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Let’s clear up any confusion on digital telecare standards – improvements are in progress!

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The world of telecare has changed dramatically over the last few years as digital systems have become established. As a result, misunderstandings over digital telecare standards and protocols within the industry are common. Only recently, one of our customers informed us that a major manufacturer based a sales pitch on outdated protocols from over seven years ago, no longer relevant to today’s digital systems.


With this level of confusion by some suppliers, we recognise that for housing providers today’s environment can be unclear, therefore I wanted to shed some light on the current picture and how a significant change could be on the horizon.


We believe that it’s important we unite as an industry to dispel any confusion over protocols, while working together to create new standards that will benefit both customers and manufacturers.


We are currently working together with the TSA and other telecare monitoring platform suppliers to develop a single protocol, or set of rules, for digital telecare alarm systems in 2019.


When we refer to protocols, in essence we mean the language which the residents telecare/alarm equipment sends over the telecoms network to a monitoring centre – it’s this protocol translation that allows the monitoring centre to interpret who and what is calling them. At present there are several different languages being used in the industry, which has resulted in confusion and restrictions for housing providers looking to start on a digital journey.


Currently we are in a world comparable to desktop computers, where there is Windows (Microsoft) and Mac (Apple), once you buy that exciting new iMac, you are restricted to a journey of their software and accessories. In a similar fashion, whilst many monitoring providers are unable to monitor digital telecare devices or only monitor a unique digital protocol, housing providers are restricted to that supplier’s equipment. If you are tied into a long-term monitoring contract, with a supplier who does not offer digital equipment, you may find that you are being held back from commencing on your digital journey – much to the disadvantage of your residents.


The good news!

As the market leader in digital telecare, we have been able to monitor digital equipment, including our own Smart Living Solutions suite for many years but this is not the case for the whole industry. However, there is potentially good news ahead, as an Industry Protocol Standard Group, comprising other manufacturers and Appello have joined together to improve the existing digital warden call protocol NOW IP v1.5. Until now, the challenge has been that this protocol has been interpreted by manufacturers and monitoring providers in the industry in slightly different ways, so we need a de facto protocol that is adhered to by everyone, leaving no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation.


So why is this important?

Currently, some housing providers are being held back from the latest digital technology as they are unable to monitor digital alarm equipment. They are being left confused as to whether their current monitoring provider can monitor digital telecare equipment.
A standardised protocol will mean that when housing providers upgrade, the potential interoperability issue between the manufacturer of their Telecare equipment and their monitoring provider will be greatly reduced. Housing providers will have far greater control and choice and will be able to select the best monitoring provider and the best equipment for their residents.


This is a key consideration for housing and care providers, particularly as the telecommunications infrastructure shifts from analogue to digital as highlighted in my previous post.


A new de facto NOW IP protocol is really an essential part of easing this process and making it a reality.


We look forward to concluding the process with other members of the committee – with an open invitation to other manufacturers in the industry to join us in finalising the current draft, prior to inclusion into the BSI British Standards listing.


In the meantime, though, this should not be holding housing providers back, we are working with many clients who have taken there first steps into digital telecare, helping them overcome any compatibility challenges they envisaged.


What about standards for equipment?

Whilst we are looking at a standardised protocol, there is also work underway to update the guidelines around telecare equipment to ensure a significant focus on digital systems. Our Smart Living Solutions are compliant, where applicable, with EN50134, a certified standard concerned with the safety built into the development of telecare alarms. This advisory document originally written around analogue products has morphed in the past year to include digital elements. However, as digital becomes the go-to standard for housing providers, we continue to draw on our experience of deploying over 170 fully digital developments (>7,000 digital residents), to support the TSA in clearly defining the installation, monitoring and maintenance standards for digital equipment.


As digital technology becomes ever more embedded into housing and care, it is paramount that we continue to strive to deliver the most compatible, joined up solutions that benefit providers and ultimately their residents, in this digital age. With the right standards and protocols in place, both manufacturers and housing and care providers will benefit in the long term from this clarity.

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