels, highways, parking areas, and large garages
  • Subways, railways, and airports
  • Open air areas, parks, and recreational areas
  • Elevators and escalators
  • Hospitals and medical centers
  • Detention facilities and anywhere

SB: Enrico, where does Fitre plan to go from here?

EB: We have a proven technology with many applications and ongoing projects. We have in-house resources with which we could grow this technology to new levels. Our reputation goes beyond Italy and Europe. We are developing our marketing strategies toward worldwide targets. Fitre has partners in Europe, Russia, the Far East, and North America. We are going for closer cooperation, and offer training and help in international projects.