The standard 911 services that are available in this country contribute significant value to citizens everywhere as the platform allows for one number calling to secure emergency assistance. The challenge today, however, is the rapid transition from landline calling to mobile device and multimedia use. This makes the process of location identification much more challenging for first responders.
To address this need, this is a push to move toward E911. According to this Urgent Comm piece, this requires making the transition from the current 911 system, a legacy, voice-centric, circuit-switched platform, to an IP-based, software-intensive system that can receive and manage data, voice, image and video information.
It is expected that 2011 will see Next-Generation 911 move from the talking phase to the deployment preparedness phase as governments want to make Next-Generation 911 a reality. This movement is considered to be essential as most PSAPs are receiving 911 calls from wireless phones instead of wireline. A number of individuals are also assuming they can send multimedia transmissions to PSAPs, yet these providers are only capable of handling voice communications.
While leaders in this space have clearly identified the need for E911, the proper method for making the transition is still being debated. One of the roadblocks is the need for – and lack of – standards that are designed to promote the interoperability of emergency calling systems throughout the U.S., as well as to create a competitive marketplace in the 911 sector. Public officials hope this approach will help to increase choice and lower the overall costs of E911 solutions.
To help move this along, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) has been focused on developing standards and guidelines to provide PSAPs a path to E911 solutions. The most anticipated document is the i3 standard, which details the infrastructure and interfaces that are designed to provide the foundation of the next-generation architecture. The i3 still needs to be approved and at the moment, NENA has endorsed the Request for Assistance Interface (RFAI) as a transitional element.
A number of E911 vendors have expressed their disappointment surrounding the delayed consideration of the i3 document, which was expected to have received approval in March. This delay, however, has not altered the deployment plans of PSAPs as many are planning to make the transition to E911 by using a RFAI solution. Many acknowledge, however, that RFAI is not even halfway to NG-911 and the capabilities that could be afforded on such a standard.
The reality, however, is that consumers are moving more rapidly than E911, creating a gap in demand versus services offered. When it comes to a life and death situation, a lack of technology cannot be the dividing factor that delays first responders.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Tammy Wolf