By 2025, analogue telephony services will be switched off entirely. This poses great challenges to housing providers, many of whom rely on telecare alarm systems for residents, which are incompatible with a digital network. Many of the health and wellbeing devices and systems currently in place to assist residents in an emergency will cease to work appropriately within the next few years.
Worryingly, many providers appear to be slow to upgrade, showing little consideration for the fact that disruption is already occurring well ahead of the analogue telephony switch off date. Current analogue systems and products already cause call failures and delays due to network incompatibility, this puts vulnerable residents at risk.
The digital call system that replaces the more traditional analogue system gives residents a faster call connection time to emergency monitoring services, reduced from around 90 seconds to three seconds on the new digital system. It also opens up the possibility of more modern technology integrations for wellbeing purposes, such as video call systems which allow residents to see who is at their front door from the comfort of their sofa and communicate instantly with neighbours. In addition, tablets or wearable systems can be integrated so that residents can communicate with their care provider remotely, giving them more independence and peace of mind.
A recent report by Appello, in collaboration with the Housing LIN, researched 65 housing providers and found that while almost all (93%) believe that digital will be ‘critical for future success’, nearly half (44%) are not yet ready for transformation.
That being said, there does seem to be a growing awareness in the industry. Appello commissioned the same piece of research in 2016 and the number of housing providers planning for digital has increased from 28% in 2016 to 40% in 2018. Further to this, 86% of housing providers indicated in the 2018 survey that they were aware of the 2025 analogue to digital switchover.
Reasons for resistance
Clearly there is still resistance, and there are some signals as to why this might be the case. Almost 12% stated that their current telecare provider is unable to monitor digital devices, highlighting a gap in the market for end-to-end digital solutions providers. Further to this 9% of housing providers still have no digital plan in place; 7% are not aware of digital solutions; and almost 7% do not see digital as part of their current strategy.
This is a welcome evolution from the 2016 report where most housing providers stated cost (17%) or risk (14%) as the main barrier to digital change. In the past two years alone, we’ve seen a massive increase in research and educational materials disproving the risks, endorsement by organisations such as BT and the Telecare Services Association (TSA), and more technology providers offering solutions driving down costs. As a result, no one cited these factors as barriers in the more recent report.
Contrary to the laissez-faire attitude of many housing providers with regards to the approaching deadline, early adoption of digital will be absolutely vital as the telecoms infrastructure transitions. We’re already witnessing an increase in telecare call failures year-on-year and a decline in service. Recent research by the TSA found a 7.5 percent analogue first-time call failure rate, and at the Appello Monitoring Centre, we have seen that exceed 10% in some places.
As an industry, we need to understand where there are obstacles to digital advancement, from budgetary constraints to contractual obligations, so that we can help housing providers, and their customers – residents – to benefit from digital technologies. The more housing providers who get on board, the more potential there is for this technology to innovate and develop. It’s time to ask why every housing provider is not incorporating digital into their developments?
To download the report please visit www.appello.co.uk/whitepaper.