When a new building is being constructed, there isn’t a lot of discussion around whether or not electricity, plumbing or natural gas will be installed. It’s a given that they will be there. These utilities are ubiquitous (that’s a fancy word for “always there”). In fact, we take it for granted that when we turn on a faucet, water comes out. When we flip the switch in a room, the lights come on. When it’s cold out, our natural gas heaters keep us warm. We have learned to rely on these utilities so much that we build everything else around them.
A few years ago, Cisco coined the term “Fourth Utility.” Over time, this term has been overloaded within the industry to mean a lot of things – the IT infrastructure, the Internet, cloud computing, etc. Whatever you want to call it, the bottom line is that the Fourth Utility lets our stuff (tablets, smartphones, security cameras, lighting control, fire alarms, nurse call systems, etc) connect to other things (servers, network back-up storage, Internet, printers, and anything else considered to be part of “the cloud”). The connectivity can be wired or wireless—it doesn’t matter, we just want the connectivity.
There are few places where this requirement for connectivity is more apparent than in a hospital. Information must be available 24/7, and most of it will be stored on the network. The HITECH Act was passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and incents healthcare professionals to increase the use of EHRs (Electronic Health Records) with a goal of all medical records becoming digital by 2014. To pull this off, a hospital needs its Fourth Utility to be reliable, secure and high-performing when accessing data on the network. With high-quality streaming video becoming an important tool in hospitals for diagnostic collaboration and teaching, the Fourth Utility has to have the capacity to support the bandwidth needed. The hospital is also quickly becoming the leading-edge environment for IP consolidation of other (traditionally non-IP based) systems such as IP television, building automation, access control and security. On top of all that, hospital workers, patients and their families all expect to be able to make a call or connect to the Internet while in the building. This makes the Fourth Utility crucial in a hospital.
At CommScope, we know how important the Fourth Utility is, and we’re working hard to ensure it is ubiquitous. Our products create a backbone that hospitals (and anyone else) can rely on to be there when it’s needed.