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Migrating to Next-Generation 9-1-1

Written by Jennifer Gavigan

Advancements in modern communications technology have created the need for a more advanced system to access emergency care. While the existing 9-1-1 system has been a success story for more than 30 years, it has been stretched to its limit as technology advances. Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) refers to an initiative aimed at updating the 9-1-1 service infrastructure in the United States and Canada to improve public emergency communications services in a wireless mobile society.

In addition to calling 9-1-1 from a phone, it intends to enable the public to transmit text, images, video and data to the 9-1-1 center (Public Safety Answering Point, or PSAP). The initiative also envisions additional types of emergency communications and data transfer. This NG9-1-1 infrastructure is intended to replace the current services over time. Below are some of the solutions from industry leaders for receiving and managing this data with NG9-1-1.

National Emergency Number Association (NENA)
http://www.nena.org

NENA serves the public safety community as the only professional organization solely focused on 9-1-1 policy, technology, operations and education issues. With more than 7,000 members in 48 chapters across North America and around the world, NENA promotes the implementation and awareness of 9-1-1 and international three-digit emergency communications systems.

NENA works with public policy leaders; emergency services and telecommunications industry partners; public safety associations; and other stakeholder groups to develop and carry out critical programs and initiatives; to facilitate the creation of an IP-based Next Generation 9-1-1 system; and to establish industry leading standards, training, and certifications. NENA acts as the standards organization for NG9-1-1 to work with all service providers who can generate a 9-1-1 call to develop information and guidelines for those who want to implement it.

With the new wireless and IP-based communication devices allowing text and video messaging capabilities, the current 9-1-1 system cannot receive calls and data from these technologies. NENA identified the need for a 9-1-1 overhaul in 2000, published the Future Path Plan in 2001, and began development activities toward this end in 2003.

According to Roger Hixson, NENA Technical Issues Director, NENA expanded beyond the basic architecture to transition from E9-1-1 to NG9-1-1 and what that transitional network looks like. “It’s a technical and operational transition, not just for PSAPs; it supports many others,” Hixson stated. Various companies are now using standard NG9-1-1 to figure out how to interact with the call-taker and the PSAP. NG9-1-1 is more flexible, more capable compared to E9-1-1. In the 1970s, E9-1-1 was voice-only because cellular and VoIP didn’t exist yet; everything was wire lined back then.

Hixson said legal and federal regulations and legislation, as well as certain specifications or types of technology of today versus an old-school approach come into play when implementing NG9-1-1. “NENA is not just a public safety organization; it brings the 9-1-1 industry together,” Hixson noted.

NG9-1-1 is a system comprised of Emergency Services IP networks (ESInets), IP-based Software Services and Applications, Databases and Data Management processes that are interconnected to Public Safety Answering Point premise equipment. The system provides location-based routing to the appropriate emergency entity. The system uses additionally available data elements and business policies to augment PSAP routing. The system delivers geodetic and/or civic location information and the call back number.

The system supports the transfer of calls to other NG9-1-1 capable PSAPs or other authorized entities based on and including accumulated data. NG9-1-1 provides standardized interfaces for call and message services, processes all types of emergency calls including non-voice (multimedia) messages, acquires and integrates additional data useful to call routing and handling for appropriate emergency entities. NG9-1-1 supports all E9-1-1 features and functions and meets current and emerging needs for emergency communication from caller to public safety entities.

NG Partner Program

The NG9-1-1 Project Lead Team, led by Roger Hixson, provides overall project activity identification, prioritization and management. Currently, NENA is expecting that most NENA Requirements, Standards and Information documents for NG9-1-1 will be completed by Fourth Quarter 2012.

It is essential that all standard features of E9-1-1 are maintained during the changeover to a new base technology (IP) using entirely different software and database control mechanisms to perform 9-1-1 system capabilities and features, both for the callers and PSAPs. This applies to seldom used but critical features for dealing automatically with real-time call routing and delivery problems, or troubleshooting call and data issues. All current originating service types must continue to be supported seamlessly, with no service dropout during the transition from E9-1-1 to NG9-1-1.

