A major milestone but far from the end of the NG 9-1-1 road
NG 9-1-1 Takes a Big Step Forward
By: John Rennie
The recent FCC announcement of the voluntary agreement on “text to 9-1-1” is a major milestone on the Next Generation (NG) 9-1-1 road. There are three key points to consider from this.
First, the announcement signals the shift of text messaging to 9-1-1 from “early adopter” to “mainstream.” Second, the transition phase also ensures texts to 9-1-1 that do not go to a PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) will at least get a reply. Finally, the announcement re-emphasizes text is not a replacement for voice calls—it is an alternative route to help.
This is a call to action. Yes, receiving texts is optional under the agreement. Yes, working practices will need to evolve to accommodate text chats, accidental messages, and many other issues with this new communication method. But with our first duty to provide emergency assistance to citizens in need, we should embrace the opportunity to build a new infrastructure that will better suit the citizens of the 21st century.
To date, most new technologies in the PSAP have been independent from call-taking. For instance, gunshot alarms, cameras, and other sensors have not directly impacted the basic PSAP role: the call for help comes in, aid is sent.
Text to 9-1-1 is different. It’s got a lot in common with a phone call—it may even turn into a phone conversation at some stage. Putting text in an independent silo, away from voice, is a missed opportunity to revolutionize your 9-1-1 infrastructure. Don’t forget you will need to be able to present these texts, along with voice and radio communications, as time-synchronized information for investigations, evaluations and debriefings!
Of course, with over 6,000 PSAPs in the U.S., many will question how this will all work together. NENA has several committees working on documents to resolve both the operational and technical issues. If you work with NENA, you may find they have already addressed many of your questions. Through NENA’s Next-Generation Partner Program and Industry Collaboration Events, NICE and many other industry leaders are actively involved.
This as a major milestone on the NG 9-1-1 road. But it’s far from the end of the road. Text messages themselves have now been around for over 20 years. In fact, they may already have peaked, as people turn to other IP-based communication tools on smartphones.
NG 9-1-1, with its IP core, sets the foundation for a much more connected future. The 9-1-1 of tomorrow could even move from today’s reactive centers to proactive centers. Just imagine a “super smartphone” of the future that can detect the early signs of a heart attack, connect you to your closest emergency center, and simultaneously send the center your location, real-time medical vital signs, and relevant medical history. That may seem a long way down the road from text to 9-1-1, but it is all possible on the IP core.
John Rennie is a Regional Vice President with NICE Systems Security Division. He also blogs on NG 9-1-1 topics for NICE Fusion, the NICE Security Blog covering public safety and security trends.