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Digital revolution

13 March 2018

John Ware describes how digital networks are enabling security alarm signalling to be more reliable than ever

THE UK is a digitally connected nation with more than 99 percent of UK homes and businesses having access broadband. EE's 4G coverage extends to more than 86% of the UK’s landmass (equal to more than 99% of the UK population) and EE has an ambition to extend 4G to 95% UK geographic coverage by 2020. As both rollouts continue, the foundations are laid for the UK to take the next step in its digital transformation.

This is the dawn of a new era. Today, telephone calls are the only form of communication that still travel over analogue networks. But that is set to change. We’re bringing our telephone service, based on 20th century technology, into the 21st century digital age. 

What’s changing?

Following the lead and learning of countries such as Germany and Switzerland, we’re upgrading to a digital telephone service for all our UK customers giving them the modern, rapid communications they want and need. We’ll start towards the end of 2018 and we aim to finish by the end of 2025. 

As the security industry looks to realise the full potential of digital connectivity and smart homes, the upgrade to BT’s telephone network will enable security alarm manufacturers and installers alike to truly embrace the opportunities that digital brings. 

For consumers, fully digital networks enable them to interact with their alarm system as part of a connected home, through their mobile phone, for example. We will increasingly see technologies that have only been available to big businesses in the past, becoming more affordable and available to smaller organisations, as well as people in the home.

The main change for BT’s customers is essentially that their new digital telephone service will run over broadband. Our customers will no longer need to plug their phone into the white socket on the wall as they’ll connect via the broadband hub, and extension wiring will no longer be required. New digital phones will just need a power supply. 

For the security industry this means that there will no longer be the ability to install tamper proof wiring into the back of the socket (referred to by us as the NTE). Instead, solutions that connect via the router will be required.

Any company that provides a special service such as alarms that use the analogue phone network will need to ensure that their products and services will continue to work in the new digital world. BT’s test centre will be available to all suppliers to test their products to ensure service continuity in a fully digital world.

Advantages of IP signalling

There are a number of major benefits to IP signalling, whether you are an installer or an alarm customer. These include:

  • Easy network connection during installation;
  • Secure, reliable alarm signalling;
  • Controlled costs for the customer; and
  • Easy online diagnostics and maintenance, reducing the need for engineer visits

In addition, IP signalling is particularly useful for those businesses located across multiple premises, and has a low environmental impact. 

As an example, Redcare’s Secure IP uses an IP network or broadband line as the primary signal, with backup provided by a mobile network connection. If the primary signal fails, an intelligent roaming mobile connection kicks in.

It’s approved by insurers – Secure IP is LPS 1277 third-party certified, which exceeds European and British standards, and can be installed any time with an easy network connection. Secure IP provides a remote manager web portal with an upload/download tool that gives installers quick access to remote diagnostics and servicing, accessing most panels via secure wireless or the IP path.

It means fewer engineer visits are necessary, and customers are happy because maintenance, upgrades and repairs can often be carried out extremely quickly, and without hassle.

Who’s using IP for security?

Many customers across the UK have already chosen IP signalling for their alarm systems. They are discovering the benefits the move can bring. For instance, when UK retailer Pets At Home was looking to keep more than 300 stores around the country secure, it turned to alarm company Aspro Crest, who recommended Redcare Secure IP. 

As well as needing totally reliable security, Pets At Home was keen to reduce costs and Redcare Secure IP provided the ideal solution according to Aspro Crest managing director Nick Robinson. He explained that the deployment went ahead so successfully and seamlessly that the customer hardly noticed the change going ahead.

Dialling into digital

But what happens if you are an installer or customer of Redcare products that use BT’s analogue phone network (the PSTN) as the secondary path for signalling to the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC)?

Being part of BT we’re staying ahead of the game by being well-informed about what the change means. And having been around for more than three decades – leading the way in reliable alarm signalling over those years - we’re taking this latest change in our stride. 

As the only alarm signalling company backed by BT’s technology, our LPCB-certified products are already future-proofed for the digital revolution – even outside our Secure IP and Secure Fire IP products. 

For instance, Redcare’s Classic and GSM range use copper connectivity, but do not use not the PSTN network. And our Secure 2 and 3 products can be configured to fully IP by simply connecting an Ethernet cable to the broadband hub. 

Fit for the future

We’ve made a major investment in our staff and operations since we relaunched last year, and we’re working proactively with leading ARCs and installers to boost their businesses, which is why we’re so keen to offer advice on the move to digital. In fact, we’re already looking to the future of alarm signalling by accessing the mighty power of BT’s Research and Development operation.

As we move away from old-fashioned analogue network and into the digital world, any Redcare product likely to be affected will be converted or upgraded in a no-hassle and managed approach that fits with customer need, maintenance visit and rollout timescales.

When it comes down to it, what matters in the move to digital is the customer’s need for an effective alarm monitored product to protect their premises and people. After all, security and fire systems are crucial to the safe operation of the UK’s businesses as well as its public buildings and domestic premises.

We want to work with you to identify customers with security alarms and manage their upgrades carefully. We’re asking all alarm receiving centres to provide us with the key information that helps us identify BT customers who may have a special service and ensure they have alerted their provider before opting to upgrade. 

We’re working hard to ensure you are aware of how the changes to our network will affect your current products and services, and to help you benefit from this opportunity to develop innovative new ones. 

Case study – Securenett and Cougar

West Midlands-based Securenett has been established since 1985, and in that time has protected 10,000 organisations and homes, working with Cougar’s state of the art Alarm Receiving Centre.

Cougar and Securenett place a big emphasis on the IP dual path signalling provided by Redcare products, saying they provide customers with greater security and peace of mind. 

Cougar & Securenett CEO Eric Roberts, praises the UDL remote servicing ability and appreciates features including flexible upgrade options and Redcare’s intelligent roaming SIM, which does not wait for failure but automatically switches between main UK mobile networks to ensure the best signal. 

Eric said: “The customer needs two services a year, and one of them can be done remotely. 

“It’s making installs for Securenett work a lot smarter – saving us time and fuel - and it means we can provide a faster speed of service. It’s a powerful bit of kit.”

For more information about Redcare Secure IP and Fire Secure IP products, visit www.redcare.bt.com

John Ware is general Manager of BT Redcare

Free CPD seminar session – 12 April, NEC Birmingham

BT Redcare’s head of product and portfolio Nick Whiting will be part of a panel debate on reliable detection and the safe evacuation of premises. The session takes place on 12 April 2018 at the Fire Safety Event at NEC Birmingham and CPD Hours are available. BT Redcare will also be exhibiting at the Fire Safety Event 10-12 April on stand FS50. You can attend the event and the panel debate for FREE. Simply register to attend at www.firesafetyevents.com