The importance of digital inclusion in care homes for the elderly

It can be hard of for the elderly living in care home communities to adapt. It’s common for people to feel like they’re losing their independence when they go into care. The daily routines of their lives are often replaced, and they find themselves surrounded by new faces just when they need the support and care of friends and family the most.

We now view internet connectivity is a utility and a basic right, one that older people – particularly those in residential care – need to have access to. Access to a fast and reliable internet connection enables the most socially isolated of us to keep our relationships strong. It lets us watch what we like, when we like and allows us to follow our hobbies and interests wherever we are.

Connectivity in care homes for the elderly

The Office for National Statistics reported that, as of 2016, more than 74% of people aged 65 to 74 were internet users, while almost 39% of those aged over 75 regularly used the internet. However, when examining internet use in care homes, Age UK found that 60% of the UK’s 397,000 elderly care home residents had never used the internet. It also reported that a mere 2,835 of the almost 18,000 care homes in England had internet access – which is obviously a huge barrier to improving that figure.

Many people in the 65-74 age range will have worked with computers, or been around their children who grew up with computers as part of their daily work and leisure activities. Many elderly people living outside of care homes have access to friends, family and other resources through the internet. Care home residents deserve the same level of access.

Explaining the benefits of the internet

Some people just may not want to learn how to use a computer, or go online. They may hear the scare stories, or could have decided that they’re ‘too old’ to learn something like that. But digital inclusion is important for a number of reasons.

Keeping lines of communication open

The world is changing. The way younger generations communicate has moved on. While some in the elder generation grew up writing letters, most of their grandchildren only put pen to paper under parental duress to write thank you cards. They prefer digital communications.

While many advocates of letter writing bemoan this, they’re ignoring (or just don’t know about) the benefits of video calls where you can both see and speak to your friend or family member, no matter where they are in the world.

Maintaining independence

With digital inclusion, no longer does a resident need to give a shopping list to a member of staff or a family member, now they can do their shopping online, choosing the brands they like and making the substitutions they want. If they can’t get to the theatre or the ballet any more, they can now watch performances online.

They can do what they want, when they want – rather than depending on a set schedule of entertainment provided by someone else.

It’s about choice

In another study, Age UK found that most elderly people who did not use the internet said that it was because they just weren’t interested in doing so. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be given the option, or that they ‘just need to be convinced’. Independence is about making your own choices, and not having them restricted by ridged structures, or those in authority who think they know what’s best for you.

Care home management

It is not just the residents that benefit, but the care homes themselves. Staff need to be able to compare notes and they need to be able to inform family members on how their relative is. Delays can occur if a member of staff is unable to access these files due to internet connectivity issues, which is why care homes need robust and secure connections.

WiFi can also deliver operational efficiencies, and in some case cost savings. Through the use of IoT, heating and lighting systems can be automated and prescriptions automatically ordered from doctors when a resident is running low on their medication. For more active residents, the home can share news about activities that are taking place and requests can be dealt with quicker.

 

There are limited barriers to installing and running a WiFi solution in care homes. It’s no different to putting it into a school or a hotel where there are a lot of residents. As we can see from the ONS figures, demand is there, and while not all residents will take up the offer, those that do will benefit greatly from the social contact, entertainment and avenues of independence that digital communication provides.

Could WiFi help in reforming prisons?

The Government’s push for reforming the prison service is built around the need to improve rehabilitation rates. The shake up of the prison service was also at the heart of new laws laid out in the latest Queen’s speech.

Supporting someone to follow a lawful path in life goes beyond a philosophical debate. Prisoners need practical support and actions if they are to succeed. If we look at other countries, especially in Scandinavia, where the premise of the prison system is to rehabilitate as opposed to purely punish a lot can be learnt.

In a recent speech on the issue of technology in jails, Nick Hardwick, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons said: “I can think of few jobs nowadays that do not require at least a basic level of IT skills. In importance it’s just a short way between basic literacy and numeracy.

“It is not just a matter of education and training. How do you apply for a job without web access? Look for and apply for accommodation? Manage your money? Make travel arrangements?”

