Next Generation 911: A Unique Vertical for Unified Communications

By TMCnet Special Guest
  |  April 30, 2012

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions, an industry resource on unified communications, provided a definition of UC in 2006 as follows: “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.”

The National Emergency Number Association has described Next Generation 911 as having “the ability to support interactive text messaging, policy-based routing using location and several other factors, such as call type, target PSAP status, network status, and automatic acquisition of supportive data and its use within the system to control routing and other actions prior to delivery to the PSAP.”

Using the NENA definition, it is clear that UC is at the center of NG911. NG911 is starting to become a reality in some areas of the U.S., as testing on a number of conceptual ideas are under way. The most publicized and obvious example of communications being integrated for emergency services and currently being tested is the ability to text messages to 911. It’s important to note that the ability to text 911 is still very limited. (If you are not sure that texting is an option in your geographic area, please call 911 from a wireline or cell phone.)

Central to the delivery of NG911 is the development and implementation of an ESInet, which stands for emergency service IP network. The ESInet is intended to be designed to provide a secure gateway and routing of all inbound 911 calls and deliver them to the most appropriate PSAP. This will enable public safety organizations to be able to share information on a secure, managed private network.

When the 911 network was first envisioned, the design did not include mobility as a key driver. In a recent forecast from Cisco (News - Alert), it was suggested that “there will be more than 10 billion mobile Internet-connected devices in 2016, including machine-to-machine modules – exceeding the world's projected population at that time of 7.3 billion.” The machine-to-machine connections include automobile GPS systems. There was also an indication that the mobile traffic consumption by tablets will grow 62 fold.

This type of forecasted growth and the capability of smartphone communication means that 911 needs to be able to adopt to change to meet the demands of a changed landscape. Today’s consumers expect to be able to communicate in a manner that meets their need and perhaps the circumstance of an emergency. There have already been examples of emergencies in which it would’ve been more appropriate to text details without revealing a hiding place.

There is so much more that a SIP-enabled NG911 center will be able to do. In addition to supporting traditional voice calls from wireline, cellular and VoIP systems, NG911 will also have the capability of supporting device calls (such as a heart monitor or heat sensor), video transmissions and photos.

An example of the type of device call that could be processed might include some or all of the following:

·         a call to 911 identifying the type of emergency (heart attack) is generated from an implanted monitoring device;
·         detailed information regarding current status (heart rate, or other health-related information);
·         personal information (including name, address, name of family physician, etc.); and
·         GPS location information.

This type of critical information can be the difference in a life saved when seconds matter. It also has the potential to be a significant game-changer in the way that police, fire and EMS personnel respond to calls. Just having GPS coordinates included in the NG911 call could be the difference maker. According to High Performance EMS, “GPS location is critical for efficient automated routing. This is especially true in areas of high driver turnover. GPS coordinates is also useful in very rural areas that lack addressing.”

It might be the opportunity to live stream video from inside the campus to determine the location of individuals, or maybe access the hazardous materials list to properly prepare the firefighting response. Maybe it’s being able to overlay the GPS location of all callers using geo spatial technology to ensure everyone’s safety, or leveraging the car’s computer system to determine the location and extent of the damages. There may also be the opportunity to live conference an interpreter to provide assistance to the hearing impaired when placing a video call emergency.

Using a SIP-based protocol will enable critical information to be exchanged by the emergency caller and by those that respond to the call. Communications integrated to enable business process make next generation 911 an exciting development in unified communications.

Samantha Kane & Bill MacKay of Kane-MacKay & Associates Ltd. provided this column courtesy of UCStrategies (

Edited by Stefania Viscusi