E9-1-1 supports voice calling for wireline, cellular and VoIP service providers. There are current and future needs for different and new calling technologies, including non-voice messaging of various types, devices generating data-only messages (such as sensors), photo and video transmission, and unknown future services. A primary objective was to establish a common IP-based interface that developers can design to as they develop new services, so 9-1-1 can be planned for and then connected to quickly as 9-1-1 call and message generating services are introduced to the public.

These range from the ability to transfer calls, messages, and data between any PSAPs on any interconnected NG9-1-1 system anywhere in the country (and beyond), ability to directly activate alternate routing much more quickly, to controlling data flow and delivery. The PSAP will be able to access a wide range of supportive databases and share new and more robust forms of data to facilitate call processing, emergency response and comprehensive incident management. Basic tools to support disaster related 9-1-1 call control and to handle non-voice call types are also involved.

Other emergency and public safety-related entities will be able to interconnect to the NG9-1-1 network and system, and be able to receive calls and data sent by the NG9-1-1 system or PSAPs, as well as (with access controls) acquire and pass data between all entities. Inherent in this portion is support for disaster management and intercommunications with and between PSAPs, EOCs, DHS and other emergency management entities.

All of the above four areas of system development also require that many policy, educational and operations issues be treated as part of the overall project prior to implementation. The addition of capabilities beyond those of today’s E9-1-1 systems, for instance, drive needs in these areas that are not easily derived from past practice or experience.

A variety of educational products are required to allow understanding, and support preparation, smooth transition and ongoing operation of NG9-1-1. Guidelines and recommendations for the transition of stakeholders to NG9-1-1 are critical. All of these aspects are represented and periodically updated in the development activities in the NENA NG9-1-1 Project Plan.

Cassidian Communications
www.cassidian.com

Throughout 2012, Cassidian Communications is introducing innovations that advance the state of NG9-1-1 in terms of functional capabilities and interoperability, while providing greater customer choices and increased options for acquiring, deploying and supporting their solutions.

Hosted Solutions Rollout: Integrated NG9-1-1 Call Center Services offer cloud-based monthly service solutions that are high-performance, secure, reliable, and scalable alternatives to capital-intensive, customer-owned, premise-based equipment and infrastructure. Next-Generation User Experience: Version 4.0 of Cassidian’s flagship VESTA® and Sentinel® call processing solutions feature best-of-breed functionality designed for seamless incorporation of multimedia alongside voice. The user experience has been completely revamped, yet can be configured to resemble familiar products to ease retraining efforts.

Extensive ESInet Support: Cassidian Communications is supporting NG9-1-1 solution deployments across multiple Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) providers, central to their commitment to standards-based interoperability while maximizing choices for customers. In addition, in June 2011, Cassidian Communications and Greater Harris County 9-1-1 Emergency Network (GHC 9-1-1) successfully carried out advanced text messaging trial using the company’s next generation NG9-1-1 emergency response call processing platform, VESTA.

CenturyLink (formerly Qwest)
www.centurylink.com 

In April 2011, CenturyLink, Inc. and Qwest Communications completed their merger, creating the nation’s third largest telecommunications company in the United States. The combined company’s 37-state service area will enable it to deliver a broader range of communications services to consumers and small businesses via its 190,000-route-mile fiber network.

CenturyLink provides broadband, voice and wireless services to consumers and businesses across the country. In addition, the company provides data, voice and managed services to business, government and wholesale customers in local, national and select international markets through its advanced fiber optic network and multiple data centers.

Qwest in partnership with Intrado announced the deployment of NG9-1-1 services for the State of Washington. This new service and associated network will provide IP connectivity to all of the PSAPs in the State of Washington for all 9-1-1 calls replacing the Qwest legacy E9-1-1 Selective Routers (SRs). All service providers will be required to route all of their 9-1-1 emergency calls to Legacy Network Gateway (LNG) sites as listed below. The LNG is the interface to the Qwest NG9-1-1 network. Future requests for access to the Washington PSAPs will also need to follow this disclosure.

