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The challenges group living schemes face as the shut-down of the analogue network approaches


2​6 March 2024

An exclusive interview with TEC sector veteran and expert , Steve Smith

We talked to Steve Smith, well-known and respected industry veteran of the technology-enabled care (TEC) sector and founder of specialist consultancy, TECS Advisory, about the challenges that sheltered and group living schemes face as the big PSTN switch-off draws closer.

PSTN 2025 switch off- a challenge or an opportunity

“It was made clear that when the big switch-off was announced around eight years ago now, any analogue equipment on the network would not work. Me and other industry experts had been sounding the alarm that all the estimated 1.8 million analogue alarm systems that were being used in the UK, would need to be upgraded. We had been advising commissioners [housing associations, local authorities and other organisations responsible for providing telecare services] that they needed to move to digital devices.

“The challenge was that most of the monitoring centres in the UK were, and are still, unable to receive digital calls, so care providers could not swap out their analogue calling devices for digital systems. It was a chicken-and-egg situation. Some of the control centre providers have been slow to implement digital systems and that’s created a real choke point, where many of the alarm devices out there are still analogue and there is very little time left to change over to digital.”

The time is running out

Individual alarm devices can simply be unplugged and replaced with a digital device, and while there are around 1.1 million of these installed today, the solution here is straight-forward enough. “The bigger challenge comes with the 800,000 analogue alarm points within approximately 24,500 sheltered housing schemes in the UK, where the technology is hardwired in, and where replacing with a digital system will require perhaps four or five weeks work by a team of engineers costing between £1000 to £1500 per property.

Given the scale of work required to make all UK schemes digital-ready, the financial implications for cash strapped local authorities and supported housing providers, and the short time available, it is looking increasingly likely that a significant proportion of schemes across the country will not be digital ready when the PSTN switch off occurs.”

Safety is at risk

Steve believes that only around 10 percent of these group living schemes will have converted to digital already by the end of 2025, leaving around 22,000 individual properties that are still using analogue alarms. The people living in this accommodation are very dependent on their alarm systems. Without them, they would not be safe at times when there is no attendant on site, which would typically be every night and at weekends. While the companies that provide these alarm systems to sheltered and group living schemes are obviously concerned and making efforts to switch to digital alarms, their inexperience with digital systems means the process is taking time.

The question of what will happen if these sites are not switched over to digital by 31 December 2025, when the UK’s PSTN network shuts down for good, remains. When that moment comes, some of the group living schemes can find themselves without a working alarm system until they are able to fully convert their in-house systems from analogue to digital.

"I’m worried about this situation and have worked with others to raise awareness, but we’ve reached a point where there isn’t enough time left to do all the work required. We need to do something in the time that remains."

An insurmountable challenge?

With the sector facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge, Steve started to look for a solution that would bridge the gap by connecting analogue and digital systems. This led to the formation of a partnership with

“We started casting around for independent organisations that could provide a solution and discovered that [whom Steve already knew through his extensive industry contacts], had a system that would allow sheltered housing schemes to continue using their analogue alarms and communicate with digital alarm receiving centres (ARC), and then switch over to being fully digital at a later date.”

A neat and affordable problem resolution

The two organisations have worked together to refine what has now become the Alarmbridge Connect service. This makes use of a small ATA (analogue telephony adapter), to which the analogue receiver (often referred to as a control unit) already installed in group accommodations connects to.

The ATA translates the signal from the control unit into an encapsulated digital format before sending it over an internet connection to Here it is fully converted into one of the two standard digital protocols commonly used by alarm receiving centres – SCAIP and NOW-IP – and finally passed over to a digitally-enabled ARC.

All this happens in real time and is entirely invisible to the user and to agents at the call receiving centres. “Installation of the ATA gateway is quick and easy and is much more affordable than completely replacing the analogue infrastructure with one that is fully digital. It’s an ideal solution for organisations that are running out of time and need to bridge the gap.”

Alarmbridge Connect was demonstrated at the ITEC Conference, in Birmingham, UK, 18-19th of March 2024.

Want to know how Alarmbridge Connect ensures affordable and reliable alarm communication in group livings?

Discover Alarmbridge Connect  

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