Erickson Living, the nation’s leading operator of retirement communities, is making significant investments to install new fiber-optic technology on its residential campuses in response to increased demands for improved internet, cable TV, telephone and cellular service.
“It’s nice to know that we can continue to live worry-free in regards to our Wi-Fi,” said Clinton Lambert, an Erickson Living resident.
“You might be surprised by how tech-savvy some of our residents are. A lot of them put network speed and data security and protection high on their lists of amenities as they pick a place to live,” said Hans Keller, VP of IT operations and customer support for Erickson Living.
In April 2012, the Pew Research Center found for the first time that more than half of older adults (defined as those ages 65 or older) were internet users. One year later, 59% of seniors reported that they go online—a six-percentage point increase in the course of a year. In addition, 77% of older adults reported that they had a cell phone, up from 69% in April 2012.
Erickson Living is deploying a first-of-its-kind GPON (gigabit passive optical network) system which was designed and installed by Noovis – a leading GPON integrator – utilizing electronics manufactured by Cisco. Noovis is serving as the project manager, too.
The project began after Tom Napoli, vice president of Noovis, sat down with Erickson’s CIO, John Triscoli, to discuss how Erickson Living was planning to meet its future wireless networking needs. “I asked John if he knew of GPON. We discussed that if you were going to pull all of this fiber for DAS [an in-building cellular service] then you might want to look at your overall corporate and residential broadband requirements and leverage the fiber for that as well,” Napoli explained.
The project’s first phase, which includes a community in Springfield, Va. and three in Maryland, is scheduled to be completed in early 2015. Later phases over the next few years will include similar upgrades nationwide.
For many retirees, improved connectivity facilitates a higher quality of life.
“Our new infrastructure supports real-time video interactions between residents and their families. This promotes wellness and peace of mind for all involved,” said Keller.
“We have long been dedicated to providing a comprehensive set of services directly to our residents,” said Keller. “Under our latest initiative, Erickson Connect, we connect all of their devices and furnish a working phone number on day one as part of their move-in experience.”
Although GPON technology has been around for decades, new applications are beginning to leverage it, particularly in high-density user environments like retirement communities, where legacy networks are insufficient for modern, broadband requirements.
“Fortunately, the components required to distribute data across fiber networks have come down in price over the past few years, making new networks financially feasible. We can now provide superior services to our residents at below-market prices that still allow us to pay back the initial outlay plus save enough money for a seven-year refresh on technology,” said Keller.
After thoroughly researching the diversity of applications, Erickson Living realized the value from both a business operations and consumer perspective. It also realized that proper implementation would be critical to success.
“One thing that came to light from the outset was the importance of having a collaborative, competent partner who understands all aspects of the solution – fiber optic cabling, wireless, GPON electronics – and who has an appreciation for ongoing maintenance and support. Noovis answered the call and continues to be there with us as we look to integrate more solutions for our residents and staff over our fiber network,” said Keller.
“We believe we are setting the standard in senior housing. There is a misconception that all Wi-Fi is created equal. Some of our competitors have Wi-Fi everywhere, however it is more like the guest Wi-Fi at Starbucks or an airport,” said Keller. “Our new networks allow all devices – printers, tablets, whatever – to connect up anywhere on campus to an incredibly fast system with medical-grade, HIPAA- compliant security.”
Planning for the future is an integral part of Erickson’s strategy.
“Our fiber initiatives address seniors’ desires for increased community engagements. They are looking for technology to take them there…this innovative strategy will do just that,” said Keller.