A highly fragmented industry

The digital society is being developed around us and cloud technology in particular have disrupted many industries. New smart technologies are constantly emerging, and innovative solutions see the day of light. Trends like microservices and APIs are leading to monolithic solutions being decoupled and replaced by best-of-breed-solutions with components from an ecosystem of suppliers.

The change in the alarm and security industry, however, is slow despite the rise of IoT and cloud solutions. Said industry has been dominated by solutions developed before the raise of Internet, with monolithic design where alarm equipment and monitoring centres are tightly integrated and using analogue proprietary protocols for the alarm communication. Such solutions will not meet the change in customer demands and expectations over time. Yet, while digitalization drives new demand, modern solutions need to co-exist with legacy solutions. With old communications networks being shut down, there is urgent need to find efficient ways to maintain existing systems during the migration phase.

An essential challenge across industry sectors is interoperability of technology from different suppliers, with varying degrees of standardization. The market for alarm devices is highly fragmented with different suppliers and standards, making it hard for new players to enter due to complexity. Even with new IP based standard protocols for alarm communication in place, different suppliers can implement the standards differently, making integrations between monitoring centres and alarm equipment even more complex. There is a clear need for solutions that can bridge this gap of protocol fragmentation through an agnostic approach.

Moving towards digital connectivity

Over the last decade, most network operators in Europe have started the migration from analogue to digital telephone networks and a number of European countries have set out targets to achieve copper switch-off and full migration to internet protocol (IP) technology. The analogue telephone service in UK for example, is announced to be switched off by 2025 as UK’s telecommunication infrastructure is upgraded to digital connectivity.

Services involving analogue alarms operating over traditional telephone lines, will be largely affected by the copper switch-off. Immediate actions are needed to avoid a major disruption to current alarm services and failing to act in time may put a great number of vulnerable people at risk. Only in the UK, there are today more than 1.5 million Telecare devices connected via PSTN to alarm monitoring centres and around 3 million intruder alarms using analogue connections, which gives an idea of the magnitude of the challenge. The alarm industry must not wait until problems occur before taking steps to address the issue with analogue alarms being decommissioned.

Solution Providers within sectors such as Technology Enabled Care, Security and Facilities, must ensure that installed systems will continue to operate during and after the migration to digital networks and IP based solutions.

Benefits and challenges going digital

There are many benefits going digital. Some important aspects are:

Reliability and interoperability

Digital alarm alerts are much quicker to send, devices are online and continuously connected which improves reliability. Also, with standardized digital alarm protocols, upgrades can be done without interoperability issues between the alarm equipment manufacturer and the monitoring provider.

Enhanced user experience

Equally important is the enhanced user experience. There is a wide range of input sources (sensors, cameras, wearables) that can be offered in combination with digital devices to enable surveillance scenarios, real-time communication and predictive analysis.

Cost savings in the long run

There are also cost savings to be expected in the long run, in terms of remote control of devices, replacement of personal visits by digital “video visits” and monitoring, more efficient ways to upgrade the solution etc.

Going fully digital is a major challenge for the long-established analogue alarm industry. Analogue equipment is commonplace and digital transformation projects not only include alarm receiving centres to become digital, but also to upgrade alarm units in user´s home. Many solution providers are facing substantial investments in new technology and in the short term, the capital cost of wholesale device replacement will be high.

Bridging the protocol fragmentation in the alarm industry

The solution? Serverless alarm bridging

So, what can be done to overcome the obstacles moving towards modern IP based alarm solutions and interoperability of technology from different suppliers? Here to mitigate the transition and to help modernize alarm event integrations is the iotcomms.io Alarmbridge.

With Alarmbridge, companies can take immediate actions towards new models based around cloud and APIs. It simplifies alarm integrations with legacy devices and platforms by bridging a variety of alarm protocols to a unified API. It can help to decouple monolithic alarm solutions by giving the opportunity to replace and modernize each component, letting the alarm industry in on the best-of-breed trend. And just as importantly, it can bring new players to the market allowing them to focus on creating added customer value rather than technological complexity.

Stay tuned to hear more about Alarmbridge in the coming weeks!

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