Friday, 14 September 2012

Why don't we have interoperability of telecare devices... yet?

One of the old chestnuts within the telecare arena is the idea of interoperability.  Interoperability simply means that technologies can work together, thus a product by one manufacturer can be used with another manufacturers kit. A simple analogy would be that a Microsoft Word document could be edited on on a PC as well as a Mac computer.

In telecare terms this would mean that I could buy a fall detector from one manufacturer and it should still be configurable with another manufacturer's alarm system. In reality, this can usually be simply done through the purchase of a bridging device, but interoperability should mean that this device is no longer required.

I am mindful of the recent courtroom battle between Apple and Samsung which upheld Apple in the US but nowhere else in the world as the designers of the iPhone and iPad appearance and software. It is interesting to me as I am writing this on a netbook with Windows XP installed, whilst having an Apple device flash emails arriving to me.  I also have an Android smartphone and and Android tablet on this same desk providing further alerts and noises.  I know I will never miss any critical information with all this technology, but the time spent sifting through the rubbish to find the golden nugget is considerable. It is questionable whether this venture  is actually worth the effort.

I stray to illustrate that today we have a range of technological options open to us and we have to decide how we progress down the technological route.  For computers to write type on  I prefer Microsoft products but I also have a  keyboard for the tablet computer  and occasionally use that to edit things on.  The tablet has its own excellent touchpad keyboard as does the smartphone so I can actually edit documents and other things without the need for an external keyboard.

I use the cloud providers of free storage to store current active documents so they can be accessed anywhere on any of my wireless device. I also use the cloud to share documents with other people I work with, so they can edit them or review them. Thus if I am in McDonald's I can still access my email and edit a paper whilst sipping my Coke.

So what does this say about interoperability? Well it is interesting, to me, that although the devices are not per se interoperable, certain things on them are.

One source of interoperability is Bluetooth, which enables all my devices to link together or link to portable devices such as keyboards, mice etc.

A second interoperable source is the cloud providers allowing access to all my stored files on any device, as long as the operating system is compatible with the cloud software.

I have similar software on all my devices and Skype is a great example of a cross platform software that operates on almost all platforms.

So I am thinking to myself, I have a mobile phone that can communicate with everything else, I have an Apple product that does this as well and a netbook that also does this, and a Nokia Symbian smartphone that also does this, that I no longer use,so why can simple telecare devices not make use of the advances in technology to allow proper interoperability?

I am fully aware of the Continua group and think what they are doing is great, but it is no longer rocket science.  Devices can communicate through Bluetooth or Zigbee, or infra red or wirelessly. Software can be made to be cross platform so each operating system can use it, so why can I not use the fall detector I think is best with the dispersed alarm unit I think is best and add the best peripherals to this?  Why are we still faced with no choice? we are committed to buying a system from one manufacturer and then we must purchase on their peripherals with the limitations that they have.

The customer is left with little or no choice.

I am staggered that the mobile product market is rapidly expanding but the telecare marketplace appears stagnating in comparison.

How can we reverse this state of affairs?

How can we make telecare interoperable and usable?