Alarm receiving centres (ARCs) play a vital role in securing and protecting some of the most important public services and operations across the nation, . They help to identify potential emergencies early and effectively, especially in the fire and security industryies. The upcoming switch to ‘all-IP' systems across the UK, therefore, marks a pivotal milestone, one that will have a significant bearing on the sector.
In this blog, we speak to Paul Durkin, Managing Director of Scutum Digital, one of the largest ARCs in the UK, about the impeding switchover to all-IP and what this means for alarm signalling in the fire and security industry.
Q: What does the term ‘all-IP’ mean to you?
To me, all-IP means the closure or updating of the existing public switched telephone network (PSTN). For us at Scutum Digital, this involves a major upgrade of the signalling products we monitor, and changing those legacy products (some of which have been there for over 30 years) to incorporate newer technology.
Q: What are the drawbacks of the current set-up (using the PSTN)?
Since the PSTN is relatively old technology, there’s limited traceability in the signals sent to us from sites. Much of the older PSTN technology we see is ‘point to point’, which means it leaves the site just like a landline phone call would and then it’s difficult to track past that. In other words, the PSTN was never designed for security, but it has been used for it.
Solutions that use modern networks – like those that BT Redcare offers – are managed, meaning signals leave the site and can be traced to ARCs with timestamps. So, there’s a high level of visibility around exactly when the signal was delivered and received.
Another important factor with the PSTN is that everyone needs a telephone line, which brings with it line rental or call charges. What’s more, different providers use slightly different equipment, which can introduce security vulnerabilities across the network.
Q: What opportunities/benefits do you think all-IP will bring you?
I think it will ultimately give our customers more confidence in the signalling products they’re using – they can be certain that ARCs will always be notified when an alarm is triggered. When using the PSTN, if alarm signals don’t reach ARCs it can be difficult to determine where a fault is in the chain due to a lack of traceability. Fortunately, all-IP will change that instantly and ultimately lead to an enhanced level of service.
We will also need less hardware under all-IP. This is because many traditional PSTN products require more equipment to receive signals – often a significant amount of it. With all-IP, ARCs don’t require such hefty and varied technology stacks, freeing up a huge amount of resources. This consolidation of different-but-similar systems really streamlines our operations.
Q: What opportunities/benefits do you think all-IP will bring for the end user?
For the end user, there is a real possibility for cost savings. Most commercial businesses already have some form of broadband, which often uses radio or IP networks and won’t require any additional equipment.
Security-wise, it’s much easier for ARCs to monitor the line and identify interruptions in the signal’s path. With basic PSTN products, nobody knows there’s a fault in the line until the unit tries to contact an ARC and can’t. All-IP means permanently monitored paths, which ensures faults are identified and rectified before they are truly needed in an emergency.
Q: How can alarm signalling providers help in the transition to all-IP?
Overall, I think they’re probably doing as much as they can. They’re being very proactive by publicising themselves, speaking to installers and, crucially, discontinuing old products wherever possible.
Providers should continue to work with installers to encourage them to evolve older portfolios to next-generation ones. We must all keep reminding ourselves that 2025 is the end date and that the process has already started – we can’t leave it until 12 or 24 months before that point to act.
Q: Is there anything the wider alarm industry can do to help in the transition to all-IP?
They must make sure the last remaining PSTN products are withdrawn from sale, but I think we’re well on track with this goal. Otherwise, upping the publicity as much as possible will be very important alongside doubling down on their efforts. If we compare this experience to the switch to digital television, we saw government and public organisations like Ofcom advertising the switchover to users and explaining the steps people had to take. We haven’t seen any of this to my knowledge with all-IP, but this can – and should – be easily addressed.
Without consistent education, there is, of course, understandable hesitancy from some customers, so now is the opportunity to build customer trust. Be transparent throughout the entire journey so that they know they’re in good hands.
Q: What does the future of alarm signalling hold? What innovations are on the horizon in the industry?
For the most part, technology will make things easier in the long term and end users will be provided with greater experiences and value. The combination of CCTV and AI is a good example of this.
What’s critical, however, is that the market doesn’t react too late. The industry needs to make sure it has enough resources and labour to service the opportunities that will present themselves while moving to all-IP.
To find out about our Next Generation portfolio click here or get in touch with your Regional Account Manager.