Norway has one of the lowest reoffending rates at only 20%. There are a lot of factors contributing to this and one of them is the access, tightly controlled of course, that prisoners have to the internet.

As Norwegian prison governor Arne Wilson, who is also a clinical psychologist, explained to The Guardian:

“In closed prisons we keep them locked up for some years and then let them back out, not having had any real responsibility for working or cooking. In the law, being sent to prison is nothing to do with putting you in a terrible prison to make you suffer. The punishment is that you lose your freedom. If we treat people like animals when they are in prison they are likely to behave like animals. Here we pay attention to you as human beings.”

There are understandable concerns about allowing prisoners to have internet access. Some prisoners currently use mobile phones to illicitly get online, and there will always be some individuals that must be kept away from the internet at all costs. But for most, allowing access to the internet can help them with their job search, provide them access to educational resources, allow them to keep in contact with their friends and family, and prevent isolating them on the fringes of society.

Robust controls and filtering are now available to prevent access to inappropriate sites.

Learning from the Armed Forces and corporate environments

One only needs to look at other sectors that require tight security and strict controls to see the potential for deploying WiFi in UK prisons.

Take the armed services as an example. Barracks and training facilities are often in remote locations with little access to the outside world, personnel have very strict timetables to follow but WiFi is viewed as a welfare issue so the armed forces can stay in touch with family and friends. Resettlement after leaving the forces can also be a challenge, meaning that access to information on finding housing, jobs and educational tools is essential.

Armed Forces sites place great demands on a network. Whether it is a soldier wanting to watch a film on Netflix in the evening (using PAYG internet), a cadet accessing the course materials they need to study, or an officer communicating with colleagues, a network can be secured and different priorities given to meet all these needs.

In the corporate world, some companies even block access on their networks to certain websites and social networks, least it harm productivity levels.

If the armed forces and the corporate world can make WiFi work for them, so can the prison service. Prisons need to establish a secure WiFi connection, one that not only tightly controls what can be accessed but also monitors what is being looked at. Yes, it needs to have strong access control, but by blocking all prisoners from what’s now seen as one of the most basic necessities, the prison service is helping to further isolate and alienate their charges.

Is it an either or: 5G or wireless?

Much has been said about 5Gs ability to provide an equivalent service to Wi-Fi, but is this really going to be the case?

The £70m dedicated 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey is heralding 5G as the future of wireless, and expects it to be up and running by 2020. Meanwhile, part of the reason the European Commission blocked the merger of O2 and Three was that it felt its network sharing agreements would hamper 5G’s roll-out in Britain. It looks like a lot of expectation is being placed on 5G’s shoulders. What is more likely is that as 5G becomes a reality, amenity Wi-Fi will also continue to advance, making both networks valuable to mobile users , both from an availability perspective, and from a cost one.

A good example of the scale of the challenge is the £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project that was meant to bring cellular coverage to remote, underserved, locations. It’s no secret that it is difficult to get coverage into these areas. There were meant to be 600 new masts to address ‘not-spots’ but in the two years since the project started there have only been 16 erected.

In February, Ed Vaizy admitted the project was a failure.

“We had not anticipated just how difficult some of the planning issues are, particularly when we were dragging four operators with us, metaphorically kicking and screaming. Although we were paying for the mast, we were asking them to meet the operating costs going forward, which includes the land rental as well as the transmission costs for what is, by definition, an uneconomic area,” said Vaizey.

Even now there are many areas of the country, and even some parts of London, that aren’t able to access the 4G network, so we need to be realistic in what is and isn’t possible with 5G. This means continued investment in wireless networks, connected up to the fibre backbone and continued pressure on the government and suppliers to build networks in hard to reach areas. Even with 5G just around the corner this shouldn’t be forgotten.

There are several 5G trials starting to take place, Ericsson and TeliaSonera are working together, as are Verizon and Samsung. However,it is expected that wide scale deployments of 5G will not take place before 2020 and even then will be limited to high density and urban areas only.

In reality, the newest 802.11ac WiFi standard, delivering 1.3 Gb/s throughput, is likely to remain the technology of choice for public WiFi in remote or rural locations or where cost-conscious users want an uncapped data limit.

