Going Digital

Knowledge exchange - Technology considerations

Below are a set of questions that set out how you might get better connected digitally

What standards exist in the digital world?

There is no doubt that digital and Wi-Fi is the future but the standards have yet to catch up. For example, Wi-Fi is not reliable enough for a life critical alarm call but is excellent for preventative and enabling solutions.

Current Social Alarm Standards reflect best practice, safeguard consumers and allow suppliers to innovate beyond the core. These standards include alarm transmission and reference category 1 radio receiving devices. Of course standards are not static and evolve to meet changes, including technology, and a new standard for digital alarm signalling is under discussion. 

There are no published UK or pan European standards for IP social alarm signalling protocols to connect local systems to a monitoring centre and enable end to end IP solutions. The majority of UK monitoring centres are not yet ready to receive IP based alarm calls. External digital connectivity is not as robust as analogue lines therefore diverse routing is essential so that if the broadband/fibre fails then life critical calls can be sent via an alternative route such as SIM based or even analogue in the short term.

However CAT6 cabling is the right direction of travel - it does give you the right infrastructure to provide a range of services which gives you a revenue stream.

The service that supports a digital platform can provide some resilience. The “always on” nature means the system can be frequently checked and the “heart beat” monitored for power and performance, using a device management platform (DMP). Therefore the DMP itself can provide the resilience but this needs to be reflected in the future standards.

Wi-Fi has become a utility just like water. 4 billion people use a mobile phone throughout the world but only 3 billion people use a toothbrush.

So when it comes to safety, it depends on what it is being used for. Safety critical devices such as telecare requires you to work with a provider who understands issues around resilience, connectivity, safety, privacy and reliability. A back up should the mobile signal or internet connection fail, is always required.

However, if the solution is to check your blood pressure or weight twice a day and a late reading is not life critical, then the resilience needs to be less robust.

Useful information

  • TSA Standards (opens new window)
    TSA is evolving its Integrated Telecare and Telehealth Code of Practice into a Quality Standards Framework for all Technology Enabled Care (TEC) services 
  • Analogue to digital: Future proofing your group living systems
    This Housing LIN Viewpoint highlights how, during the Coronavirus pandemic, many social landlords have relied on monitoring and communication systems to keep vulnerable residents safe but also to enhance their quality of life as social isolation has become widespread

How do we get the digital technologists (eg Google) more interested in this for older people?

New technologies are beginning to make their mark on the private housing sector, with the take up of innovations such as Nest and Hive increasing across the UK. The Internet of Things is expanding rapidly, and is bound to offer the social housing sector a tangible opportunity to introduce cost-effective technologies that will benefit both providers and residents. As the market matures, we’ll see technology used to improve asset management and repairs scheduling, and to give greater insight into household activity enabling better tenancy management and investment to be targeted more effectively.

Residents can also be more proactively protected, with systems able to monitor changes in behaviours that may indicate a need for support, such as a decline in the use of the kitchen indicating nutritional issues, or an increase in use of the bathroom identifying a possible UTI at an early stage. And of course, there are sensors already in widespread use which will automatically raise the alert in the event of a person falling at home.

Technology also gives providers the means to engage with residents and tenants in new ways, and vice versa, meaning insight into their behaviours and desires is becoming increasingly intelligent and valuable.

The technology is already available, what will begin to change is the scale of its use, the systems that underpin it and the way the resulting data is used. Ultimately we’ll see a shift towards technology becoming central to service delivery, with housing providers designing business structures and processes around it, rather than it being an ‘add-on’ service.

Useful information

What is happening internationally?

The UK is moving at a slower than other parts of the world. Australia, Nordics, Germany are switching off their analogue lines as we speak. So we should be learning from those countries. In the UK, the national infrastructure provider BT is proposing to have completed the transition from analogue to IP Voice by 2025.

Key questions to ask

  • Is fibre to the premises available in this area
  • Is fibre to the cabinet available in this area
  • What speed broadband is available in this area
  • What percentage of people in a “scheme” use the internet now?
  • How many do you anticipate in next 12 months?
  • How many will be using the internet at the same time?
  • What level of services do you want to provide?

It is still subject to debate, when it comes to the building regulations which ensure that new buildings and major renovations are constructed to enable connection to broadband with speeds of no less than 30 Mbit/s.

Useful information

  • Transforming services for people using digital technology: Mapping activities and exploring experiences
    This report by Iriss, co-commissioned by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) details the background information, approach and findings of a discovery project launched in Spring 2019.
  • Robotics in Social Care: A Connected Care EcoSystem for Independent Living
    In this white paper, the UK-RAS Network looks at the emerging crisis in UK social care and presents their vision for creating a connected care ecosystem linking home, residential and hospital care as a continuum.
  • Scotland's Digital Health & Care Strategy 2018
    Scottish Government look at how technology can support person-centred care, and sustain and improve services for the future
  • Technology Enabled Care: Data Review and Evaluation Options Study
    This Scottish Government report presents the findings from their Technology Enabled Care (TEC) data review and evaluation option study.
  • Scotland’s digital strategy 2017
    Scotland’s refreshed digital strategy states that - Ensure that every premise in Scotland is able to access broadband speeds of at least 30 Megabits per second by 2021. Source: Realising Scotland's full potential in a digital world: a digital strategy for Scotland
  • UK Digital Strategy (opens new window)
    Digital technologies and data are already helping to achieve the ambitions of Personalised Health and Care 2020 and a paperless NHS and the government will invest £4.2 billion over the next five years in areas such as electronic patient records, apps and wearable devices, telehealth and assistive technologies
  • I-Stay@Home project (opens new window)
    This European funded project investigated how information communication technology (ICT) can support elderly and disabled people against future challenges such as isolation, security, disability, health, financial hardship and independent living. It reported on the overall effectiveness of ICT solutions as a tool for improving and maintaining the quality of life of the elderly and/or disabled people across Northwest Europe.
    And also see Habinteg’s Inspirational Achievements’ on the I-Stay@Home project on the Housing LIN website.

Please email info@housinglin.org.uk if there is a resource that addresses any of the questions on this page.