Analogue to Digital Switch Over

Chris Dodd
Chris Dodd, Legrand Assisted Living & Healthcare

Technology Enabled Care Services have been in operation across the UK for over 40 years. The technology used to facilitate such services, whether in grouped living environments or within single dwellings, has largely relied on analogue voice calls over the public switch telephone network (PSTN).

The PSTN has over this time provided a reliable, low cost, easy to access and largely issue-free medium for communications between the service user and the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC).

Due to the age and increasing costs of maintaining these legacy PSTN systems the incumbent telecommunications providers are either in the process of or planning to replace them with a digital packet switched (IP data) network into the home.

Implications for TECS

The analogue PSTN switch off is an on-going process and the transition from analogue to digital services has already begun and is aiming to conclude by 2025.

This changeover has important implications for existing analogue TECS technologies. In many cases analogue telecare products will continue to operate but may become less reliable and certainly more complex to install and manage.

Service users may require a broadband service into the home with some form of access for analogue devices, for example an analogue terminal adapter (ATA) requiring additional configuration and support with no new tangible benefits to the user.

Therefore, we would advocate that Service Commissioners and Providers consider planning for this change now. Whilst the end point is still some years away many may begin to see the switch over in their own areas in the next 12 to 18 months, if it has not already begun.

In many cases analogue telecare products will continue to operate but may become less reliable and certainly more complex to install and manage.

Digital TECS

To truly realise the benefits of this revolution it is necessary to install a digital end to end solution using telecare alarm systems connected to a digitally enabled monitoring centre. Work has been on-going for some time to provide an open and publically available digital communications protocol built upon systems already deployed in the Nordics. However, there is one important change in the preferred method of communication – digital units in the home will in the most part communicate using the mobile (GSM) network. The recent improvements in coverage and advances in roaming algorithms mean that there is now near universal mobile service availability.

With an end to end digital system come some immediate benefits including:

  • Always on connectivity and early indication of loss of communication
  • Reliability of communication above that of existing PSTN systems
  • Improved speed of connection and in most cases a 10-fold increase
  • Interoperability across platforms via open and non-proprietary protocols
  • More efficient installation and device management via remote configuration portals

The higher bandwidths available from digital connections brings with it the ability to convey increased data from peripherals and other connected technologies potentially making possible the use of more advanced data analysis tools to help predict and possibly prevent incidents.

Digital Technology Roadmap

Here at Legrand Assisted Living & Healthcare we have been working hard to replace all of our analogue technology platforms with digital systems, although we do recognise that in many cases it will not be practical to simply replace systems, especially in grouped living environments. Therefore, we have also looked at how best to protect previous investments by our customers yet to realise the benefits of digital connectivity.

Today, Legrand Assisted Living & Healthcare can offer a straightforward upgrade for most Advent XT schemes to provide native digital connectivity to a digitally enabled monitoring centre. Immediately this will reduce the connection time for an alarm from 40 secs to less than 4 secs. For those not quite ready, the device will continue to use the analogue line until ready to simply switch over to using the digital connection. For many with corporate Wide Area Network (WAN) access to the site, this could pay for itself in approximately 24 months.

Legrand Assisted Living & Healthcare has launched a fully digital Reach IP GSM telecare alarm unit connecting via the GSM mobile network, again offering improved speed of connection, reliable connectivity and remote configuration via our Cloud Management Portal (CMP). Whereas our monitoring systems solutions have been providing digitally enabled monitoring platforms for some years now. We are now able to offer alarm centre operators the ability to seamlessly accept calls from analogue and digital systems on one common platform.

Planning your Digital Journey

The transition will have an impact for service providers and users, and it is important that all concerned in the provision of TEC services understand that change is happening and plan for how best to make the journey. To this end, Legrand Assisted Living & Healthcare is offering a free of charge Digital Health Check to help organisations understand their current position and what will be required to enable the continued safe provision of this valuable service. Everywhere you see our blue digitally enabled tick, gives you the assurance that the product is future proofed and ready for the digital future.

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