Both industries are needed to spur each other on and to ensure that those that want to be connected to the Internet, can be, no matter where they are.

Holiday parks to make a smart choice

Holiday Parks know that, in order to survive, they need to be able to offer wireless connectivity to guests. Whether it is so a parent can keep up with work emails on a long weekend away, or so kids can be entertained on a rainy day, providing internet to guests is the only option these days.

But what else can a WiFi connection deliver?

There has been a lot of talk about smart cities but can a holiday park also be ‘smart’? With a stable and robust internet connection there is no reason why not. The possibilities available with smart technology and the Internet of Things are endless.

Park owners are already exploring smart meters to monitor energy and allow them to maintain complete control of their energy supplies direct from their computers. Imagine taking this a step further. Whether it is enabling smart queuing, smart irrigation or an app for maintenance requests, the holiday park can make significant savings while also providing a better service to guests.

Smart metering also means that owners of vans will be charged for their exact energy usage and not estimates. Lights could be automatically switched off when guests leave their caravan and the door is locked from the outside saving on energy costs. An app on a guest’s phone could even do the locking/unlocking for them.

In addition, many parks offer different options for guests from breakfast only to half-board. All of which inevitably end in a queue while waiting to be signed in by a staff member when entering the dining room. Could a smart band be the answer? It is given to a guest on arrival with all the information about their stay preloaded. With it they simply need to walk into the dining room for the park to know who has taken up the meals included in a package, and any not included can be automatically added to the final bill.

Smart bands could also help parents keep an eye on children. They would be able to monitor where their children are in the park via their mobiles, or be preloaded with a monetary allowance. That way, teenagers old enough not to be supervised all the time can use them to pay for facilities and entertainment without parents worrying about endless bills at the end of the stay (or being constantly asked for change).

It isn’t just about tracking spending. Connected devices also give holiday parks the information they need to ensure they are able to offer the best possible facilities to guests. By understanding what facilities are used and when, whether it is the games room, mini ten pin bowling or soft play, they can ensure staff are available where and when needed, and that unused facilities can be replaced.

Vending machines can even monitor their own stock levels. When a product is getting low, a message can be sent to a staff member to refill it, or if stock is low across the park an order can be raised directly with the supplier. This results in customers receiving a smoother service – in the form of well-stocked machines and staff who are able to spend time helping out elsewhere.

The possibilities are endless, but only with a stable, robust and scalable wireless internet connection. The Internet of Things needs to be embraced, but first networks have to be deployed that can match the demand it will bring otherwise introducing smart technology may cause more frustration than relaxation for guests of holiday parks.

Wifinity shortlisted for Best Consumer Customer Service at the ISPAs

The finalists for the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) Awards were recently announced and we are pleased to say that Wifinity has ben shortlisted in the Best Consumer Customer Service category.

The ISPA Awards is now in its 18th year and are independently judged by a panel of industry experts with technical testing carried out by Thinkbroadband, ensuring that only the top performing providers are shortlisted.

The winners will be announced on Thursday 7th July 2016 at The Brewery in the City of London.

Wifinity was shortlisted after providing information on:

  • Speed of answering customer queries
  • Contract options
  • Handling of complaints
  • Speed of dispute resolution
  • Safety and security features and accessibility
  • How our customer service differs from that of competitors
  • Innovation in billing and customer contact
  • Examples of ‘going the extra mile’

Wifinity’s customer service is tailored to its customers needs: remote location availability, unlimited downloads, no quibble cancellation, technically trained services team and 24/7 phone, email and live chat options.

If you want to know more about the ISPAs, or to see a full list of the finalists, visit http://www.ispa.org.uk/ispa-awards/.

 

 

Why Ofcom’s BT ruling is bad for internet users

There’s been a lot of talk in the press recently about openreach and BT, about issues of ownership of infrastructure and how that affects the roll out of high-speed broadband. But what does it all mean, and how are internet users, and those still waiting to be connected, being short-changed?

