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Importance of interoperability

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Interoperability has become a key element in the progression of digital telecare, assisting housing providers to make an easy transition for customers when choosing to upgrade to digital.


In the TSA’s Interoperability of Digital TEC systems’ brochure, it outlines that during 2021 there has been a ‘major step forward on interoperability within the Technology Enabled Care (TEC) sector’ when suppliers committed to interoperability for digital TEC systems. Alongside the TSA, the ‘People at the Heart of Care’ white paper, released in December 2021, also outlines how the next generation of care technologies should be ‘user-friendly, accessible and interoperable technology by default’.


But what is interoperability?


Interoperability enables different systems and devices to operate together to exchange and make use of data that can be communicated to and acted on by the intended user. Simply put, it allows customers to keep their existing peripheral devices, such as a pendant, and work alongside new digital telecare equipment. This makes a company’s digital upgrade simpler, more efficient potentially more cost effective.


Why is it so important?


It is so important for the TEC sector right now as many organisations have been stuck with one manufacturer which restricts the quality of services they can provide. The ability to mix and match equipment and services enables them to deliver the most appropriate service and best outcomes for their end users.


This has been enforced by the NHS1 and has outlined that ‘with new models of care emerging and evolving, there is a clear need for more effective information sharing between care settings.’ They went on further to say, ‘more integrated ways of working across health and care are necessary to enabling care professionals and citizens to better manage care.’


This is where the TEC sector is headed, the Department of Health and Social Care previously stated: “To provide a seamless care journey, it is important that relevant technologies in the health and social care system are interoperable, in terms of hardware, software and the data contained within.”


The British Standards and the European Standards came together and created appropriate Open Standards Principles for software interoperability. By doing so any supplier has the ability to transition to interoperable software. Something Appello have already embraced.


How have Appello embraced interoperability?


As an organisation we are committed to trying to avoid the industry habit of making a ‘walled garden’ where only one set of products works with only one set of devices, therefore interoperability is in our ethos.


When we identify partners and organisations we want to work with, we look for those that offer solutions that can add value to our customers, improve the lives of our service users and enhance our TEC offering.


What are the benefits of interoperability?


The benefit of implementing interoperability is to:


– Reduce cost for customers, as they can continue to use their current devices

– Voids environmental impact of throwing away devices

– Enables service providers to continue using existing peripherals whilst making the required move to digital connectivity.

– Enables service users to continue to use equipment they are comfortable with, reducing the impact on them of moving to digital services.


What Appello devices are interoperable?


Our SmartTEC range have all been developed as interoperable solutions.


Smart Living Solutions (SLS) is our fully digital TEC system. It was the first digital telecare solution in the UK and has now been installed in over 500 developments, supporting over 25,000 individuals. Developed in 2016 we made sure that SLS was designed as an interoperable device enabling customers to benefit from market leading telecare devices.


Similarly SmartConnect, our alternative hardwired solution, has been designed as an open protocol platform which enables organisations to utilise additional telecare devices.


SmartLife is our new digital dispersed alarm which has been developed to include interoperability. This enables SmartLife to understand radio signals of peripheral devices from multiple manufactures. This is something that has not been possible for decades however, we have manged to create a dispersed alarm which enables service providers to continue using their existing telecare peripherals whilst upgrading to digital.


FAQ’s over SmartLife interoperability


We still receive queries over interoperability and how it works. Therefore, we have pulled some questions we received from our previous webinar on SmartLife and have summed up some answers that we feel would be beneficial.


Q: Can SmartLife work with different manufacturers peripherals at the same time


A: Yes, SmartLife is interoperable with radio telecare peripheral manufactured by Appello, Cair and Tunstall. These devices can work simultaneously. Appello have not tested every device manufactured by these organisations therefore we welcome testing of specific devices.


Q: Do telecare triggers need to be upgraded as part of the digital switch?


A: Telecare peripherals, such as pendants do not need to be upgraded as a result of the digital migration. These devices do not connect with the telecoms network, they only communicate via radio signal with the alarm device. Therefore, interoperability can enable SmartLife customers to extend the value of their investment in existing telecare peripherals.


We do recommend though that the age and condition of peripherals is taken into consideration and upgraded where appropriate.


Q: Will the CAIR pendants compatible with the Smart Living Solutions system also work with the SmartLife units?


A: Yes, these pendants can be reprogrammed to work with SmartLife.


Q: Is there not a problem with mixing suppliers, and who takes responsibility if there is a problem?


A: Interoperability in technology has long been a desire from housing and care providers, and is now an expectation amongst industry bodies and experts.


We believe the benefits, including cost efficiencies, great choice, and improved customer experience far outweigh the potential disadvantages


Furthermore, the digital capabilities of equipment provide far greater insight enabling much more detail when pinpointing issues within equipment.


If you would like to learn more about SmartLife please register for our upcoming webinar on April 27th which features the latest news on SmartLife and new pendant. It will also be an opportunity for you to ask any questions you might have on the device or the digital transition in general.




1 https://www.england.nhs.uk/digitaltechnology/connecteddigitalsystems/interoperability/

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