The global digital switch that you may not have heard of…
By valentinadalmas | 28th March 2023
Technology and communications have become one and the same. Over 15 billion mobile devices are operating worldwide, and an estimated 319.6 billion e-mails are sent and received daily. In addition, over five billion people are connected to the Internet, which is 63% of the global population. But the system that has historically powered the hundreds of billions of interactions that occur every day is no longer fit for purpose – companies across technology, security and communications sectors have been moved to act.
Analogue systems, such as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) in the UK, Réseau Téléphonique Commuté (RTC/PSTN) in France and ISDN technology in Belgium, have been the backbone of communications for generations. But the demands and expectations of modern technology and vast signal traffic mean they can no longer fulfil their role in today’s fast-moving world or sustain the amount of shared data. In reality, they were never actually designed to carry data! What is the solution? Going digital and switching to Internet Protocol (IP).
The switch to digital IP technology from analogue copper cables increases capacity, bandwidth, and speed. Fire and Security products increasingly use IP connections to transmit signals, such as diagnostic information, configuration information and data analytics, that can be packaged in different forms, such as high-quality video, images, and reports.
The main reason for moving to an IP connection is better data transmission capabilities. This is now a requirement as the fire and security, and IT industries have aligned with businesses requiring an open, interoperable surveillance solution that can be part of a greater security and surveillance network. For example, several video systems from several sites can be interconnected together through IP connections or can be operated remotely to provide remote services, including maintenance or remote video guarding. This switchover is happening globally, and businesses need to upgrade to stay ahead and futureproof.
So how are businesses adapting to this change, and what is the benefit for security systems such as CCTV, access control and intruder alarms? I spoke to our engineers worldwide to see their top tips for businesses preparing to make the switch and to see how different markets are managing the change.
Identify all impacted devices
The digital switchover process started in Germany in 2018 and is expected to complete in 2023. One of the biggest challenges businesses will face initiating the process is identifying all affected devices that must be upgraded without specific documentation. But businesses can identify analogue devices via the existing analogue telecommunications accesses. This could be via provider invoices, for example, because these devices incur costs for the transmissions. Knowing which devices need to upgrade and don’t saves time and resources – bringing efficiency to what has the potential to be an inefficient process if poorly managed.
Get moving early
Telecom providers, such as PROXIMUS in Belgium and KPN in the Netherlands, have started implementing the transition in phases and progressing quickly.
In Belgium, they deactivated the analogue technology a few years ago, and now the network infrastructure is fully digitalized. While many alarm and access systems still use analogue technology, the companies that have managed it best are the ones that have moved fast. There are short-term solutions, such as migrating to SP/VoiceIP, that bridge the gap from analogue to digital for now. Still, earlier adoption makes the process quicker, easier, and painless.
The technology is available now, and switching quickly enables businesses to take advantage of the benefits. Some countries are moving faster than others, and you don’t want to be the market that has been left behind – take France, for example; currently, over 75% of all home telephone subscriptions already use digital IP technology! Leaving it to the last minute puts the customer’s security at risk and could overload the manufacturing and supply chain tasked with implementing the change.
Evaluate your systems
In the UK, the switchover to IP technology (Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP) will be complete and fully operational in December 2025. Once this happens, any systems relying on the old network will simply not function. This could be mission-critical and stop a business from trading. It will be essential for maintaining functional, reliable, future-ready technology, so provisions for these services need to be made now. For some, that means managing the switch. That will mean upgrading hardware such as phones or security systems for others. It is an excellent opportunity to evaluate which systems work best for you and which could work better – for example, would they work better as remote services? What are the benefits and costs this could deliver?
Re-assess your risk
The move from PSTN to IP brings new risks to customer sites because any device connected to the network can be an open door for hackers and cyber threats. As a result, risk assessment and management are critical. This includes controlling the installation design, network architecture and maintenance with regular firmware and software updates to ensure optimum cyber security is enabled.
In France, our engineers stress the importance of examining the compatibility of existing systems to guarantee continuity of service and the opportunity to use more efficient and innovative services made possible by IP technology. The switch is also a chance for businesses to redo risk analysis of sites and update security accordingly. The businesses that gain the most from the switch will be the ones that implement it as part of a more global and long-term strategic reflection on the company’s trajectory. The winners will use it to bring digital, security, risk assessment, efficiency, and customer service together.
Pay attention to skills – they matter
As Australia has already moved from analogue to digital systems, many businesses noticed a significant upskilling requirement needed to align with the IT solutions of different customers. An analogue system was a simple, single item designed to serve a purpose locally on-site. Digital IP technology-powered video systems with EDGE computing, for example, will take the benefits of cloud AI capabilities to deliver a range of capabilities and functions that were pipe dreams about ten years ago.
Therefore, it is critical to have the right skills and expertise to understand the outcome of a customer’s requirements – and implement them, allowing the development of specific network requirements designed to support and maximize surveillance and security solutions.
Get ready to reap the benefits
As our Canadian engineers have seen first-hand, the digital switch can benefit businesses and their customers. For example, service providers are empowered to be more proactive about detecting customer-system deficiencies. Manufacturers are providing more and more connected products, and service providers can increasingly offer more efficient, effective, and connected services. Ultimately, this means serving better businesses and better customer experience.