Openreach and BT

Openreach is a subsidiary of BT. While BT is an internet and telecoms provider, Openreach is the owner of the pipes and telephone lines that are used to carry phone and internet services in the UK.

Other internet service providers use the copper phone and cable lines to service their customers, but the lines are old, and have been outpaced by more modern forms of internet delivery – such as fibre, and wireless internet.

In 2015, MPs started calling for Openreach to be sold off, as people complained of delays in BT connecting their businesses and residences up to high-speed broadband.

Ofcom’s report

On 25th February 2016, telecoms regulator Ofcom, released its report on the future of BT’s Openreach programme. Many had hoped that Ofcom would demand that BT separate its internet arm away from the rest of the company, instead Ofcom ruled that BT could continue operating as is, it just has to allow other ISPs to use its cable network without delays.

Ofcom has said that Openreach must open up its network of telegraph poles and underground

ducts to allow others to build their own, advanced fibre networks, connected directly to homes

and offices. It also said that Openreach needs to take independent decisions on where to roll out broadband, how much money to spend on improving service quality and new high-speed broadband technology. Essentially it is meant to treat all ISPs the same, including BT.

BT appears to have welcomed this result, saying that rivals were free to make more use of its network, as long as they were: “genuinely keen to invest very large sums as we have done.”

The real question remains, can Openreach put the future of broadband in Britain first when it answers to BT and its shareholders?

What does this mean for ISPs and their customers?

Slower response time to faults

The fact is, the Government has a target to reach and it keeps having to move the goal posts. The roll-out of high-speed broadband has been fraught with delays, due in no small part to the problems cause by Openreach and its monopoly over the telecoms infrastructure in the UK.

In February this year, one router broke down, resulting in hundreds of thousands of internet users (both homes and businesses) losing access to the internet. The problem was experienced across the country – in London, Sheffield, Birmingham and Glasgow. What’s more, BT didn’t repair the fault until 7pm that day – four and a half hours after the failure, leaving homes and businesses offline for half of the working day.

No service

 There are areas of the country that are deemed too remote to make building infrastructure feasible. These hard to reach, remote areas are the kind of communities that we serve at Wifinity. What’s clear to us is that BT will continue to invest in redundant technology like copper lines. It will continue to focus on the areas where it can make the most profit, and it won’t go out of its way to make it easier for other ISPs to service these remote areas and the homes that desperately want connectivity.

If the Openreach monopoly is not addressed, many areas in the UK will continue to suffer from the issues that a lack of internet connectivity causes.

Wifinty broadband now live at RAF Cranwell

From World War I to the World Wide Web

Wifnity Ltd., the largest supplier of recreational Internet to military locations in the United Kingdom and Germany, is now providing super-fast broadband services to the prestigious Royal Air Force College, Cranwell in Lincolnshire.

The College was originally established as a naval aviation training centre during World War I, after the Royal Naval Air Service had broken away from the Royal Flying Corps. On 1 November 1919, the College was formed as the world’s first air academy.

Today, almost a century later, hundreds of Cadets study and reside at RAF Cranwell. Having low-cost Internet access can allow them to keep in touch with friends and family back home, keep entertained with movies and gaming while in their room and gives them quick access to training and research material related to their course.

Offering services to suit Cadets lifestyle and needs, Wifnity provides contract free daily, weekly and four week rolling subscriptions that can be customised by picking the number of devices and speeds suitable for individual needs.

Wifinity’s PAY-G (pay-as-you-go) services allow subscribers to pay for Internet usage only when they need it, saying goodbye to long-term contracts and termination fees. Subscribers can also use the Wi-Fi when on the go at any of the Wifinity hot-spots, including Cranwell’s neighbouring site RAF Digby.

 

For more information on Wifinity, contact:

Wifinity’s Press Team on 020 8090 1290 or by email at pressteam@wifinity.co.uk

Wifinity to provide superfast wireless Internet to Park Resorts

Wifinity, the wireless ISP, based in Kingston Upon Thames has recently signed a contract to provide wireless coverage to the Park Resorts holiday park group.

