Next Generation 9-1-1 is here. (Right?)

were stretched just enough to cause the heads of many 'engineers' shake.

"NG 911 Soon a Reality"
"Text and Pictures Now Possible for 911"
"Feds Launch Major Push to Upgrade 911"
"Feds Launch Major 911 Overhaul Including the Big Apple"

The casual reader may think that NG 911 is actually here, and being deployed today, but in reality, we're very much in the planning phase; Although implementation is certainly on the immediate horizon, there's still quite a bit work to be done. Now don't get me wrong, I love all the press that NG 911 is getting, and I think it's absolutely neccessary to raise the public awareness of what can be done. But, we need to be careful not to create false expectations for the masses.

Texting to 911 today

While attending the APCO show in Philadelphia last week with the rest of the Avaya Public Safety Team, Guy Clinch, Tony Jazayeri, and Gavin Lee, I inevitably got into conversations about the text to 911 trials currently happening in both Black Hawk, Iowa and Durham, North Carolina. People would say to me, "we're proving texting to 911 works in those two cities, right now!" And although that is technically true, the pilot program in use there is actually a single carrier, single PSAP solution, that some would argue is not scalable, and is not really proving the technology that is actually needed for a widescale deployment nationwide. Now, I don't mean to cast any doubt on the hard working folks that built those trials, and made them work, I just want the general public to understand what they are, and what they are not.

Technology vs. Politics

When you step back and look at it, some of the political barriers are as menacing as the technology barriers for NG 911 services. For years we've relied on telephone numbers and matching addresses known as ANI and ALI, and lookups in databases provided quietly but reliably by a small handful of companies in the background. Although their names are fairly well known inside of the public safety industry, very few citizens have heard them before. These companies have significant revenues built on the existing E911 network model, and NG911 is a disruptive factor to that revenue.

E911 is built on an architecture that relies on ANI and ALI databses. As we migrate from the legacy network to the next generation network, the need for those databases, in their current form, will diminish as technology moves forward and devices become smarter. It's very much like going to a foreign country, where you don't speak the language, and walking around with a translator. If during your travels you end up learning language yourself, you don't need to translator anymore.


The service that is being provided today is called a location by reference model. In other words, the originating device is not actually sending the location the public safety, it's sending them a telephone number that is a reference number. That number they can be utilized to retrieve the address information from the carriers master address database.


What next generation 911 brings the table is a new model called location by value. Quite simply put, it's a data location object that simply says, "I'm here, come and get and me!". If the user wants to provide extended information, a URL can be provided that links back to a server with the information for that particular call event. In the enterprise environment, I call this the ELM server, or Emergency Location Management server. Typically this would sit in the DMZ and proxy intelligent information from the enterprise network to public safety on the public side of the network.

So is next generation 911 here today? No, it's not.

What is here today though is the structure and guidelines needed to define what the end state vision is. This is enough to allow public safety answer points to move forward with RFI and RFP opportunities, it's enough to where manufacturers such as Avaya, can move forward with technology based on open interfaces and standards, and it's enough for enterprise businesses to take notice that the information stored in their networks today, will be a valuable asset to public safety tomorrow.

Network administrators need to think about emergency services, how it works, and how to get information about its user population and their location to public safety when people need help.

This applies to all devices, on all networks, and in all locations.


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Until next week. . . dial carefully.