Carriers should provision new facilities to each of the Qwest Next-Generation Aggregation Points (NGAP) for each LATA as indicated below and diversify their trunks over both facilities and LNGs. Qwest will aggregate the trunks onto facilities to the LNGs. Carriers are also asked to convert all trunks to SS7 signaling.

Qwest in partnership with Intrado also announced the deployment of NG9-1-1 services for Valley Emergency Communications Center (VECC) in Salt Lake City, Utah. This new service and associated network will provide IP connectivity to the VECC PSAP for wireless/cellular customers only replacing the Qwest legacy E9-1-1 Selective Router (SR). Wireless/cellular service providers will be required to reroute their 9-1-1 emergency calls destined for VECC to the Legacy Network Gateways (LNG) sites.

The LNGs were originally disclosed as Regional Collocation Facility (RCL). The LNG designation better describes the function of the devices and follows industry standards. Future requests for wireless/cellular access to VECC will also need to follow this disclosure. In November 2011, CenturyLink announced it will soon begin Phase 2 and Phase 3 to implement IP connectivity to all PSAPs in Minnesota.

InterAct Public Safety
www.interact911.com


InterAct offers a comprehensive solution for emergency services that is 100 percent compatible with current 9-1-1 systems and meets or exceeds all NENA’s DOT NG9-1-1 defined specifications. The InterAct Public Safety NG9-1-1 solution can receive and manage 9-1-1 calls from the PSTN, wireless networks, managed private IP networks, the Internet and regional/state ESInets.

It tightly integrates components from InterAct, as well as best-of-breed providers such as Solacom Technologies and HigherGround, Inc. Moreover, InterAct’s solution includes installation, conversion, training and 24x7 support services, so there’s a single point of accountability and support for every customer.

With InterAct NG9-1-1, PSAPS can transition from older analog networks that are limited to carrying voice and text for telephone devices for the deaf to IP-based networks that carry VoIP, text, images, video and other types of data. The InterAct solution is ideal for this transition since it is backward compatible with analog networks and legacy PSAP equipment, allowing agencies to support traditional calls as well as NG9-1-1. Because the InterAct solution is modular in design, system expansion is achieved by adding modules to the core system, rather than by replacing a small system with a larger one.

The modular solution design also provides flexibility in call taker location when PSAPs are consolidated. With the InterAct solution, call takers can still be assigned to (or remain at) different locations. From an IP perspective, the positions at all locations are logically linked via IP. Any position can transfer a call to any other position, regardless of its physical location or Selective Router boundaries. The system caches automatic location identification (ALI) information; when a call is transferred to another position the ALI is also delivered to that location.

The InterAct NG-911 solution is designed to operate as efficiently in a hosted or “cloud” environment as it does in a dedicated, on-premises implementation. It provides for autonomous operation of multiple PSAP tenants through the allocation of line and trunk resources. Although everyone shares common back room equipment, each PSAP is unique and can determine how calls to their PSAP are routed and handled under normal circumstances and backup scenarios. Each PSAP can also independently determine the number of call taker positions needed to meet demand.

When a call comes in, regardless of the type of device or format (including SMS, video and image, as network providers are able to deliver them), the call location will be identified based on the X, Y location of the caller. The call is then routed to the proper PSAP. Using the InterAct NG-911 solution, the calls can be routed to any number of PSAPs and any type of data that is capable of transmitting over an IP network will be received.

The InterAct NG9-1-1 solution is designed to prevent “hung” calls. The system’s digital interface modules provide signal mediation and convert all incoming calls to VoIP for processing by the system. The proposed solution’s call control layer actively monitors both the SIP (call set up and teardown) and RTP (audio) streams of the VoIP calls. If the audio stream of a call leg terminates incorrectly, the system automatically goes into call recovery mode and, depending on which leg of the call has stopped (caller or 9-1-1 call taker), takes appropriate action.