‘We are delighted to have been awarded this contract amongst stiff competition and we are looking forward to partnering with such a well-known market-leader as Park Resorts. This marks another significant step into the holiday-park market where we have already established a strong presence. ’ explains Wifinity’s Joint CEO Aubone Tennant.

Alan Castledine, Park Resorts’ Commercial Director said: “We have been aware for some time that we needed to provide a Wi-Fi service on our parks but the problem has been finding a supplier that could provide a system that delivers robust Wi-Fi at least equal to, if not better than the Wi-Fi customers experience at home.  Given the location and landscape of our parks that was a difficult call, but in Wifinity we have found just that; and more.”

Park Resorts is one of the largest holiday park operators in the UK with 39 parks spanning 1,900 acres providing over 20,500 holiday home and touring pitches. All parks are located at or near to the seaside, chiefly on the south and east coasts of England, but also extending to Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Wight.

Wifinity is providing a “Park-Wide” wireless solution as well as indoor coverage in the complex and club areas of each site. Every guest will be able to benefit from Pay-As-You-Go superfast broadband of speeds up to 20Mbps per account inside their holiday home or touring caravan. This flexible service means that visitors will be able to sign up to the service for the length of their stay from multiple wireless devices including games consoles and smartphones.

By connecting the parks to its superfast network, Wifinity has enabled many of the parks, which are in rural and remote areas, to get faster broadband than anything else that is commercially available in the local area.

How shoppers use their mobile devices

The amount of customers using their mobile phones in store is growing rapidly, with significant gains being seen on a quarterly basis. The amount of consumers using phones in store is now 85%, up 33% from 2011. Of these users, 49% used their device for comparison-shopping, while others focused on gathering information such as product reviews, general product information, and friend’s recommendations. Checking for coupons while in store is also becoming more prevalent, 28% of customers now report using their device for this purpose.

Another interesting trend on the rise is that of customers using their mobile device to make purchases while in-store, which has increased 27% since 2011. Presumable this allows the customer to capitalize on the full in store experience, such as browsing, socializing, seeing the tangible product, and trying on clothing. But still allows consumers to capitalize on the ease of delivery.

While the majority of shoppers (69%) still prefer to research a product from home, 36% of shoppers now research products while on the go, now surpassing the amount of consumers willing to research products from work. Interestingly 20% now research the product as soon as they see the ad.
The amount of customers willing to make purchases from their mobile devices has increased across all spending levels, with 66% of consumers willing to make purchases of $100 or more from their device.

Mobile customers are increasingly active across all of their day-to-day activities. However the highest activity is seen in malls with 70% using their phones while there. Libraries and campuses see the second most activity with 67% of individuals using their mobile devices.

Tablet computing is also on the rise across all major WiFi venues. A major shift has occurred toward tablets, and tablet owners are accessing all major content more than non-tablet owners. Travel remains the most popular time for tablet computing, with 68% of tablet users connecting while away. Further one third of connections at universities and hotels now occur on tablets, and one fifth at malls, libraries, and cafes.

Free WiFi – Not All Is Equal

WifI has become an essential part of many of our lives over the last decade, the technology has matured and transformed its self from a slow and buggy service to fast, reliable and always on. Considering this, why are there still so many venues offering sub-standard WiFi to there guests, visitors and customers?

-Technology – Maybe the venue is using old or mis-configured technology.
-Bandwidth – Maybe the venue has insufficient bandwidth to there premises
-No or Low Budget – Maybe the venue owners are running the service on a shoe string
-Mismanagement – Maybe the venue is not even aware there WiFi is far from reliable and fast.
-Mismanagement – Its free WiFi so it doesn’t matter if its not great

Most venues that offer free at point of use WifI do so for one of three reasons:

1.Drive new / increased footfall to the venue
2.Increase the average length of stay in there venue
3.Interact with there visitors for marketing purposes
4.Gain extended visitor insight

In reality most venues with free at point of use WiFi are attempting to achieve at least two of the above, with that in mind it is vital to remember that the quality and usability of a venues WiFi service directly represents there customers overall experience of there brand. On a positive note, a great WiFi experience will drastically improve a visitors experience to a venue.