Wendy Darling 01 November 2019

Social alarms: time’s running out for local authorities to go digital

Vulnerable adults might not get the emergency assistance they need if local authorities do not address the switch soon. Telephone providers including BT and Virgin Media have advised us that they will shut down analogue completely in 2025.

Currently, there is a misconception among many local authorities that analogue units will still work on digital telephony networks. However, a report from Appello, the UK’s largest Technology Enabled Care Services (TECS) monitoring centre, are already reporting failures of around 11.5%.

Undoubtedly, the closer we get to the 2025 digital switchover date the higher number of failed calls we’ll see. Swedish municipalities went through the same transition ten years ago and, tragically, they reported some fatal errors.

Swedish telecom provider Telia upgraded their core network to a next-generation network (NGN) in 2007. Shortly after, a 76-year-old man died when his analogue social alarm failed to connect to the digital network via his analogue phone line. That year, it was estimated that 20% of alarm connections via an NGN failed.

However, there have been questions about the reliability of UK networks too. During some early trials of digital systems, some of the chosen mobile networks were found to have limited connectivity in certain areas.

The answer is to take the burden of sourcing SIM cards away from local authorities and give it to the service provider. Roaming SIMs, specifically designed for machine-to-machine application, are supplied with all Doro Care digital systems. This means that connectivity issues are rare. However, in the event that there was a problem, support is provided immediately.

Regardless of this, if service providers don't start installing digital units now, they simply won’t have the resource to complete the installs before 2025. This is an issue that we must address now.

Wendy Darling is county director of Doro UK

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