Interoperability of Digital TEC Systems



March 15, 2021 11:09 am

TSA’s Technology Strategy lead Steve Sadler and all-round clever guy talks through current issues of interoperability and Digitalisation of TEC

Systems can be described as fully interoperable if they can exchange data, interpret that shared data in the same way and present the resulting information so that it can be understood and acted upon by the intended users.

This is sometimes referred to as semantic interoperability, and offers significant benefits, by:

  • enabling integration and coordination of services, to deliver improved outcomes for vulnerable clients.
  • allowing freedom of choice for users and clients when selecting technologies, to best match individual needs and preferences.
  • supporting business continuity through access to multiple supply chains for systems and services.
  • offering competition and hence best value procurement.

The interoperability of systems and technologies from different suppliers is a challenge in most industrial sectors. We may have encountered obstacles to interoperability, such as the difficulties of working with legacy systems or managing the divergent commercial interests of technology suppliers. However, we saw a major step forward in the technology enabled care sector on 4th February, when a number of suppliers committed to interoperability for digital TEC systems. If you missed the TSA webinar catch-up with the content here.

The interoperability issue that currently raises most concerns is the need for Alarm Hubs and Alarm Receiving Centres from different suppliers to work together, to allow alarms to be raised and managed correctly. It is here that the suppliers represented at the February 4th webinar committed to interoperability for digital alarm systems, by implementing the “TS50134-9” digital communication protocol in both their Alarm Hub and ARC products.

The suppliers represented at the webinar were: Appello, Chubb, Doro, Enovation, Legrand, Skyresponse, Tunstall. Others will hopefully follow….

A few points to note:

  • The commitment to the provision of an open standard interface DOES NOT mean that suppliers will stop offering their own preferred and non-standardised communication methods. Some suppliers may claim benefits in using products from the same supplier. HOWEVER, all of the suppliers represented agreed that the interoperable interface standard will always be provided as an alternative form of connection.
  • The TS50134-9 standard supports different implementation options, so it is still important to confirm interoperability through inter-product testing between the relevant suppliers.
  • The standard for the link between digital alarm devices and a receiving centre is sometimes referred to as the ‘SCAIP protocol’, which is an earlier specification that evolved into the published TS50134-9 standard.
  • TS50134-9 has been designed for ‘dispersed’ alarms. There is a complementary standard for ‘grouped’ systems – see BS 8521-2:2020, often referred to as ‘NOWIP’.

I have highlighted ‘digital’ interoperability between alarms and monitoring centres. At some stage soon we will need to move forward in considering the interworking of other system components, such as Sensors and Device Management Platforms, and ultimately how information is shared openly and securely with Care Management Systems. We will also need to return to ‘analogue’ alarm technologies, and how they impact the sharing of alarm data and voice in a digital world.

Nevertheless, let’s celebrate the first major step!

Steve will be part of a panel discussion around interoperability on March 24 at ITEC conference:

March 24 >> 14:30 – 15:30, Parallel Session 1, Main Auditorium. The Development of Enabling Technology and Interoperability

A panel discussion – An Integrated Model for Proactive Care: Learnings from COVID-19
March 22 >>  15:45 – 16:45, Parallel Session 3, Breakout Theatre

Session Chair – TSA ADASS Commission exploring how technology can be truly integrated into adult social care
March 23 >> 15:45 – 16:45, Parallel Session 1, Main Auditorium