Considering the growth of text messaging in society in general, along with the attendant rise of the mobile device, it's not really that surprising to see that people want to use their mobile devices for more than just conversation and Web surfing. But the idea of using multiple contact channels in 911 service is a bit harder to swallow than that, and as such, reaching the point where adding social media service to 911 calling is possible is going to take some time, effort and resources to make it happen. That's where E911 service is going to come in very useful indeed.
Avaya's (News - Alert) advocate for government solutions, Guy Clinch, recently ran down some of the developments connected with E911 and the integration of social media in same. Digital technologies have changed virtually every industry they've come in contact with, so seeing them do likewise in E911 isn't all that shocking. As a result of these changes, even governments are looking to change the way they interact with the people who put governments in their places to begin with. A recent article, Clinch pointed out, even posed the question of whether a Web site in its standard form was necessary any more.
It's an interesting question, to be sure; why put up a Web site with times and dates and hour listings when Facebook (News - Alert) listings can contain all of those plus provide an easy conduit through which contact--and interaction--can flow. Facebook even went so far as to recently modify its user agreement to reflect the growth of government use when it comes to Facebook's services.
Using Facebook--or other social media--as an emergency tool, however, is a much different proposition. When lives are on the line, when property is at risk -- that changes things considerably. Yet already, some are using social networking for reporting emergencies to authorities. For instance, in the days before Hurricane Sandy hit New England, the number of likes recorded on the Newport News Public School Facebook page went up over 800 likes total with people likely interested in keeping track of the storm as it hit.
But it's not just Facebook that's getting integrated into the rush to bring new media connections to governments; current projections suggest that, by the end of 2013, some kind of text-to-911 connection will be put in place across both the United States and Canada. While the exact nature of the execution will be different from place to place, several wireless carriers and some 911 centers have plans in place to accept the technology. It shouldn't be used without official notice--even the FCC (News - Alert) is warning against trying emergency texts--but when it's in place it will likely change the nature of emergency contact as we know it.
Technology means change. The inherent possibilities of technology itself coupled with the unexpected uses of same means that changes can happen anywhere, at any time, and often in ways that no one would expect. Expansions to E911 service are no different, and the new uses of contacting same means that change is perhaps the one constant in the technology field.
Edited by Rich Steeves