Using a Geo-spatial Router and Database, calls are routed based on X, Y locations and are not dependent on an ESN database. The Geo-spatial Database uses IP addresses, IM tags, VoIM tags, and GPS and is not dependent on an ESN database to locate the caller’s location. Keys in the database are based on PSAP boundaries, not the ALI address. This makes changing the PSAP boundary or ownership simple, fast and can be done on the fly by the customer.

Intrado
www.intrado.com


Intrado’s TEXT solution, TXT29-1-1®, enables every citizen, including the deaf and hard-of-hearing, to confidently reach 9-1-1 emergency services personnel via text message when voice calling is unsafe or not available. This service uses the familiar three-digit code “9-1-1” to send messages directly to the 9-1-1 network and routes it them to the appropriate public safety answering points (PSAPs). TXT29-1-1 equips PSAPs for future advancements in texting technologies such as pictures and videos, and does not require significant network changes.

The Intrado THOR Shield Program is a comprehensive, rapidly deployed mobile 9-1-1 emergency service that can make the difference between effectively managing an event or being overwhelmed by it. THOR Shield’s specialized staff and mobile communications/command center provide on-demand operational continuity and technical support whenever 9-1-1 emergency services are impacted. This cost-effective and flexible solution is available for agencies of every size and budget.

Intrado SteadyLink™ is a first-of-its-kind network appliance that allows PSAPs to receive next-generation (NG) 9-1-1 services such as text messages, mobile pictures and videos, and supplemental data. SteadyLink technology achieves mission-critical network resiliency and system performance with the security needed to provide NG9-1-1 services at a fraction of the cost of traditional network circuits.

NICE Systems
http://www.nice.com


NICE Inform is a multimedia information management solution designed to capture, consolidate and manage all types of NG9-1-1 information. This includes audio, video, text messages, screen capture, GIS, CAD, etc. PSAPs can also leverage NICE Inform to access captured multimedia content from any shared system on an IP network, whether voice, video, Geographic Information System (GIS) or otherwise. This information can then be combined with locally captured multimedia for comprehensive incident reconstructions.

New in NICE Inform Version 4 is integration with ESRI’s ArcGIS mapping software, which adds another dimension to incident reconstruction by enabling voice recordings to be replayed and visualized in a geographic context. Investigators can listen to 9-1-1 recordings while viewing the caller’s location on a map, for a better understanding of what happened where.

For example, in a carjacking investigation, it would be possible to hear the 9-1-1 recording, at the same time retracing the caller’s movements. Investigators can gain a clear retrospective of large-scale incidents too. Calls from a specific time period and within proximity of the incident can be plotted on a map. The audio recordings and geographic visualizations can also be synchronized with other multimedia incident information, such as call-taker screens and video, for a comprehensive incident view.

Offered exclusively on NICE Inform, the integrated mapping functionality works for any calls that include geographic coordinates (latitude, longitude) in the ALI (Automatic Location Identification) feed. This is also an important future capability as all NG9-1-1 calls will include geospatial data.

NICE Situator unifies siloed systems into a Common Operating Picture, analyzing and correlating information and applying adaptive response plans, so everyone in the response chain knows what’s happening and what to do next. For example, a gunshot detection sensor integrated to NICE Situator could automatically trigger video from nearby cameras to pop up on an operator’s display, instructing the operator to dispatch the closest units based on their GIS locations, and simultaneously pushing video out to officers’ mobile devices.

NICE Situator’s open architecture enables public safety operations to leverage their existing technologies to the fullest by integrating with a variety of systems, including: video surveillance, location tracking, gunshot detection, license plate readers, communications, mobile video, PDAs, in-vehicle computers, CAD/RMS, mass notification, telematics, as well as watch lists, databases and Web-based information sources.

Jennifer Gavigan is the Managing Editor of LAW and ORDER, Tactical Response and Police Fleet Manager Magazines. She can be reached at jgavigan@hendonpub.com.

Published in Law and Order, Apr 2012

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Related Companies

CassidianCenturyLinkInterAct Public Safety SystemsIntradoNational Emergency Number Association (NENA)Nice Systems Inc.
 

Related Products

Next-generation 9-1-1NG 9-1-1NG9-1-1
 

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