Quite often, when examining a particular problem, engineers will become so entrenched with the issue that the simplest fix to a problem can sometimes fall to the wayside and never even be considered.
After discussing Next Generation Emergency Service migration strategies with several of my peers and colleagues at the NENA 2012 Workshop in Long Beach, California this past month; as well as the Enterprise E911 problem of getting detailed location information to public safety in real time, I have come to the conclusion that there needs to be a new, innovative, much more simplified KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) method that can be applied to both problems.
The root cause of the problem today, when you sift through the layers of 'techno-babble' that are out there, is that the 911 network, has minimal intelligence built in. Emergency calls are geographically contained and are routed in a hub and spoke fashion. If the origination endpoint is not in, or does not have access to the correct 'hub', you are isolated from the correct 'spoke' at the physical layer that connects you to the 911 center or PSAP serving your area.
That architecture creates a physical barrier that technology, and the laws of physics, simply cannot solve. In addition to being an isolated island in the telecom ocean, there is no way for an originator of an emergency call to insert or attach any additional enhanced information. Next Generation 911 promises to add intelligence into the network, but what is needed right now is a way to make the existing system a litter "Smarter".
Over the past year, a there has been a new service that increases both the depth and intelligence of the data surrounding an E911 caller. But instead of adding information to an architecture that clearly cannot transport the data, they have added an alternative feed to the 911 center, that is today, out of band of the legacy network. With it being out of band, it is also not handcuffed by the technology limitations imposed on calls today.
The primary function of this 'service' is to increase the amount of intelligence that surrounds an E911 call, enabling the E911 call taker to be a little 'smarter' about their job and theor decisions.
For my regular readers and listeners bear with me for 2 minutes, as I want to make sure the problem is clearly understood by everyone.
Based on recent statistics, nearly 300 million calls each year are place to 911 in the US alone. If you do the math, that works out to nearly 2,000 people dialing 911 just in the short amount of time you have spent reading this blog.
Unfortunately on the vast majority of those calls the only 'data' or information that is delivered, or can be delivered for that matter, is a telephone number. Even the method of delivering that minimal information to the PSAP is one that is antiquated, developed nearly 30 years ago, and of little relevance to the way the average nomadic citizen communicates today, and from where.
Very few in the industry will argue with those facts, and many are feverishly working on interim solutions, and ways of bridging the gaps between the legacy environment that is a reality today, and the next generation nirvana that we all dream about for the future.
Nearly every week, headlines like "New program allows citizens to provide critical information to emergency operators" dot the news
Thanks to a $43,000 grant from the state of Florida, Lake County's 911 center will soon utilize a new program from a company called Rave Mobile Safety that has been appropriately named "Smart911". What is Smart911? Basically, it is a nationwide database allows anyone with access to the internet to set up a Smart911 profile at not cost. That profile is coordinated to your telephone number (that the 911 Center gets when you call 911), and the information you have provided in your profile, is made available to Public Safety.
Gregory Holcomb, Lake County's 911 coordinator explained "There's medical information that could be allergies, or the medicine someone is on. #In addition to these details about you and your family a dispatcher wouldn't otherwise have."
Think Facebook or LinkedIn, but instead of 'likes' and 'links' your profile includes lifesaving information. The type of information that can be stored is practically unlimited, and could include codes to enter a gated community, building plans, or, you can upload your offices building plans giving first responders details about electrical panels, water mains, or fire hydrants.
Today, this valuable additional data can be relayed to 1st responders over the radio system, or to an in vehicle mobile data terminal or computer. The Smart911 profile also allows the user to upload photographs. Valuable information, such as a photo, can assist making an amber alert or missing adult event more manageable.
In Lake County, the new The Smart911 system will be up and running in August. Sign up, of course, is voluntary but recommended by local authorities.
In Collier County, the same solution is being rolled out and residents will also be able to take advantage of the The Smart911 network, and information about themselves, or even their pets will be held in the database.
While other states have it in some counties, Arkansas is making it available to residents statewide after a successful pilot program in Benton and Pulaski counties. Since nothing is ever free, what is the cost of this new technology? To the public USERS, there is never a cost to create and enter your profile. And in Arkansas, even the PSAPs get a free ride, as the state legislature authorized $1 million for startup costs. Now, although this may seem expensive, it is significantly less money that traditional ALI ANI services and CAMA trunks provided by the LEC.
Let's do the math:
If a single countywide PSAP has 20 call takers and connectivity to 2 Selective Routers for redundancy with 25 trunks each, that would be 50 CAMA circuits. If those CAMA circuits cost $1,000 apiece each month (which would be a bargain); that would equal to $50,000 monthly just for the access line. Over a year, that adds up to $600,000 just for that single center. If the state had 10 of those centers, the access charges would be over $6,000,000 annually.
And you though YOU had a big phone bill.
Again, those estimates are for the access lines. On top of those numbers, there are the charges for actually accessing the ANI/ALI database for the database provider, and the overhead costs for administration. Clearly, you can see that the incentive for moving to this new technology, and the network that will support it. The cost savings are tremendous.
15 years ago, long distance calls were mileage based, and the money businesses spent on telecom was skyrocketing. VoIP and IP technology have revolutionized the way we communicate, and the cost of that communication.
How do we fix the E911 problem today? Maybe it's already fixed and we just need to be SMART how we implement it.
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Until next week. . . dial carefully.
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