We step inside Datatool security to see how they beat bike crime
A pioneer in electronic motorcycle security back in the ’80s , Datatool remain 100% British and are a world leader
This is why we make everything in the UK,” says Datatool’s MD Mark Downing, brandishing the intricate wires of an alarm’s wiring harness. “It’s all to do with quality – and if you make the things yourself you control the quality. There are two key things to create reliability in electrical components: the circuit board and the wiring harness. Get the quality right and the product will be reliable.”
Datatool and life-long biker Mark are unsung heroes of British manufacturing. When Mark bought the business from a faceless PLC in 2009, the company were already the market leader but all their products were made in China. Mark soon fixed that by bringing manufacturing back to the UK and creating a host of new jobs. Now every Datatool product fitted to bikes is designed, developed and made in the UK. They employ 75 people in everything from R&D to quality control and they even host 24-hour, seven-days-per-week control room monitoring.
Datatool have two facilities nestled on a Chorley industrial estate and the first is a climate-controlled, air-filtered, manufacturing plant – that’s like something from Silicon Valley. It’s so clean that visitors must enter with plastic coverings over their shoes while Mark himself wears special anti-static shoes. “Static can ruin a printed circuit board,” he says. “So the floor coating is conductive and discharges static
‘Get the quality right and it will be reliable’
to a controlled point via a copper strip under the floor.”
Inside is a hive of activity. There are machines printing circuit boards before robot arms populate them with CPUS, resistors, and diodes. They can make 1000 a day, if needed. All around are people assembling trackers and alarms (they won’t let us photograph the outsides of them as they don’t want thieves knowing that they look like), testing them on expensive computers and downloading software. This is a proper tech company.
Later we are led into the control room for the trackers. Datatool’s biggest seller is now being offered free of charge with every new Honda and they’ve had a huge uptake. Here there are four full-time specialists waiting to act on information about potentially stolen bikes. Typically, they get three to five alerts a day. They notify the owner if a bike has moved without their consent and can assist the police to recover the bikes. “85-90% of bikes stolen with our trackers are recovered,” says Mark. “We’re here to assist owners and make sure they get their bikes back. People say they can get cheap trackers on ebay, but they don’t have this level of support.”