Innovation Exchange challenge: Contacting Priority Service Register Customers Without Mobile Phones During Power Cuts
UK Power Networks is looking to find a reliable method to communicate with priority services register customers during a power cut.
UK Power Networks (UKPN) is looking to use open innovation to find a reliable method to communicate with priority services register (PSR) customers during a power cut to provide updates and check whether they need help. Selected solution(s) will be trialled in pilot studies by UKPN, with the possibility of further adoption upon successful trials.
The Innovation Exchange programme is working alongside UK Power Networks (UKPN) to to support vulnerable customers after the digital switch over of telephone systems in 2025. The digital switch will leave households with no means of using their landline phones in event of a power outage, which will leave them out of contact if they need support. UKPN invite innovators who can provide a reliable method to communicate with priority support register customers during a power cut to provide updates and check whether they require support.
UK Power Networks (UKPN) own and maintain electricity cables and lines across London, the South East and East of England and make sure power flows reliably, safely, and securely.
UKPN’s priorities are to tackle the climate crisis by connecting renewable energy, electric car chargers and low carbon heating, meet their customers evolving needs by improving their services, support their customers in vulnerable circumstances and go above and beyond for the communities they serve. This challenge specifically focuses on supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances.
The Priority Services Register (PSR) is a free support service that makes sure extra help is available to people in vulnerable situations. This includes, but is not limited to, people of state pension age, people with disabilities or long-term medical conditions and those who require electrical life-essential equipment. During a power cut, PSR customers in UKPN’s catchment area get a range of extra support, including text and voice message alerts, a 24-hour priority number to call, and tailored support such as home visits and meals, if required.
BT Open Reach is in the process of transferring telephone lines from the traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN) links to digital links – either fibre to the cabinet (SoGEA) or to the premises (FTTP). Current PTSN links carry an electrical current which can power some telephones, such as simpler corded models, which means these telephones can operate without mains power in the property.
This switch to digital means that these telephones will no longer receive power through the PSTN, so during a power cut customers will no longer be able to make calls if they do not own or have access to a charged mobile phone, or if they live in areas with poor mobile phone signal coverage. It will also not be possible to contact them via a landline during a power outage – a particular concern for vulnerable PSR customers. Similarly, many traditionally used emergency contact systems will not function, including red button care alarm systems and existing emergency phone systems, such as those provided within substations, at train crossings and in lifts.
There are an estimated 157,000 PSR customers in UKPN’s licence area who do not have a mobile phone registered on their account, with an estimated 11,000 of those customers registered with a medical dependent code.
UKPN invites innovators to present their solutions for a method to provide two-way communication between PSR customers and UKPN and emergency services in a power outage. This will allow PSR customers to be given updates and asked whether they need additional assistance.
The solution could be a reliable power source which can be used to maintain a power supply to the customer’s landline or router, or an independent device which allows for two-way communication with UKPN and emergency services in the event of a power cut.
The challenge is to provide the simplest method with a manageable cost to allow the vulnerable customer to be able to communicate through a safe and secure method to the power networks for up to four hours (or more) if the power is down, the method needs to be simple to install and be fit and forget so that the consistency of security regardless of conditions is there. for most customers this would be as similar or supporting their present landline as possible potentially with power supplies or adaptions to allow a phone system to work within a no power scenario.